Conservative Leader Stephen Harper announced Tuesday night that the Tories would be voting in support of the federal budget on Thursday, but that they would still try to defeat the minority government on a budget amendment.
The amendment in question was part of a Liberal deal to win criticial NDP budget support. It proposes $4.6 billion in new spending on housing and the environment and also proposes a delay in a series of corporate tax cuts. It is also scheduled for a vote on Thursday.
"It's our intention to support Bill C-43, the original budget," Harper said after an emergency caucus meeting Tuesday night, hours after high-profile MP Belinda Stronach defected to the Liberals.
"We'll oppose Bill C-48, which was the deal with the NDP, which is complete irresponsible fiscal policy," Harper added.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has said both bills are confidence matters and that losing either vote would trigger an election.
Stephen Harper committed the caucus to voting down the budget, come hell or high water, regardless of his previous position two months ago. The public has forgotten that the Tories were going to support the budget back then. Even I, a more focused political observer than the norm, had half-forgotten that.
With Belinda's defection, and the wavering of Norman Doyle and Loyola Hearn over the fate of the Atlantic Accord, the perception is that Stephen Harper has blinked.
The public will not care about the jesuitical hairsplitting between the body of the budget in C-43 and the side deal with the NDP in C-48. He pledged to defeat the budget, he backed down, and that's all we'll hear about from the media.
He should have stood his ground and risked the budget passing.
The voters will sooner forgive obstinacy than weakness.
The Liberals are corrupt and authoritarian, but they do not back down out of some misguided sense of fair play and consistency.
Neither should the Tories.