What happens after the Liberals table their budget in a minority Parliament

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds himself in familiar territory Thursday as the leader of a minority government that needs support from another party to pass a budget and avoid another federal election.

Only this time, there’s a formal agreement to make sure Canadians aren’t going back to the polls any time soon. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has promised his caucus will shore up the Liberal voting numbers for this year’s budget and the three after that.

But the budget still faces a number of key votes in the House of Commons.

What happens now?

Once the budget has been tabled Thursday afternoon, there will be four days of debate on the budget motion put forward by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and as many as three different votes.

The next steps happen on the first day of debate, which is Friday. The Conservatives get to introduce an amendment to the budget first because they’re the Official Opposition. Next, the Bloc Québécois can introduce a sub-amendment.

MPs will vote on the Bloc sub-amendment at the end of Day 2 of debate and on the Tory amendment at the end of Day 3.

The third and final vote is on the budget motion itself, and that happens at the end of Day 4. But those debate days don’t have to be consecutive.

When are the votes?

The House of Commons is on a two-week break beginning on Monday. When they come back on April 25, MPs will be able to get back to the debate, so they could wrap up all three votes that week, or it could stretch into early May.

After that, the government will introduce a budget implementation bill, which will go through three readings in both the House and the Senate.

Are these confidence votes?

Theoretically, any of the three votes — on the Tory or Bloc amendments, or on the budget motion — could be a confidence vote.

If a government loses a vote on a budget motion it’s likely they’ve also lost the confidence of the House. That’s always a possibility in a minority Parliament. But the Liberals have a signed agreement stating the NDP will back them up on budgetary policy, budget implementation bills, estimates and supply to ensure that specific scenario doesn’t happen.

What if the NDP doesn’t get what it wants?

The confidence and supply agreement exists on a guiding principle of “no surprises,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Singh and the NDP were briefed on the budget before it was tabled and they have a good idea of what’s coming, along with a commitment from the Liberals to keep working on their shared priorities until 2025.

It seems unlikely the deal will fall apart so soon after it was hammered out.

So, will there be another election anytime soon?

It’s highly unlikely.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2022.

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