Throne speech passes, Liberals abstain from voting
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2007 6:37PM EDT
The Liberals have abstained from a final vote on the throne speech, giving Prime Minister Stephen Harper enough support to continue his minority government.
"This is the first time, or at least I haven't seen it in my political lifetime, to have a whole opposition bench sit down and not say a word," federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon told CTV's Mike Duffy Live.
Both the Bloc Quebecois and NDP voted against the speech Wednesday, but it passed 126-79.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion was highly critical of the document, but had said Canadians didn't want another election.
There was speculation the Liberal front bench would vote against the speech in a symbolic gesture, but that move may have been too risky for Dion.
"If you have the entire Liberal front bench, which is somewhere in the 40s, turning up to vote against the throne speech, you're up to the 120s," political analyst L. Ian MacDonald told CTV's Mike Duffy Live. "Maybe they would have brought down the government inadvertently."
Among the most contentious items in the speech was a declaration that Canada will not meet emissions-reduction targets set under the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, and that Canada's mission in Afghanistan should be extended by two years to 2011.
Harper had said earlier that Canada's combat role will end in February 2009 unless there is a vote in the House of Commons to extend the mission.
The throne speech provided no details about what Canada's role would be in the proposed two-year extension.
Dion and many of his advisers were prepared to fight an election over Kyoto, said Jane Taber, senior political writer with The Globe and Mail and co-host of CTV's Question Period. But the Liberal caucus "talked him down from the ledge," she said.
NDP Leader Jack Layton waved his arms at the Liberals during the vote, gesturing for them to join his party in voting against the speech.
He later suggested Dion's abstention would disappoint Liberal supporters.
"We think Mr. Harper is wrong in fundamental ways and when that happens people expect a party to stand up for its principles,'' Layton told reporters.
"Nothing makes people more cynical about politics than when parties don't do what they say, don't stand up for what they believe."
The throne speech, delivered last Tuesday by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, also laid out plans for a further one per cent reduction in the GST and a multi-year plan to reduce personal and corporate taxes.
The vote in the House of Commons was considered a matter of confidence, meaning the government would have fallen if the Liberals had joined the NDP and Bloc in rejecting the speech.
But Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale said the opposition should be focused on the legislation promised in the speech, not the speech itself.
"There has never been a government in this country -- minority or majority -- that's ever been defeated on a throne speech," said Goodale.
"A throne speech is entirely a symbolic gesture. It carries no legal consequences. What's important is the legislation that flows during the session of Parliament, and we will consider each one of those pieces of legislation on their merits. If they don't pass muster, we'll vote against them."