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MPs finally end 24-hour voting marathon on Conservative budget bill

Members of Parliament completed a marathon voting session Thursday night on the Conservative government’s budget bill, voting on hundreds of amendments in an exercise that lasted nearly 24 hours.

The voting, which began at 1 a.m. Thursday morning, ran non-stop until just after 11 p.m. when the bill finally passed.

Huge cheers from his caucus greeted NDP Tom Mulcair as he rose to vote on the final amendment.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper received an even more rapturous applause when he led the Conservative votes against.

Harper turned to thank his cheering ranks before sitting.

NDP House leader Nathan Cullen rose to thank the Commons staff for their marathon efforts. Every MP rose in a standing ovation.

Opposition members tabled some 871 amendments to the omnibus Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act, which they denounced as a “Trojan horse” and an affront to the principles of democracy.

The bill contains changes to dozens of statutes, ranging from employment insurance and public pensions to environmental assessments, border security and spy agency oversight.

The governing Conservatives insisted the 400-page bill is responsible and necessary to ensure Canada’s economy can weather the coming economic storm.

Earlier in the day with 20 votes remaining, chief government whip Gordon O’Connor asked to have the rest of the proceedings moved on division — in other words a single, final vote.

The NDP responded it would agree if the government immediately proceeded to question period; the Liberals said they’d agree if the Conservatives split up the omnibus bill.

Green party leader Elizabeth May rose to make a counter-offer but was shouted down by the Conservative ranks.

“Mr. Speaker, what I’m prepared for is a defeat on division, that’s what I want,” barked back O’Connor, a retired brigadier general.

“There would appear to be no unanimous consent for anything in this House at this time,” said deputy Speaker Barry Devolin, with considerable understatement.

This piece of nastiness resulted in opposition MPs again stalling their voting, rising as slowly as possible to be counted. The Conservatives countered by reducing their margin of victory, putting fewer MPs in the House to speed up the count.

But in truth it was the Conservatives who appeared to be having all the fun, cackling and mugging and whooping while the New Democrats and Liberals noticeably wilted.

Tories were using stuffed animals as seatholders when they left the chamber, and at one point Dr. Kellie Leitch, an orthopedic surgeon, put a splint on the dislocated finger of fellow Conservative MP Pat Davidson.

While the very first vote early Thursday morning resulted in a government win of 150-133, by mid-evening Thursday the Conservatives were thumping the flagging minority by a margin of two-to-one on occasion.

The bill is to get third reading on Monday, then it goes to Senate.