In 2005, as leader of the opposition Stephen Harper tried a number of different confidence motions in order to try to topple the government. The first one to pass in the house was a call for the finance committee to instruct the Prime Minister to resign. The government immediately declared that the motion could not topple the government. The speaker agreed. Last year the opposition parties pushed through a private members bill declaring that the government had to abide by the Kyoto Protocol. As the legislation had no teeth the government shrugged their shoulders and have basically ignored the bill.
On Thursday the Government introduced a motion directing the Senate to pass the long delayed crime bill by March 1st. Failure to pass the legislation will be a vote of confidence and if the Senate does not comply the Government may try to declare a loss of confidence from the house.
This motion is designed to embarrass the Liberal party. The Liberals took a knee on the crime bill when it was put forth as a confidence motion in the fall, knowing full well it would never make it through the Senate. The motion in itself is relatively meaningless as the house has no authority to put time restrictions on the Senate. Should the motion be passed and the Senate not comply or the motion be defeated the Liberals could argue that this motion does not really do anything so it should have no affect on the Government confidence in the house. Taking that risk and losing the argument would start an election campaign off really badly.
The Conservatives have been trying to be tough on crime since they were elected. They have not been able to get the Senate to agree with their plan, especially on raising the age of sexual consent to 16. This motion is to simply announce that the Liberals do not want to be tough on crime. It will be interesting to see how the public sees through this round of smoke and mirrors.