By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair’s principal secretary sends his regards to Claude Patry. The Star’s editorial board likewise suggests Mr. Patry should resign and face a by-election. Chantal Hebert offers some background on the backbencher and some consideration of the future. And Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro offers his analysis.
News that another NDP MP has abandonned them, this time to go to the BLOC demonstrates how undemocratic the NDP really is. Because their members are always foced to follow the party line when voting in parliament the only choice that members have when they disagree is to leave.
It is true that New Democrats have tended to vote alike in this current Parliament, while several Conservatives have voted the party line a mere 98% or 99% of the time, but it’s not clear that Mr. Patry’s situation was a matter of party discipline run amok. He seems to have had a fairly fundamental difference of opinion over fundamental party policy—in this case sovereignty for Quebec and how that might be achieved. Maybe he could have remained both a resolute sovereigntist and a member of the NDP, presuming that the party hadn’t tabled its Unity Bill or taken the position on Churchill Falls that it did, but Mr. Del Mastro probably wouldn’t have approved of that either.
Usually three instances of something is sufficient grounds to declare a trend, but it’s not clear to me that there is a common denominator between Lise St. Denis, Bruce Hyer and Mr. Patry. Ms. St. Denis got to Ottawa and decided she wanted to be a Liberal. Mr. Hyer decided to become an independent because he didn’t like Mr. Mulcair’s style of leadership and position on the long-gun registry. (Conversely, John Rafferty, the other long-gun registry dissident in the NDP, opted to stay with the New Democrats.) Mr. Patry decided that the NDP’s views on Quebec didn’t match his own.
If two more Quebec New Democrats bolt for the Bloc, there will be an obvious and particular trend. But for now we have three MPs of varying backgrounds who’ve gone in three different directions (even if they all were running away from the same place). If we’re searching for a narrative here, I’ll submit this: after a dramatic and unexpected increase in the size of their caucus and a sudden change in leadership, there was bound to be some shaking out within the NDP. In the process of everyone figuring out where they fit and who does what, a few have apparently decided they would be better off elsewhere. If they remain a few, there’s maybe not much of a problem. If this keeps happening and the sample of three turns into a sample of four or five or more, it will become easier to identify a more obviously negative trend.
As for whether Mr. Patry should step down and face a by-election, his vote a year ago in this regard should make it difficult for him to argue otherwise. There are a lot of questions to be asked about this idea, but as a general principle it has some merit.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 8:14 AM - 0 Comments
1. Proportional representation just won itself a whole passel of new right-wing fans.
2. Alberta Liberal morale remained high throughout an election in which pollsters warned continually of disaster. And the pollsters proved to be almost exactly right about this (if nothing else). Yet even as the mortifying results rolled in, Alberta Liberal morale still remained high. Then their egomaniac not-really-Liberal disaster of a leader, Raj Sherman, won his seat by the skin of his teeth. This means he will not have to be replaced unless an awful lot of people smarten up fast. Alberta Liberal morale after this event? Easily, easily at its highest point in ten years. “Please, sir, may I have another?”
3. NDP leader Brian Mason’s first words on reaching the podium? “The phone booth [two seats] just doubled [four seats]!” Message: we like the phone booth. We’re never leaving it. Not us.
4. Total votes cast for Senators-in-Waiting, with complete results not quite yet in, are about 2,486,858. If everybody voted for three Senators, that implies about 829,000 ballots cast—which in turn suggests that around 458,000 eligible voters selected a candidate for the Assembly but refused or spoiled their Senate ballot. The practice was certainly widespread, and if these numbers are close to right, the Senate election has been boycotted quite significantly.
5. Those who did boycott the Senate election seem awfully proud of themselves, because it was a “meaningless” election. Why, one wonders, does it have to be meaningless? The “progressive” parties could have agreed on a single Senate candidate in advance; if they had done so, that candidate would certainly have ended up first in the queue, and provided an excellent test of Stephen Harper’s integrity, which I am told is much doubted.
