The coy game of closing the legislature

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When it comes to the closure of the legislature – both government and Opposition play a coy little game.

Government officials have a pat line they like to use: government opens the house, the Opposition closes it.

By this they mean it’s up to Opposition as to how long the session lasts. Opposition MLAs could, in theory, hold up legislation or the passage of the budget for as long as they like or even stage a filibuster if they really want to stretch things out.

Opposition, on the other hand, says it’s government that decides when the house will close, as it is the amount of work the province brings to the legislature that dictates how long MLAs must linger there.

While both sides are technically correct, how it really shakes down is a game of quiet negotiations that the public (and media) never really sees.

Case in point – Wednesday will undoubtedly be the last day of the spring session.

Everyone in the building, right down to the kitchen staff, knows this. But neither government nor Opposition will acknowledge it.

However, government has completed its budget estimates and has gone through second reading of all but one of its 20-odd bills.

It accomplished the bulk of the latter part of this work on Tuesday, and some of it on Opposition time.

Yes, Opposition gave up some of its time to government Tuesday evening.

The Tories also gave unanimous consent to allow government’s last bill, introduced on Friday, to go to second reading Tuesday before its necessary time on the order paper.

In legislature language, this all means the Opposition willingly gave government the ability to get its remaining work done swiftly, so that Wednesday could be the last day.

If they had not given up time and not given their consent on the last bill, it would have forced the house to sit at least one additional day.

And if they really wanted to, they could have held up some of that legislation, forcing the house to remain open even more days, if they had so desired.

But they didn’t. They gave up their own time so government could sail through their bills, which will all go to third reading on Wednesday after question period – a process that takes only about 20 minutes. The Lieutenant Governor will  be called to the legislature and the house will adjourn until November.

An official with the Opposition office says they gave up time in exchange for government agreeing to pass four of their motions earlier in the evening Tuesday.

The Ghiz Liberals have adopted a pesky habit of amending Opposition motions they find unsavoury. But, sure enough, they did vote in favour these four motions Tuesday night without amendment.

The motions in question actually came from resolutions passed by the P.E.I. Home and School Association.

And that’s why they were passed without amendment, according to an official in the premier’s office.

Both Opposition and government say there was no arrangement or agreement on letting the house close Wednesday.

But let it be known it could indeed have been kept open longer – because if there’s a political will, there’s a way.

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