A Liberal motion requesting rules be developed to determine when ministerial staffers can be compelled to testify before House of Commons committees was approved Thursday.
The motion, put forward by Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi at the Commons procedure and House affairs committee, was amended to say those guidelines must be completed by March of next year. It was also decided that no other committee will conduct a similar study, which was prompted by the Conservative government's refusal to allow the staff employed by cabinet ministers to appear as witnesses before MPs.
The success of Ms. Ratansi's motion diminishes the likelihood of success of an NDP proposal to turn the issue over directly to the House Of Commons - a move that could prompt an election.
New Democrat MP Bill Siksay will ask the committee Thursday afternoon to send a report outlining the chronology of government's refusals to the House, which would then ask Speaker Peter Milliken for a ruling on whether the government's actions have breached parliamentary privilege. If Mr. Milliken were to find that privilege had been breached, and the House of Commons then declared the government to be in contempt of Parliament, an election would likely result.
But now that Ms. Ratansi's motion has passed, the Liberal MPs on the Ethics committee are likely to argue that there is no need to support Mr. Siksay's proposal.
"I know the Bloc is supporting it," Mr. Siksay said Wednesday, "and I worry about what the Liberals are going to do with it."
The Liberals will not say what they will do. But they do not want an election at this juncture.