Thursday, September 20, 2018

Crossing the floor is sleazy and disrespectful, and should be stopped

Up until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Leona Alleslev, and right now I wish I still hadn't. But the instantly-forgettable federal MP for the instantly-forgettable suburban Toronto-area riding of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill precipitately inserted herself into the public consciousness when she defected from the Liberal Party she was elected with and "crossed the floor" to join the Conservative Party. She literally walked across the floor of Parliament and was welcomed with open arms and smug smiles by her new Conservative friends.
This kind of floor crossing happens from time to time, although this is the first time it has happened under the current government. You might remember David Emerson, Eve Adams, Belinda Stronach - all Canadian MPs well known for nothing other than selling out and double-crossing their electorate. In the UK, Winston Churchill apparently did it twice! Whenever it occurs, though, it inevitably leaves a bad taste in almost everyone's mouth.
Most backbench MPs, save a few notable exceptions who are voted in on their own personal charisma and merit, are voted in as a representative of a political party. Why they would then think themselves justified in abandoning that party, and offering their support to a party almost diametrically opposite in policy and philosophy, remains a mystery to me (and to most other people, judging from the tone of most of the letters and comments I have read). Imagine you are a member of the Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill electorate who voted for Ms. Alleslev as part of the Canada-wide upsurge against the excesses of the Harper Conservatives at the last election. And now, you wake up in a Conservative riding anyway, regardless of your wishes and efforts. Imagine how that feels. "Let down" doesn't begin to cover it - "deceived" or "betrayed" are closer. How can such a person ever be trusted again?
The possibility of an MP crossing the floor in this way makes a mockery of the democratic process. Who knows what kind of behind-the-scenes machinations led to such a decision by a woman who, just a couple of weeks ago, was waxing lyrical about the Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau. Even then, she had apparently been in talks with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer for several weeks about defecting, and it looks like she will almost immediately walk into a shadow cabinet position. Go figure! The whole matter just smacks of sleaziness, distastefulness and underhandedness.
Andrew Scheer and the more vocal of his merry band at least seem happy to have her. Maybe she is seen as a worthy replacement for the recently departed (and equally sleazy) Maxime Bernier. Pretty much everyone else, though, just finds the whole affair somewhat embarrassing.
Whatever Ms. Alleslev's motives - ideology, personality, ambition, who knows? - why such a move is even legal is beyond me. Surely this is the political equivalent of breaking a contract. Certainly, a more honourable course would be to resign completely and to stand for re-election under a different party's banner (as the NDP has proposed), although few politicians could expect to be re-elected under such circumstances - a good indication of why crossing the floor is so wrong.

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