What would Preston Manning do?

The New Democrats have called a news conference for this morning to explain the “next steps” in their fight against C-38. Elizabeth May and the Liberals have already vowed to table 200 amendments when the bill returns to the House from committee.

The standard in this regard might be the 471 amendments to the Nisa’ga Treaty that the Reform Party proposed in 1999. From December 7 to December 9 of that year, the amendments resulted in nearly 43 consecutive hours of voting. When it was over, Reform MP Gurmant Grewal celebrated his accomplishment as the only MP to record a vote on each of those amendments.

The delay failed to win a concession from the government, but opposition leader Preston Manning was apparently satisfied nonetheless. “Thanks partly to the coverage you people gave to this issue, you’ve got millions of Canadians asking what is this Nisga’a treaty thing all about anyway,” he told reporters afterwards. Mr. Manning said the Reform party had “chalked up a win for Canadians by holding the government to account.” “Two years down the road, five years down the road, 10 years down the road somebody is going to say how on Earth did we get committed to a treaty like this,” he said. “I want to be able to say we did everything conceivable within the rules of Parliament to try to change it and to try to stop it.”

Reform MP Dick Harris, currently a backbencher in the Harper government, defended the alleged cost to taxpayers (the Liberals said the round-the-clock voting had cost taxpayers $1 million). “It’s one of the few tools the Opposition has to bring the attention of some monumental issues to the Canadian people,” Harris told the Prince George Citizen. “As a result of this parliamentary procedure, we were proud to be able to raise the Nisga’a issue to a level the Liberals didn’t want. . . Do I feel guilty? Not in the least.”

(Midway through the votes, the NDP’s Lorne Nystrom, recently part of Thomas Mulcair’s transition team, said Reform MPs had made “their point” and were “now abusing the money of the Canadian people.”)

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