Go Ahead and Cross the Floor MPs. Just Ask First

By Jason Menard

What’s that old adage? Two wrongs don’t make a right? As good-intentioned as the Cross the Floor petition may be, encouraging elected representatives to bastardize the voices given to them by the Canadian electorate can’t be condoned.

I don’t think it will come as a shock to anyone familiar with my writing that I’m not exactly a Conservative supporter. I’ve long considered myself socially and culturally liberal, but fiscally conservative.

(Explanation: I support the arts, but not unconditionally. If a museum can’t draw an audience to even sustain a modicum of its existence, then you have to find another way to present that work).

But regardless of what side of the aisle I may find myself on, I’m firmly opposed to the idea of a politician changing his or her affiliation without going back to the electorate.

Do I personally like where this Conservative-led majority is going? No. Would I like to see a more left-of-centre leadership inCanada? Yes. Do I want Conservatives to jump ship to the Liberals or NDP? Hell no! At least, not without asking first.

That last one shouldn’t surprise you. Just as I argued during the Garth Turner, David Emerson, Belinda Stronach, and Pat O’Brien party-hopping days, it’s completely irresponsible for an elected representative to change affiliations without running in a by-election.

No ifs, and, or buts about it. And as well-intentioned as the “Cross the Floor” Facebook page may make it sound, it’s the wrong way to go about the process.

We can be naïve and think that most voters take an active interest in the process, study all their local candidates, and weigh their promises and policies against the voter’s own ideals. We can try to be delusional and think that people vote based on what’s best for their riding and the country based on fact.

I’d prefer to be realistic. Far too many Canadians vote based on half-truths, hearsay, and misinformation. That’s why attack ads on TV work. People would rather believe a 30-second clip than take the time to attend a local debate. Some vote one party because they always have – regardless of whether or not the party still stands for the same thing as it did 20 years ago (and I’ll point to a great Rick Mercer sketch featuring the incredible Don McKeller in a trailer for the fake movie Party Swap as the perfect illustration.)

For good or for ill, party affiliation is the major factor in many voters’ decision-making process. As a voter, you’re casting a ballot for a candidate who is not to represent themselves, but rather to represent you and your voice – one you’ve given to the person and party that you feel best represents your ideals, goals, or wishes.

If a candidate wants to change parties, I say more power to them. However, if you’ve changed the result, you’ve got to allow the voters to play the game again.

If you, as a candidate, firmly believe that you have the will of the electorate (or, in our country’s infinite wisdom, the plurality of the electorate) on your side, then your decision should be validated. And if you have the strength of conviction to be willing to cross the floor for your beliefs, you should have the same strength of conviction to your riding and the people for whom you’ve been given the honour and privilege of speaking.

I get why the people behind Cross the Floor (and would you mind identifying yourselves so that we know from whom this is coming?) want to encourage Conservatives to jump ship. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Stealing the electorates’ voices is always wrong. No matter how right you believe the cause to be.

3 thoughts on “Go Ahead and Cross the Floor MPs. Just Ask First

  1. seleadbetter

    Jason – I have to say I disagree. This is not a proper majority – 39% must not be allowed to dictate – I like minority governments – they have to work harder! By crossing the floor, CPC MP’s can send a very important signal. What if their constituents are telling them to do just that? Should they ignore it? They do not have the power to ask for a bi-election. Crossing the floor could be serving their constituents the best way possible.

    1. Jay Menard Post author

      You’re assuming that all constituents are in favour of that? I’m in favour of asking. When Pat O’Brien was my MP, he loudly and frequently claimed that the will of the electorate was behind him. Yet, the only people he polled were the small minority who received his newsletter. I asked many people in my riding and no one was contacted — certainly no one who may have had a contrary opinion. And, while I agree in principle, the system is set up that 39 per cent CAN dictate. It’s our first-past-the-post system. Until we have enough groundswell for proportional representation, then this is the best we’ve got.

      And what’s better? A 40 per cent turnout of people who are educated and engaged about the election, or 100 per cent turnout with 60 per cent who don’t care, aren’t educated about the issues and the ramifications of their ballot, and just show up for whatever incentive is there? I’ll always argue in favour of fewer and better. If you’re not going to care enough to learn about the issues and cast an educated ballot, then I don’t want you (and I don’t mean you, obviously) out there playing Russian Roulette with my country.

      1. Maryanne weis

        I have to agree with Jay Menard…it makes a lot of sense.
        I think we should be educated politically in school starting at a young age and involving class participaction throughout high school and on thus ensuring
        the majority of voters don’t have to depend on those 30 second paid ad clips to decide who they’re in favour of having run our country but actually have an inkling of what’s at stake with their vote.

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