Back on Wednesday when the Liberal majority in the House of Commons Justice Committee shut down Opposition attempts to call Jody Wilson-Raybould back to testify for a second time, it seemed to be done in an attempt to try to shut this story down. Given how this scandal has hurt the government, it’s easy to understand why they might want to do that. But this story has grown well past the point of being able to be swept under any legislative rugs; there are too many unanswered questions, Wilson-Raybould hasn’t been able to tell her full story and the Liberals are not acting like an innocent party here.
But if the committee gets shut down, what more can the opposition parties do about it? What is at their disposal to try to bring attention to this or pressure the government to back down and change course? Well, it’s a times like these we turn to the procedural rules of the House of Commons and with the next Federal Budget getting tabled on Tuesday, that means there are opportunities to use those procedures to make a point. And let’s not forget that Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre left Wednesdays meeting with this hint of what might come:
Poilievre told CBC that if the Liberals use their majority to “shut down accountability,” the opposition will use every tool in the parliamentary toolkit to force the government to “end the coverup.”https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justice-committee-wilson-raybould-trudeau-1.5052976
“There are a lot of things that become very difficult in all of the committees of Parliament, and in the House of Commons itself, if the opposition is united in a singular focus to get to the truth,” he said. “I also think there will be enormous public pressure if Trudeau decides that he’s just going to cover this whole thing up.”
So, what might be the opening salvo in a procedural skirmish starting this coming week, budget week? Well it seems like it will involve a lot of standing and sitting:
196 votes, that’s going to make for a long day and into the night in Parliament. You see, procedurally, these votes must happen before the government is allowed to table the budget. By doing this now, depending on how the government and the speaker deals with it, it will drag things out longer, delaying government business for who knows how long. And that would seem to be the first tool to be pulled out. I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw a repeat of 2017, when the start of the Finance Ministers Budget speech was delayed by a half hour, with the full attention of the Canadian news media watching, by Opposition procedural tactics. But I guess time will tell.
But with the choices the government members made in the Justice Committee on Wednesday, this is a natural and appropriate reaction from the Opposition parties and a tactic that’s full in-bounds in my opinion. If the Liberals are going to try to skirt responsibility for the SNC/PMO Scandal, then the Opposition is duty bound to use the tools they have at their disposal. The Liberals only saving grace here is that thanks to years of the suppression of these procedural outlets the Opposition have had by previous governments, the tool box is fairly empty compared to how full it used to be.
Come Monday we’ll see how the government decides to respond to these tactics and whatever more comes in the weeks to come. Thanks to a quirk in the Parliamentary calendar, this week is a rare “One and Done”, as the House only sits for the week before taking another week off. We’ll see how much pressure the Opposition can put on the government for these five days and if it will need to continue into April and a third month of this scandal.