The Belinda Bill
While I’ve been fairly critical of certain floor crossers in the past (let’s just call them JL and BS), I do think a bill like this is a bad idea. I can understand the reasoning behind it: Voters generally vote for a party, rather than a candidate. I tend to think Art Hanger would have a tough time carrying Calgary Northeast as a Liberal, just as I suspect several Toronto area Liberal MPs are likely getting elected due to their party name rather than their intelligence and charisma.
But voters base their votes on a lot more just the party too. Say I was really won over by Paul Martin’s stirring rhetoric and promises from the last election. Now, let’s hypothetically go to an alternate world where his time in government since the last election has been less than thrilling. Would that justify a by-election?
More importantly, what if a party changed leaders? Perhaps someone voted for Stephen Harper and would no longer support their local Conservative MP in a party led by Bernard Lord. I think MPs would be justified in leaving their party if they don’t approve of a new leader, just as John Bryden did in 2004. I also think MPs are within their right of quitting their party if they don’t approve of dramatic changes to their party’s platform or their stance on new issues which weren’t even on the table in the last election. While I really don’t think very highly of Pat O’Brien, he was perfectly within his right to quit the Liberals over gay marriage and then indignantly vote against them in every vote until the next election.
A lot of people will concede that point and argue that MPs in those situations should just sit as independents. And, in reality, that’s what most of them do. But is that really any different than switching parties? If Newmarket- Aurora residents voted for a Conservative last election and their MP quits the Conservative Party, she’s not a Conservative regardless of whether or not she’s an independent, a Liberal, or a Bloc Quebecois MP.
The intent may be to prevent the big “pay-off” of a Cabinet post for crossing the floor but anyone who thinks they can write legislate to remove political favours from politics is seriously deluded. Scott Brison waited 6 months for his Cabinet spot and Belinda waited 6 minutes – is there really a huge difference?
So while I can understand the intent of this legislation, I’d much rather keep things the way they are and put a little faith in the Canadian electorate (boy, there’s a bad idea) that they’ll punish ill-intentioned floor crossings come election time.