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Opinion

We should have confidence in the way confidence is working in Parliament

By Steven Chaplin      

As things stand in Canada, the opposition has more, not less control. It can choose when to call the government’s bluff and defeat the government on an issue that is important enough to trigger an election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured Nov. 6, 2020, on the Hill. It should also not be forgotten that at any time the opposition can bring a motion of non-confidence in the government, whether the government wants it or not, writes Steven Chaplin. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Some commentators, such as Andrew Coyne in a recent opinion piece in The Globe and Mail, suggest that what constitutes a vote of confidence in the government should be a matter for Parliament; in essence the opposition, not the prime minister, to determine. His column followed the Trudeau government’s declaration that the vote on an opposition motion to create a House of Commons committee to inquire into the alleged WE scandal would be a confidence vote. The premise for Coyne’s argument was that the motion, being procedural in nature could not be a matter of confidence, and that the government was using the threat of an election to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and accountability. While both reasons raise a legitimate concern, making what constitutes confidence a matter for the opposition to decide would provide a cure that is worse than the disease.

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