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Editorial Crossing the Floor by Peter Sadlon: comments
Should an MP who crosses the floor or sits as an independent after being voted in as a member of a party be forced into a by-election? I say no way. If you voted for someone who ended up having a different philosophy then you then that is your own fault. You have two jobs as a voter, educate yourself on the candidates and vote for the one which you believe shares your same values.

In case you haven't noticed, we don't elect governments in Canada, we elect a Parliament and once elected Parliament chooses what the government will look like. Unfortunately, trying to get a majority of 300+ independent MPs to agree on anything would be quite impossible, lucky for us we have political parties.

All political parties are incorporated and as such are their own unique identity. People running for a seat in Parliament will usually join a party which shares their same beliefs and viewpoints, and if the party believes that person has a good chance of winning they enter into an agreement that the party will support the person with money, media coverage etc. And what does the party get in return? Nothing.

Why nothing? Well, they don't get nothing exactly. What they get is a person elected into office who shares their viewpoints, which helps getting a majority of Parliament to form a government much, much easier. But are they required to vote with their party? No. And why not? Because then we would have a corporation in charge of Canada. A corporation would be running the country, not the people.

Now allow me to take a brief aside here just to point out that by corporation I am referring to the political party which would have the majority in government, not some partisan propiganda about how government is controlled by big business. But to continue....

If you are an MP there are of course benefits to voting with your party such as continued funding, good standing in the party (great for promotions) and even one day the possibility of leading the country. But anything else would be called a bribe and an attempt to influence you to vote a certain way.

And the opposite is true as well, any punishment outside of anything internal to the party would be considered as trying to influence the vote of a Member of Parliament. As such the only punishment someone can receive from voting against their party must be party related (sit as a back bencher, lose posts, or even be kicked from the party) but nothing else. They can not lose their seat, it is their seat, not the party's.

So Belinda crosses the floor and votes with the Liberals and a hundred Tories cry foul, but when Kilgour or O'Brien sit as an independent and vote with the Tories it is all ok because they didn't join the Tories. What is the difference? They (Kilgour and O'Brien) will both continue to vote with the Tories time and time again hoping to win favor since they will never sit as Liberals again. They are, for all intents and purposes Tories now.

And what about Carolyn Parish and others like her from time to time who get booted from their party? Should they now be forced into a by-election as well?

Here is the danger.

These MPs protect us from corporate control of the government. Each MP has a desire to lead or serve the country in the way they see fit, very few join politics saying that they want to be a workhorse for a leader and to follow them blindly, even though they may know that from time to time it is something they must do. But if we required by-elections whenever anyone stepped out of line there would be nothing but yes-men in Parliament, all lead by a single leader. And that leader would have a literal dictatorship over Parliament, Government and the Country for as long as he or she desired.

The only thing which prevents this one all power leader is the threat that he can lose control of Parliament, and thus the Government.

Still not convinced? Well here is a question for you. Why does no political party include in their contract with their MPs a clause which states something similar to the following: In the event you no longer sit as a member of our party [by crossing the floor] you will repay the funds given to you by the party used to secure your seat in Parliament and immediately resign your position so that a by-election may be held.

Not only do no parties require a resignation, but none even require repayment for funds, because both are completely illegal. And that isn't going to change.

Although I am sure that both the Liberals and the Conservatives and all other parties would like to control the government in this way, I am just as sure that they really don't want the others to, so don't hold your breath on this, because its not going to happen, at least not until some time where our whole government changes to system of proportional representation, but thats a discussion for another time.


The following comments have already been recorded.
comment by: Rob
I think fundamentally what we are discussing is "Respect for democracy."

I believe you are arguing that this respect means recognising that a democratically elected official can vote however they want, and enter into any kind of agreement with whichever political party they see fit.

Residents of Newmarket-Aurora might cry foul because they say "hey, we elected a Conservative!" whereas you might say "they elected someone who, at the time, had a relationship with the Conservative party."

Personally I believe the Stronach defection is unlike any others because appearances suggest Stronach WAS bribed.
- Crossing the floor at the time of a critical vote
- Joining a government she voted "no confidence" several times in the days before
- Serving for a leader who she had previously stated was either incompetent or corrupt
- Leaving a party whose principles she disagreed with despite helping create them when she helped found the party and finish 2nd in the leadership race just over a year previous, and failing to name a single specific action with which she took issue.
- Not wanting to support separatists, joined a party who a short while later made deals with the separatists to pass an unpopular budget and an unpopular gay marriage bill
- Was immediately assigned a Cabinet position

It is understandable to get defensive against the shreaking of unapologetically pro-Conservative pundits. It is also understandable to want to support an unpleasant means to what you might see as a good end. But, quite frankly, the Stronach defection stinks, pure and simple. You are dignifying it with your otherwise excellent argument. Save such high morality for, say, the earlier defections of former Progressive Conservatives to the Liberal party, not for an obviously embarrassing moment in Canadian parliamentary history.

Take Scott Brison for example. Some may draw comparisons between Stronach and Brison. Brison ran for the leadership of the PC party, then crossed the floor into a Cabinet position. Brison now finds himself defending positions that he would previously have been the very first to attack and condemn.

However, Scott Brison left the Progressive Conservative party, not the Conservative party. In effect, his party ceased to exist. Of the remaining parties, the Liberal party objectively had more in common with his Progressive Conservative principles than the Conservative party.

Also, Brison was re-elected as a Liberal and his years of work in public office had clearly already qualified him for a Cabinet position.

This is probably an argument that could go on forever, but I do believe we can both agree it is about respect. Many people can cross the floor while still showing respect for democracy and their constituents. Stronach is not one of them.

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