That the Conservative government will pass its omnibus budget bill has never been in doubt.
Similarly, its refusal to strip the nonbudgetary items from the 425-page bill was never in question.
Such is the privilege of a majority government.
But as the House of Commons starts out on the home stretch with the budget bill front and centre beginning Monday, the question will be how much political capital the Conservatives will have spent by the summer recess in order to pass this mountain of regulations the way they were determined to do it.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have his majority, but like other prime ministers before him who crafted such victories, he did not win a majority of votes.
The opposition will fight the omnibus bills with omnibus amendments. There will be much sound and light; it will be dismissed by many as mere process or theatre, and derided by the government as game-playing.
But the Conservatives best keep an eye on those they once thought were friends, not their enemies, as the bill receives its final debate.
Bob Mills, for example.
Mills rode into Parliament as a Reformer from Red Deer in 1993, along with Harper, and held the Alberta riding until 2008.
He returned to Ottawa last week to join Green leader Elizabeth May to protest the scrapping of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, just one of the environmentally unfriendly measures in C-38.
The one-time Conservative environment critic said bluntly that his old boss was making a mistake by putting other priorities ahead of the environment.
“I’ve always said that if you’re smart, you surround yourself with really smart people and if you’re dumb, you surround yourself with a bunch of cheerleaders,’’ said Mills.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney was more circumspect in an interview with CTV’s Don Martin, but he delivered a message to Harper nonetheless.
There are few things that any government can do for the broad middle class in Canada, Mulroney said, but one area in which almost everyone in that class agrees is that the environment is a legacy issue for their children and grandchildren.
They want a country like Canada to leave a pristine environment to their children, he said. “Anything that runs counter to that is not something one should endorse actively.”
A week before that, two Mulroney-era ministers, John Fraser and Tom Siddon, released an open letter on the bill, specifically objecting to measures that essentially gut the Fisheries Act.
But Siddon went further, saying that he was offended by the environmental measures in the bill and the “travesty” of the Parliament in which he served faithfully for 16 years.
At 70, he journeyed from the West Coast to the capital out of concern over the environmental legacy to be left to his 10 grandchildren.
Mulroney and Harper, of course, had a major falling-out, but Siddon voted to merge his old Progressive Conservatives with the Canadian Alliance and set the scene for Harper’s ascension.
Then there was the now infamous David Wilks video, in which the British Columbia Conservative MP told constituents there was a “barrage’’ of caucus mates who would prefer to see the bill split.
May, using the arcane Parliamentary rules to her advantage, is prepared to carry the ball for the anti-C-38 forces in what promises to be marathon Commons sittings.
The NDP and Liberals, of course, are all on board, banking that another round of shining the light on the nature of this “Trojan horse” bill, as the NDP has named it, will cost this government more capital than it banked on.
The government will continue to stress the need for the budgetary measures to pass quickly, and this will quickly be cast as a battle between principle and obstructionist tactics.
Here’s an early vote for principle. A couple of weeks ago, as a chastened Wilks returned to Parliament after sparking his controversy, May made the journey from her corner of the Commons to his corner, the longest journey one can make in the chamber.
She gave him a pat and a supportive hug.
Wilks had lamented that one MP cannot make a difference.
This week, May will try to prove him wrong.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer for the Toronto Star.