Monday, June 06, 2005

The Liberals Lose One

Well, the Liberals now have a "one step back" in addition to their "two steps forward" (Belinda Stronach & Todd Russell):

Liberal MP Pat O'Brien, who opposes his party's position on gay marriage, says he's quitting the Grits to sit as an Independent.

O'Brien has long opposed the government's efforts to pass legislation to legalize same-sex marriage.

He decided to stick with the Liberals in April after Prime Minister Paul Martin promised expanded debate of the marriage bill.

But O'Brien said the "full and fair" debate he expected has not happened.

So--what are the implications here?

Well, the numbers breakdown goes like this:

Grits 133
Tories 98
BQ 54
ND 19
Ind. 4

In a confidence vote, assuming that Carolyn Parrish and Chuck Cadman vote for the government side (as they did on the budget vote) and the NDP continues to support the Grits, Paul Martin can only count on 154 votes, as opposed to 154 votes for the Tories/BQ/David Kilgour + Pat O'Brien.

However, Cadman cannot really be considered a certainty for the Grit side, and O'Brien may still think like a Grit in terms of economic policy.

In other words, O'Brien's leaving has effectively tossed Paul Martin's survivability back into chaos.

Is this an opportunity for Wile E. Harper? Probably not. Some of the other Tories may try to persuade O'Brien to join their caucus, but with the Grewal controversy still in the news cycle it's too soon to try to add to the ranks.

One other thing to think about. There are other Liberal MPs who are in strong opposition to Bill C-38, who may think along the same lines as O'Brien. Paul Martin must now re-consider his haste to get gay marriage onto the statute books; it would be somewhat ironic if this bill ultimately results in his government falling.