Liberals privately suggested an amendment could include a proviso that municipalities receive their share of federal infrastructure funding, even if they can't afford to ante up matching funds. It could also specify that the unemployed must receive jobless benefits immediately, doing away with the two-week waiting period.So it could be that we're going to be seeing some engagement in the coming days, if this is indeed what's actually the announced position tomorrow. And what a concept that would be. A minority parliament that actually engages in debate.
As for how Conservatives would react, to date they have been totally uncooperative while working within these confines. A reflection of Mr. Harper's personality. They've presumed that they can do as they please. So it would be surprising to see a tempered response to amendment proposals. How they respond, however, to serious, thoughtful proposals that seek to improve our ability to weather this crisis and ease people's burdens (EI) would be in the spotlight and could haunt them if an election ensued. Further, we've been told that the grown-ups are in charge now. Grown-ups don't stamp their feet and dig in, not in times like this.
And in the background, the Conservatives don't have any guarantee that they'd be granted an election by the Governor General at this time if they sought to stick to their guns on the budget. In fact, the weight of opinion suggests an election would not be granted at the moment. So intransigence on their part seems risky:
Note also that in the backdrop tonight we see the opposition of Danny Williams, who is now calling for the budget to be defeated on the grounds of a change to equalization that penalizes Newfoundland. Quebec is also unhappy with transfer payment changes. There's plenty of opposition from Conservative supporters percolating as well. So it's clear that there's discontent with the budget and an opening to seek amendment.
It is our opinion that in the event of a non-confidence vote or a request for dissolution of Parliament after only 13 sitting days of the House of Commons, the Governor General would be well-advised to call the leader of the opposition to attempt to form a government. This would be most appropriate in the circumstances where that leader has already gathered the assurance that he would enjoy the support of a majority of votes on any issue of confidence for the next year or so. The principle of democracy would be protected in so far as the new government would enjoy the support of a majority of the elected officials. This would ensure the stability of our political system.
All of which should make for interesting days ahead.
Update (12:10 a.m.): Globe and Mail report just out: "Ignatieff to call for changes to budget."