Counting is hard!

From an article in today’s Ottawa Sun, about the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons (the Liberals are the opposition party; the Conservatives have a minority government):

The fact that the Speaker is a Liberal is significant because it could tip the balance of power in the minority Parliament. Since the Speaker only votes in a tie, the Liberals now have one less vote.

Someone want to wake up the copy desk? Thanks. (And of course everyone will be reporting it the same way, even though it can’t produce any change in the outcome of a vote. Grr.)

8 responses to “Counting is hard!”

  1. Did you know there are two kinds of accountants in the world? Those who can count and those who can’t.

    (not really related, I know, but your subject made me think of the joke)

  2. All that matters is that the vote is won or lost, not how many votes there were. The only case where a single vote can change the outcome is to turn a tie into a win, and in that case the speaker has a vote.

    Turning it around makes it even clearer: the times that the speaker doesn’t get a vote are those where his vote would not change the outcome.

    (The other boundary case, turning a loss into a tie, doesn’t matter: if the speaker was Conservative, then the Liberals’ ability to use their “lost” vote to force a tie would be useless because the speaker will always resolve the tie in the Conservatives’ favour.)

  3. Let me create a hypothetical then. There are 308 seats in the House, 307 voting. Mr. Milliken is Speaker. Some close issue sponsored by the Conservatives (and opposed by the Liberals) comes to a vote, and the total is 154-153 in favour, and it passes without Milliken being able to vote against it.

    Now, say the House had elected Larry Miller, Cons. MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, as an example of a Conservative backbencher, as Speaker. Same vote goes through the house. Not only does Mr. Milliken vote against the measure, adding one vote to Liberal totals, but Mr. Miller cannot vote for the measure, meaning one less vote for the Conservatives, and the motion/bill/whatever is defeated 154-153.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not concerned with the cases where the speaker’s vote turns a loss into a tie or a tie into a win, but where it turns a loss into a win.

    Is there a hole somewhere in my logic that I’m not seeing?

  4. Not sure how it is in Canada, but I believe that the convention in the UK is that, in the event of a tie, the speaker votes with the government.

  5. Bit more complicated here: In the case of a majority government, the speaker comes from the government, and thus votes with the government. In the case of a minority, the speaker occasionally comes from the opposition (which is in the government’s favour, although it’s also in the speaker’s favour, since they get a good chunk of change and use of an official residence). When that’s the case, they vote with their party on issues where they can, but on other issues their vote is predetermined, because the Speaker’s vote can only end debate by maintaining the status quo.