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Jay Currie

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What the GG Can do

Via Andrew Coyne, here is Tom Cerber at The Politic

4) power to dissolve parliament and call elections. “This is another case where Governors General normally follow whatever advice is given them by their prime minister. Yet there have been occasions when the GG has refused such advice. In 1926, PM Mackenzie King, realizing that his minority government was about ot be defeated on a motion censuring the government for corruption [does anything change? -ed.], asked the Governor General, Lord Byng, to dissolve parliament and call new elections. Byng refused, and instead called upon Arthur Meighen, the Conservative leader, to form a new ministry.”

So the GG has the reserve power to dissolve Martin, regardless of Martin’s “advice.” Moreover, she has the power to appoint Harper PM. I doubt she’d do that, however. While the Byng-King affair is Canada’s most famous precedent, a more likely and more recent precedent would likely be the dismissal of Prime Minister Whitlam in Australia in 1974 (HT: Andrew Coyne). You can read the summary at Politics Watch.
the politic
The GG is not going to dismiss Martin...this week. However, if for some reason, such as the debate on the Budget not being finished on the 19th - which Monte Solberg points out is quite possible - the confidence vote is not held then it is difficult to see what else she could do.

The only reason we have a Governor General is to act as the final arbiter in those Parliamentary situations where the question of who enjoys the confidence of the House really is in issue.

So, propose that Dithers finds an excuse not to have the confidence vote...

At that point the Governor General would have to act. However, before she did she would almost certainly take the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. (As well as assorted constitutional experts, lawyers, judges and members of the Privy Council.) She could then, if Harper told her he believed he had the confidence of the House, dismiss Dithers and ask Harper to meet the House and seek a vote of confidence. Or she could decide that, on the numbers, neither Leader enjoyed the confidence of the House and another election was required.

At that point, on her own authority, she would issue the Writ. As the Writ to call an election, is, like all other enactments in Canada, in the Queen's name, the GG has the right to issue such a Writ when she believes it is necessary.