Tories end marathon voting after 21-hour procedural standoff
Published Friday, March 23, 2018 7:24AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 23, 2018 5:02PM EDT
OTTAWA – The Conservatives who forced an all-nighter of marathon voting in the House of Commons have ended their procedural fight -- for now.
The continuous voting was being used as a procedural tactic because the Liberal majority defeated a Tory motion to call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser to testify at a House committee before the end of the month, about the Atwal incident.
"This has been a very, very long day," Bergen said in the House of Commons just before getting unanimous consent to batch pass her remaining opposed votes on division.
Bergen and her caucus was forcing nearly 260 confidence votes that made it imperative for the Liberals to keep a full bench of MPs to make sure they win each one.
Speaking to reporters in the House of Commons foyer, Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said she was ready to pull the plug and drop her remaining motions on account for the “toll that around the clock voting has on our political and our parliamentary staff.”
She said though she tried to negotiate and offer "reasonable compromise" it was clear "as time ticked on" that no deal would be reached with the Liberals, but restated her party’s commitment to getting answers from the government on the troubled India trip.
The voting began around 6 p.m. Thursday and the Opposition estimated they had enough motions to keep MPs there until Saturday.
The continuous voting came to an end as the voting hit its 21st hour.
The marathon of voting ended with about 100 votes to go.
The rules state that the votes Bergen had filled the docket with had to be dealt with before MPs could vote on the government’s supplementary and interim estimates—documents that outline additional government spending.
By putting up so many, Bergen essentially used them as a procedural tool. Each one opposed a different portion, or line, of the estimates.
At the same time the Opposition was declaring an armistice, Trudeau launched a Facebook live video with some MPs from the lobby inside the House of Commons.
In it, Trudeau called it a "team-building exercise," to stand and vote on “the measures that are going to make a difference in the business of supply, in the business of government.”
He said he would be there voting "until the very end," which came around the same time he stated that.
Politics of the procedural fight:
The Conservatives already tried once to have Trudeau’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, appear at the committee, in hopes of getting more answers about why he suggested in a background briefing to reporters that factions in the Indian government may have tried to sabotage Trudeau's trip to India in February, while others have disputed that theory. This briefing was given to reporters after photos surfaced of attempted murderer Jaspal Atwal with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau at an event.
The Liberals voted down that previous attempt to hear from the senior official at the committee arguing it wasn’t the proper venue for such questions, pointing instead to the closed-door and top-secret National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians as where this kind of meeting should occur.
Friday morning Bergen tweeted that during negotiations to end the votes she asked the Liberals for a 30 minute public meeting at the Public Safety and National Security Committee with Jean instead of the typical full hour of committee testimony and according to her, the Liberals said no to that offer.
Government House Leader Bardish Chagger's office had no comment on her claim.
Taking to social media throughout the all-nighter, the Conservatives painted the Liberals as voting in a "cover up" to prevent Trudeau and Jean from testifying.
Conservative Whip Mark Strahl in a Friday late morning email to his caucus, provided to CTV News, says the liberals have "burned" hours of House of Commons time.
Some government MPs took to social media to rebut, highlighting the lines of spending the Conservatives were voting against, like money for veterans.
“The Conservatives are holding the House hostage,” Treasury Board President Scott Brison tweeted Friday, a tweet that was shared by Trudeau.
The Friday agenda, which was set to include the first round of debate on the government's new gun control bill, has been tossed out on account for the votes.
The cost of the delay tactics
This procedural interruption from routine business will come with a hefty price tag, as House of Commons staff, including security, have to work the whole time the House is sitting, and many MPs have had to cancel travel plans to stay or come back to Ottawa.
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant asked the Speaker a few hours in to the votes on Thursday if more staff could be sent to the House so the young pages are "not run off their feet all night."
A spokesperson for the House of Commons told CTV News that that the staff on the Hill have collective agreements that take into consideration the potential for late night shifts and overtime when the House sitting hours are extended.
“These agreements and terms and conditions also contain provisions that serve to ensure employees are compensated and supported while contributing to the functioning of the House,” said the spokesperson in an emailed statement.
Trudeau, who was not present for the all-nighter as he was out of town, showed up Friday morning with Timbits and coffee for his caucus. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s husband also showed up with flowers for her, as Friday is her birthday. Staffers poured in with fresh coffees for MPs to sip on behind the curtains, as they’re only supposed to have water inside the Chamber.
Throughout the night MPs could be seen watching TV or movies on their iPads, reading books and newspapers, and sneaking snacks. Some changed into comfortable clothing and many seemed to take in stride their predicament, throwing barbs and gests across the aisle.
By the time the session came to an end many were relieved to be able to leave Parliament Hill.