A Commons committee has recommended the current Canadian government be found in contempt of Parliament, but the ruling party, Conservatives, have a chance of a historic censure if a vote on the budget or other events launch an election first.
The Commons procedure and house affairs committee tabled a majority report Monday concluding that the government is "in contempt" for continually refusing to disclose information about the cost of several major legislative items. They are referring to documents related to the cost of several items including its law-and-order agenda, corporate tax cuts and a plan to buy stealth combat jets. All of the opposition members of Parliament on the committee voted to condemn the government for withholding the requested documents without giving "adequate reasons" for doing so.
"This is an unprecedented cascade of abuse," Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said during a press conference on Monday. He detailed various alleged abuses including scandals involving influence peddling and election fraud, in addition to contempt. "The issue here is one of trust. How can Canadians remain trusting of a government guilty of such flagrant abuse of power?"
New Democrat Leader Jack Layton said he he will wait for the budget before deciding to support the government, but admitted that the contempt charge adds another layer to the whole situation.
"The committee has found the government in contempt and that’s a very serious finding," Layton told reporters. "There’s no doubt it makes it more difficult to operate around here when you’re dealing with a government that’s so contemptuous of Canadians."
If the report is adopted by lawmakers it would mark the first time in Canada’s history that the government has been found in contempt of Parliament. Hypothetically, an adoption of this report could mean jail time for the government.
On March 10 Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed House Speaker Peter Milliken’s comments that led to three days of contempt hearings as part of "the game of democratic politics."
All of this aside, this report could have the effect of pushing any other important legislation out for years. For example, votes on the copyright reform bill, C-32, will not happen for a long time, and a possible spring election could further complicate things.