Something happened this week to change my mind. First, the premise of my thinking was that each party for its own reasons was likely to vote against the budget. In the case of the Liberals and the NDP it was always likely that there would be elements of the budget - for example, the old child care program ends March 31 and the budget could change that, but won't - which made a negative vote inevitable. The two parties are direct competitors for the same pool of votes. The NDP would be ridiculed by the Liberals if they supported the budget and, while the Liberal exposure on this front is not as strong, the reverse is also true.
In the early fall the BQ began signalling that it was ready to bring the government down. It even toyed with the idea of forcing a confidence vote by mid-February. They also demanded an apparently non-negotiable $3.9 billion for Quebec to rectify fiscal imbalance. This week Duceppe suddenly shifted ground on his fiscal demands and said simply, "Make me an offer".
Here is an excerpt from the story in the Globe and Mail:
Mr. Duceppe, a former union negotiator, said: "For negotiations to occur, there has to be an offer. There is no offer as we speak, there is nothing on the table. I'm not about to negotiate with our own request. We won't settle at 50 per cent of our objective. We will see the offer, how it's spread out, what it means. But don't count on us to start negotiating with ourselves."The implication is clear: Mr. Duceppe and company will vote for the budget - notice the phrase "how it's spread out", weasel words if I ever saw them. He will likely justify it by saying he wants to lock in and implement whatever gains Quebec makes in the budget on its fiscal imbalance agenda. Chantal Hebert reaches the same conclusion as TC about a spring election with somewhat different reasoning, but her column on this subject is worth reading.