During the fall session the Liberals choose to show their opposition to confidence motions by showing up and sitting out the vote. While ineffective as the official opposition it has given the Liberals time to help prepare for an eventual election.
The confidence vote on instructing the Senate to pass the government crime bill by March 1st was held today. This bill was really a do nothing, go nowhere bill as parliament does not have the authority to interfere with the activities of the Senate. Some believe that when the Senate fails to meet the deadline Stephen Harper will go to the Governor General and ask to dissolve parliament. The Prime Minister no longer has the power to call elections. The Senate's ability or inability to act on any issue is by no means a sign of confidence in the government. It is unlikely the Governor General would grant such a request.
This vote was designed to embarrass the Liberals. No matter how they reacted to it would have brought heavy criticism. They decided to walk out of the Legislature in protest when the vote was called. The Bloc supported the motion. The Liberals could have opposed the motion in the parliamentary tradition by voting and the government would still not have been toppled. The Liberals would not have been perceived much better by opposing the motion and being accused of not being tough on crime.
Things still look like the government will be toppled on the budget. The only thing that could change that course is if the vote is after the March 17th by elections and the Liberals don't sweep all four ridings.