The problem is that Harper might pass the test, you say? Then what’s the harm? You get some smart, popular left-wing independent speaking for Alberta in the Senate? That’s bad for “progressives” how?
6. It is not unusual for candidates to get 70%, 75%, or even 80% in Alberta provincial or federal elections. By this measure, however, the Alberta electorate is now unusually divided: the highest vote share earned by any candidate, of any party, was NDPer Rachel Notley’s 61.98% in Edmonton-Strathcona. (There was talk in advance of the vote that electoral redistricting would hurt Notley, though no one thought for a moment she would lose.)
7. Only one Conservative candidate received 60% of a riding’s votes cast: Human Services Minister David Hancock in Edmonton-Whitemud. PCs relishing their first-past-the-post “landslide” [see item 1, supra] would do well, I suppose, to realize that only 19 of the 61 victors have the approval of more than 50% of their fellow-citizens.
8. Voters don’t like turncoats much. There was a lot of floor-crossing in the 27th Legislative Assembly of Alberta: three PCs (Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier) left for the Wildrose Party, one (Raj Sherman) bolted for the Liberals, and the PCs got one back from the Liberals in the person of Bridget Pastoor. Forsyth had a hideous scare in Calgary-Fish Creek, taking it by just 74 votes. Boutilier was turfed. Sherman, like Forsyth, narrowly escaped garroting. Only Anderson (in Airdrie) and Pastoor (Lethbridge West) got the usual easy ride that comes with incumbency.
9. Ted Morton’s widely anticipated whupping in Chestermere-Rocky View lived up, or down, to all expectations. His challenger, broadcaster Bruce McAllister, beat him 10,168 to 6,156; McAllister earned the highest vote share of any Wildrose candidate (58.4%) and, along with Danielle Smith, was one of only three to amass 10,000 votes.
10. There is this weird consensus among intellectuals and creatives that the progressive vote in Alberta will coalesce around the Alberta Party by 2016. All my techie and designer-y friends seem as convinced of this as if it were divine revelation (and, in truth, the Alberta Party’s election materials do look pretty badass, graphics-wise). I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, because these are the same people who were sure that a single-button mouse was a good idea ten years ago, but then the top young organizers in the Wildrose Party told me that the AP was full of smart, hustling people and that they, too, believed it would soon become Alberta’s party of the left.
Yes, there is plenty of embarrassment to go around this morning, but I still cannot understand why I was assured so often that the Alberta Party would win multiple seats; they were never above about 3% in the polls, and if there can be such a thing as a calamitous performance for a fledgling movement with not much of a platform and a kinda-fake leader, this must be it. The Alberta Party got 1.3% of the vote last night. If the NDP lives in a phone booth, what do you call this? A really tight pair of rubber underpants?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
The vote broke along party lines—New Democrats voting in favour; Conservatives, Liberals, the four Bloc MPs and Elizabeth May voting against—save for three exceptions. Conservative MPs James Bezan, Blake Richards and Brad Trost voted in favour.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 8:34 AM - 0 Comments
Once more to our periodic series on the House of Commons.
Lise St-Denis’ constituents are anecdotally displeased.
“It is completely ridiculous,” said Pierre Huot, director of the student association at Collège Shawinigan. “If she wants to join the Liberals, she should run in a by-election.”
Mr. Huot apparently voted for the Bloc Quebecois last time around.
The Liberal result in Saint-Maurice-Champlain was rather dismal in May—Yves Tousignant finished fourth with just 11.9% of the vote. Not since 2004 has the Liberal candidate in the riding finished better than third.
All of which, once again, raises all those questions about who and what one votes for when one marks one’s ballot. A lot of the same questions that were raised, for different reasons, by the election of Ruth Ellen Brosseau. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 4:46 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP deems Lise St. Denis’ defection an insult to democracy and challenges her to a
duelby-election. Ian Capstick, while taking no issue with the general notion of floor-crossing, takes issue with Ms. St. Denis’ explanation.
