Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
There's a lot to be said about Belinda's shocking defection. Every post I've read has started with "I didn't see this coming". Say what you want about Belinda, but she knows how to grab a headline. After the initial shock, my first reaction was: "damn, why couldn't she have done this a few months ago. It would have made for a nice hospitality suite at the Liberal convention." But that got me thinking about the bizarre timing of this. Let's consider:
Fall 2003: Belinda sits Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper down and helps arrange a merger. Her reasoning? Canada needs a strong, moderate, Conservative Party.
Winter 2004: Belinda Stronach runs for leadership of the Conservative Party. Her reason? Canada needs a strong, moderate, Conservative Party.
June 2004: Belinda Stronach runs for Parliament and is elected as a member of the Conservative Party, under the leadership of Stephen Harper.
March 2005: Belinda throws a huge party at the Conservative convention, leading everyone to assume she's running for leadership.
May 10, 2005: Belinda Stronach votes non-confidence in Paul Martin's government.
May 17, 2005: Belinda Stronach joins Paul Martin's government.
This seriously just does not add up. It just seems odd that she would give up on the united right so quickly. Even though she never had a great chance at CPC leadership, I can't imagine Liberals ever backing her for Liberal leadership so I'm not sure this was about opportunism. I know she got a Cabinet spot, but she would have had one under a Harper government too. Maybe the Ontario polling numbers freaked her out or maybe sitting next to Stockwell Day every day just took its toll. She probably just felt she'd be more at home in the Martin Cabinet (and, as Paul Wells said, she likely will be. Lapierre, Dosanj, Brison, Stronach...we're not exactly attracting the bright lights from other parties).
As for political fallout...boy, we're in uncharted waters here. This is going to hurt Harper in Ontario and I'm sure he's having second thoughts about having an election now. In fact, I bet Steve is secretly hoping everyone's favourite media whore decides to vote with the government on Thursday. Also...I'm likely going to do a separate post on this later but although I disagreed with Jason Cherniak when he said it the other day, I think there's a legitimate chance that Stephen Harper will resign over the summer. Despite everything Harper has done to make the party look moderate, it's obvious that Canadians do not see them that way. This party would absolutely destroy Martin if they had Bernard Lord, Rona Ambrose or James Moore in charge. Even Peter MacKay would give them a moderate face at the helm. Harper has never lusted for power and he might realize that it's in his party's best interests to have a November leadership convention and then take out the Liberals next January.