Poison pill

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by | Published , updated Jun 19, 2024

In politics, ‘poison pill’ refers to item(s) that make a particular motion or bill undesirable or difficult to agree to.

A motion might include highly unpopular language to force opponents into a difficult position if they want to vote in favour. The “poison pill” makes it politically toxic to support the motion, preventing it from passing.


On June 5, 2024, Parliament voted on the following Opposition Motion sponsored by NDP MP Alistair MacGregor:

That, given that the cost of food continues to increase while grocery giants such as Loblaws, Metro and Sobeys make record profits, the House call on the government to:

(a) force big grocery chains and suppliers to lower the prices of essential foods or else face a price cap or other measures;

(b) stop delaying long-needed reforms to the Nutrition North program; and

(c) stop Liberal and Conservative corporate handouts to big grocers.

Opposition Motion (Measures to lower food prices)

According to Liberal MP Ken Hardie, this motion included a “poison pill”:

As a bit of a background, the NDP may learn a valuable lesson from this vote. Quite a number of my colleagues were prepared to support it, until the NDP included a ‘poison pill’ (a political term) that others on our side felt was too critical to support. Sometimes a party will do that to make a point with their supporters, but it can work against what might otherwise be achieving a decent consensus on the issue.

Nonetheless, after making a fuss about Big Grocery and Big Oil, it was not all that hard to look past the shot they took at us ;o)

MP Ken Hardie, only Liberal MP to vote in favour – Fleetwood-Port Kells, BC Source

It’s called a ‘poisoned pill’ because if you vote for it, you’re confirming that what they’re criticizing is true according to the language they’ve used – and they will use the vote against you in further campaign communication.

If you vote against it, you will be criticized for opposing terms the public would be likely to support, and this will also be used against you for partisan purposes.

Your reaction suggests that you didn’t pick up on the ‘pill’ the NDP included in its motion, and perhaps most people wouldn’t have.

Liberal MP Ken Hardie

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