I can see how a newly unexpectedly elected NDP MP could have rapidly evolving points of view and even how they might want to jump ship. But that’s not what you said today. No, instead: “Les électeurs ont voté pour Jack Layton. Jack Layton est mort.”
If that’s truly what you believe, then you shouldn’t sit in the House as anything other than an NDP MP or an independent – to do otherwise is illogical and worse, deeply offensive.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 1:06 PM - 0 Comments
And so Lise St. Denis, dressed here in black and white, elected as a New Democrat some eight months ago, slipped from one party to the other. To her left sat Denis Coderre, beaming. To her right, Bob Rae listened intently. Both men had helped her with her chair when she arrived at the table. When she finished, the interim Liberal leader patted her on the back. She and they seemed reasonably happy with this little moment.
However serene the undertaking, however justifiable this business of euphemistically crossing the proverbial floor, it was not so easily explained. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 12:59 PM - 2 Comments
The private members’ bill set to be debated tomorrow is C-306, put forward by Mathieu Ravignat, the NDP MP for Pontiac.
This enactment provides that a member’s seat in the House of Commons will be vacated and a by-election called for that seat if the member, having been elected to the House as a member of a political party or as an independent, changes parties or becomes a member of a party, as the case may be. A member’s seat will not be vacated if the member, having been elected as a member of a political party, chooses to sit as an independent.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 1:56 PM - 11 Comments
While many may think we vote for a Prime Minister, in fact we don’t. And we don’t vote for a party either. We vote for a Member of Parliament to represent us in Ottawa. We send 308 Members of Parliament to Ottawa and, from their ranks, the governor general calls on one to form a government and test the confidence of the House of Commons.
Whatever people may base their voting decision on, the fact is we’re electing a person to represent us. If they change parties, or do something else that we disagree with, then we can defeat them when and if they run for re-election. But taking away their legitimate right to change party affiliations only serves to further re-enforce this fundamental misunderstanding of our political system and further dilute the role and responsibility of individual MPs.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 12:34 PM - 34 Comments
The NDP’s Peter Stoffer is going to try again to ban floor crossing.
“If I pick up the phone right now and call Mr. Harper’s office and if they’re in agreement, within an hour I can become a Conservative member of Parliament,” Stoffer said Monday. “I don’t have to go to my constituents, I don’t have to tell my party, I could just sit tomorrow as a Conservative MP. That’s wrong on every count.”
His bill, if passed, would prohibit MPs from crossing the floor. Instead, if an MP wanted to change parties, they’d have to quit and run for the new party in a by-election, assuming they won the nomination. They could still sit as an independent, but someone elected as an independent couldn’t join a political party after the election.
Mr. Stoffer’s previous attempt, in 2006, was defeated with New Democrats voting in favour, Bloc and Liberal MPs voting against and the Conservatives almost evenly split. If those splits occurred again, the bill would pass.
By Katie Engelhart - Friday, October 9, 2009 at 10:39 AM - 1 Comment
Why the Larry O’Brien trial might have politicians thinking twice about switching sides
The week’s juiciest political story turned out to be a dud. Not long after the Toronto Star published a front-page article about a “trio of Liberals” looking to defect to the Tories, the paper backed away from the story, claiming it had been misled by Alykhan Velshi, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s communications director. Needless to say, the defections never materialized.
But let us consider the consequences of an alternate ending—one in which three Liberals had in fact switched sides. Let us further imagine that one or more of them had taken a cabinet post. After all, it’s not unusual for defectors to be rewarded with high-profile jobs. When Belinda Stronach left the Tories in 2005, she was immediately appointed the minister of human resources and skills development. More recently, David Emerson was elected under the Liberal banner in 2006 after vowing to be “Stephen Harper’s worst nightmare,” but he soon left the party to become minister of international trade in Harper’s new minority government. Though Stronach and Emerson faced the wrath of voters and columnists across Canada, their troubles never escalated to the legal arena. But things might have been different this time around for the Liberals’ supposed malcontents thanks to a ruling in the trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien.
