The Conservatives are laying the groundwork for a potential filibuster that could see MPs forced for the third time in a year to spend the night voting in the House of Commons.
Last week, the Opposition gave notice they planned to table 257 motions opposing individual lines of two pieces of legislation that were scheduled to be voted on Monday afternoon — the day before the budget.
But those 257 motions could require 35 to 40 hours of voting, which would have put at risk the government’s plan to introduce the federal budget the next day.
As a result, the Liberals moved the votes on the interim and supplementary estimates to Wednesday.
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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.
Each of the 257 motions opposing different lines of those bills needs to be voted on before the estimates themselves can actually face a vote.
And because all money bills that come before Parliament are considered confidence bills, the government needs to win every single opposing motion or face defeat.
That means the Liberals need to make sure their benches are stacked at all times to make sure they consistently have the numbers to defeat the motions, while the Opposition can have only a handful or fewer of MPs since they don’t have the numbers to win the votes anyway.
Effectively, the motions serve as a filibuster and will come right after the government is expected to defeat a Conservative motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to waive full solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to let former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould speak about what led her to resign.
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Conservatives are hinting if that motion is defeated, they will look to the potential filibuster.
“We do have 257 motions on notice and our motion asking that JWR [Jody Wilson-Raybould] be able to speak ,” said Mey Fung, press secretary for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. “It would be up to the government on what happens tonight.”
The waiver of privilege announced by the government last month only allowed her to answer questions about alleged attempted political interference in the SNC-Lavalin affair up until Jan. 14, 2019, which is when she was shuffled out of her role as attorney general.
She says she believes that shuffle happened because she refused to intervene to help the company avoid a criminal trial, which the prime minister and his senior officials had allegedly been pressuring her to do.
However, she cannot speak about anything that happened between her being removed from the post and when she resigned on Feb. 12, 2019.
That month-period is one the opposition has been targeting given Attorney General David Lametti, who replaced her in that shuffle, has not ruled out giving SNC-Lavalin the same deal Wilson-Raybould refused to cut it.
Any discussions on that could theoretically have happened around the cabinet table during that month-long period while Wilson-Raybould was no longer attorney general but was still privy to cabinet talks.
A full waiver of privilege could let her speak about anything that came up at cabinet during that period, but the government has refused to extend the waiver.
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One government official said the ball is in the Conservative’s court right now and until they announce how many of the motions they will force votes on, there is no way to predict at this point how long the voting could last.
If it goes past 10 a.m. on Thursday, the House will not start and the government will lose a day of parliamentary business.
This marathon session will mark the third time in the past year that the Opposition has used a filibuster as a delay tactic.
The first 21-hour filibuster was in March 2018, as a way to try to pressure the government into allowing former national security adviser Daniel Jean to testify before committee about the Jaspal Atwal affair.
The second was a 12-hour filibuster in June 2018, opposing the carbon tax.
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