What in the world is happening with the filibuster on Parliament Hill?
UPDATE: 3:39 p.m. – The Tories ended the marathon filibuster over the Jaspal Atwal affair
After working through the night, Members of Parliament are approaching the halfway point in a marathon set of filibuster votes set to keep them in their House of Commons seats until early Saturday morning in retaliation for opposing a Conservative motion on Thursday afternoon.
Many Canadians might be more used to hearing about filibusters happening south of the border but they also happen in Parliament, though not nearly as often.
While filibusters can often come in the form of representatives making speech after speech to obstruct government business, they can also come in the form of motions meant to tie up affairs for hours on end — and that is exactly what is happening on Parliament Hill right now.
So what kept MPs up all night? Here’s everything you need to know.
WATCH: Tories accuse Liberal MP of filling up during filibuster
Why is there a filibuster?
Remember the “Bengal Bungle?”
Yeah, that’s why.
Actually, that might be a bit of an understatement: the word more commonly used in coverage of the trip has generally been “disastrous.”
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau questioned about bizarre press meeting on Jaspal Atwal
About halfway through the week-long tour, news broke that Jaspal Atwal, a man convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian politician while a member of Sikh extremist group in the 1980s, had posed for photos with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and other cabinet ministers at a reception during the trip. He also received an invitation to a reception at the Canadian High Commission in India to celebrate the end of the trip.
As Global News was the first to report, security sources confirmed Atwal was not vetted prior to the invite being issued, despite his past conviction for attempted murder or for having been listed for years on the Indian government’s travel blacklist.
The Prime Minister’s Office quickly yanked the invitation and a Liberal MP from B.C. took the blame for putting Atwal on the guest list. He resigned from his position as chair of the Liberal’s Pacific caucus. But it did not end there.
A government source then called up several media outlets, including Global News, and suggested that the decision to remove Atwal from the Indian government’s travel blacklist and allow him into the country to attend the receptions might have been the doing of factions within the Indian government who wanted to make the Trudeau government look soft on Sikh extremism.
The Conservatives declared in the House of Commons days afterwards that they believed that individual was Daniel Jean, the national security adviser to Trudeau.
WATCH: Andrew Scheer explains why Conservatives forced a filibuster
Since then, the opposition has tried repeatedly to get the government to put Jean up before a committee to explain the conspiracy theory.
Motions before both the House public safety committee and the Senate national security committee were defeated.
On Thursday, the Conservatives were set to bring another motion before the House public safety committee trying again to call for Jean to appear but then switched gears and presented their motion in the House of Commons instead.
Pierre Paul-Hus, public safety critic, and Erin O’Toole, foreign affairs critic, warned that they would put the House through the wringer if the government defeated their motion again.
As if often the case in politics, those threats only brought the situation to a head, and now here we are.
How does it actually work and what could go wrong?
After the defeat of the Conservative motion, the opposition tabled 260 motions opposing pieces of legislation that were scheduled to be voted on Thursday evening.
Those motions, known as “opposed votes,” state that there is no support for 260 different lines from the supplementary and interim estimates of the government, and need to be voted on before the actual vote can take place on the legislation itself.
Supplementary and interim estimates are routine bills that are tabled several times each year and act essentially as bridges between the money laid out in federal budgets and the adjusted amounts that reflect what departments actually use or need.
WATCH BELOW: Global News asks why Jaspal Atwal won’t take questions in heated exchange with lawyer
Because the estimates deal with money, they are considered votes of confidence.
And as is the case with any vote on a matter of confidence, defeat on any of the 260 motions opposing different lines of the estimates could trigger an election.
Barring an accident of catastrophic proportions though, that will not happen.
The Liberals hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons and therefore only need to make sure they have enough of their members in their seats to able to defeat each of the given motions.
While chunks of the Conservative and NDP caucus were able to slip out to get some sleep overnight – and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in Toronto for the day for a meeting with Mayor John Tory – the vast majority of Liberal members had to remain in the House to vote.
Much smaller chunks of the Liberal caucus are rotating in and out, taking breaks that appear to be of an hour at a time based on footage streaming live from the House of Commons, and are expected to continue to do so until voting wraps up on all 260 of the motions as well as the final votes on the estimates themselves.
The Conservatives predicted on Thursday the sheer number of motions means there will be roughly 40 hours of straight voting, which won’t wrap up until sometime Saturday morning.
What do the Conservatives want out of this?
The answer to this is simple: to make life as painful as possible for the government.
There is no path to legislative victory for the Conservatives on this motion because they just do not have the numbers to win the votes.
However, they are bound and determined to keep the Atwal affair in the spotlight, and a filibuster is a great opportunity to do exactly that.
The real question, at this point, becomes what happens next once the votes wrap up: will the Conservatives keep trying to move motions at committee, even if they are essentially dead in the water before they begin?
What is clear is this: the Conservatives seem unlikely to let the matter disappear quietly any time soon, and the Liberals are equally determined to refuse demands to have Jean talk to committees.
Who will back down first? That remains to be seen.
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