This past spring, O’Brien was accused of influence peddling for allegedly promising a political rival a seat on the National Parole Board in exchange for dropping out of the city’s mayoral race. For O’Brien, even though he was eventually acquitted, it was the latest in a seemingly endless series of political headaches since his 2006 election. But for prosecutors, it was an opportunity to test arcane Criminal Code provisions against political corruption that hadn’t been litigated in decades.
Midway through the trial, O’Brien’s lawyers argued the case should be thrown out on the basis the Crown was seeking to criminalize commonplace political wrangling—in this case, promising a political appointment to an opponent in exchange for help. Going into the trial, lawyers had speculated the Crown’s case against O’Brien might be dismissed for that very reason. Even Justice Douglas Cunningham conceded that “the very nature of political activity does involve a certain amount of trading and promises. If you support the party, you will be rewarded, whether it’s actually stated or implied. That’s the nature of patronage.” But Cunningham ended up not only rejecting O’Brien’s request for a dismissal, he opened the door to future prosecutions against politicians who deal in high-level quid pro quos.
“The Crown submits that just because this activity is one of politics’ dirty realities does not make it any less odious, indeed criminal,” Cunningham wrote in his decision. “I agree with this submission. In short, just because it happens doesn’t necessarily make it acceptable.” Cunningham’s ruling now stands as the reigning precedent for such cases, meaning floor-crossings could be subject to investigations similar to the one that befell O’Brien if they’re suspected of having been motivated by the promise of a promotion.
“There is a warning out there,” says Errol Mendes, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa of the impact Cunningham’s decision might have on political life in Canada. He suggests lawyers will likely be advising MPs to be more cautious about the kinds of promises they make while striking deals. “Just the fact that [O’Brien] had to go through the allegations, the trial, etc.,” says Mendes, “those things alone should send a warning to people—don’t go anywhere near those sort of possible allegations.” Mendes hopes Cunningham’s “rap on the knuckle” will persuade politicians to be on their best behaviour in Ottawa. “The Canadian electorate is getting very tired and losing trust in politicians,” he says. “The most destructive impact of this is that it loosens trust in all democratic institutions.”
No matter how much they anger Canadians, defections aren’t likely to disappear from the political landscape any time soon. Still, had the Conservatives successfully lured three of their putative opponents to switch sides, it may have at least provided an opportunity to test whether Cunningham has succeeded in making them less lucrative.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 6:39 PM - 27 Comments
In the absence of knowledge or memory, there is refuge in rumour and prognostication. So we guess when the next election will come, fascinate ourselves with polls that rarely change. Last week we discussed, at length and with great concern, how completely and indisputably screwed the Liberals were in Quebec. The latest poll, released yesterday, shows them up 10 points in that province, struggling everywhere else.
This week, the gossip concerns which member of the official opposition is preparing to switch allegiances. Such is the surreal nature of this place that a source within a government that once proclaimed that a coalition of opposition parties would violate the basic principles of our democracy is now, apparently, happy to report that various members of one of those opposition parties are nearly ready to coalesce about the Conservative party in direct contradiction, one assumes, of everything those individuals campaigned on last fall.
You’re forgiven if you find it hard to keep up. In fairness, it’s less like watching an afternoon soap and more akin to a bad sketch comedy series, acted and scripted by untreated ADHD sufferers.
Amid all this, Michael Ignatieff stood just after 2:15pm this afternoon and dared talk about the state of the federal government’s finances. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 12:25 PM - 89 Comments
A week ago, the NDP’s Don Davies introduced a private member’s bill that seeks to ban the practice of floor crossing.
“It is the duty of every politician to respect the democratic rights of voters,” said Davies. “In Vancouver Kingsway, voters saw their democratic rights violated. My constituents saw their votes betrayed. I am proud to be bringing this Bill forward to ensure that this never happens again…
“If an M.P. wants to switch parties, they can do so. But my Bill would force them to put that question to the decision of voters – where it belongs.”