Throne Speech amended


House Member
Dec 1, 2005
Independent Palestine
OTTAWA -- The government and all three opposition parties have reached a backroom deal agreeing to quietly adopt Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first throne speech without a vote or even mention of a vote while rolling in opposition amendments and avoiding any hint of a confidence showdown.

When debate on the motion accepting the speech ends April 24 after Parliament resumes following the Easter break, a vote will simply be "deemed" to have been held and the motion deemed adopted, according to a motion the Commons adopted unanimously without debate this week.

"It was agreed among the House leaders that without putting the House through the complication of a vote, and the bells and the time and all of that ... we would just unanimously accept the deeming motion," Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said in an interview.

"If the government had chosen to resist this, to have a showdown, then there might have been a bit of a nasty incident on the afternoon of the 24th," Goodale added. "Maybe it means that in this Parliament there will be less of the brinksmanship and fewer of the artificial showdowns that really debilitated the last Parliament."

The deal is a tempered victory for the Conservatives, who will avoid highlighting the fact they accepted Liberal amendments to the throne speech motion that emphasize Liberal priorities and accomplishments. The throne speech motion, a confidence test for the minority Conservatives, will also include a Bloc Quebecois amendment saying the government has no strategy to help older workers who lose jobs.

The opposition can argue, as Goodale did Wednesday, that it has essentially incorporated its own agenda into the throne speech to counter Harper's claim his plan is best for the country.

While "deeming" motions have been used by the Commons before for minor matters or measures all parties wanted to adopt with little public notice, such as pay hikes, Goodale and backroom aides said this is the first time the procedure has been used for a throne speech.

For the throne speech of former prime minister Paul Martin's government, the Commons also adopted a motion that incorporated opposition amendments, but it expressly declared the motion had passed unanimously even though there was no recorded vote.

The Liberal amendment to the Conservative throne speech calls for early action for aborginals, help for immigrants, more support for seniors, environmental initiatives and financial aid for farmers. It also says there is no need for tax increases "given the strong economic and fiscal environment which the the government inherited."

Government House leader Rob Nicholson denied the government wanted to play down the opposition amendments, saying all House leaders agreed to accept the amended motion and "that's usually a pretty good reason that a vote isn't necessary, if everyone agrees."