Non-Confidence & A Meaningless Motion

The following motion is to be voted on today following Question Period:

Mr. Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform), seconded by Mr. Nicholson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

That, given the Government has declared the passage of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as a matter of confidence, and, that the bill has already been at the Senate longer than all stages took in the House of Commons, and that all aspects of this bill have already been the subject of extensive committee hearings in Parliament, and that in the opinion of this House, the Senate majority is not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, a message be sent to the Senate calling on the Senate to pass Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, by March 1, 2008. (Government Business No. 3)
This is part of an attempt by the government to set up a series of opportunities to lose motions of confidence, which also includes the budget and the motion on the Afghanistan motion. While the government is justified in declaring the vote on Bill C-2 in the House of Commons a matter of confidence, this motion is meaningless and hardly a matter of confidence.

This motion is meaningless as the House of Commons has no authority over the Senate and no constitutional right to provide direction to it.

The confidence convention requires that the government retain the confidence of the House of Commons, not the confidence of the Senate.
• Compendium
• Procedure Online
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Parliamentary Framework
Confidence Convention

By constitutional convention, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are able to exercise authority only with the consent and approval (“confidence”) of a majority of the Members of the House of Commons. Should the Government lose the confidence of the House, the Prime Minister must submit his or her resignation to the Governor General, who either calls an election, or, much more rarely, invites the leader of another party in the House to attempt to form a government.

The confidence convention is a matter of parliamentary practice and tradition that is not written into any statute or Standing Order of the House, nor is it a matter on which the Speaker can rule. However, confidence motions are generally considered to be:

* explicitly worded motions which state, in precise terms, that the House of Commons has, or has not, confidence in the government;
* motions expressly declared by the government to be questions of confidence;
* implicit motions of confidence, that is, motions traditionally deemed to be questions of confidence, such as motions for the granting of Supply (although not necessarily an individual item of Supply), motions concerning the budgetary policy of the government and motions respecting the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
The question of whether declaring this meaningless motion a matter of confidence makes it a non-confidence motion is moot, however, as the Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic Party have indicated that they will support the motion. Whether the motion has any moral suasion over the Senate is for it to decide,

Any decisions by the Senate on Bill C-2, including extending debate on it, are not matters of confidence. The only way Bill C-2 can be a matter of confidence is for it to be defeated in the House of Commons.

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