Sunday, March 05, 2006

The ETHICS of Crossing the Floor

Stephen Harper is right to challenge the bogus investigation by Canada's ethic's commissioner into David Emerson's defection to the conservatives. The commisioner is a Liberal appointment, who did nothing to investigate Belinda Stronach crossing the floor to the liberals. But the problem with the investigation is not the grossly partisan nature of the action, it's that there is absolutely nothing unethical about a member of parliament changing parties.

We must remember that Canada is a "REPRESENTATIVE democracy" each election we elect members of parliament to represent our interests, it is the candidate's name on the ballot and we trust them to make decisions on our behalf. Every member of parliament must make decisions on how best to serve Canada once they have been elected. David Emerson made the decsion that giving Vancouver a seat at the cabinet table, and making use of his experience to help end the softwood lumber dispute with the United States was worth changing his party affiliation. I can't say for certain that he made the right decision, he's lost credibility with many of the Liberal party workers who helped elect him. I can say that it was his decision to make, and there's nothing unethical about changing parties.

Two notable defections in the last parliament were Belinda Stronach who left the conservatives to join the Liberals, and Pat O'Brien, who left the Liberals to sit as an independant. I'm not a fan of Ms. Stronach, but when she left the Conservative party she made a rational decision that the best place to advance her extreme social liberal views was in the Liberal party. Pat O'Brien made the more noble choice, he left his party without any reward incentive but simply because he saw that as the best way to protect traditional marriage.

In the 1990's numerous members of the federal PC party left to sit with the newly formed Bloc Quebecois. Again, this defection was controversial at the time (and in my mind it was very detrimental to Canada), but it led to a new political movement that is still being felt today.

Most Members of Parliament will choose to work within their respective parties as the most effective way to influence policies. When members do choose to cross the floor they are making a dangerous move by damaging relationships with many of their colleagues. However, in many cases when some of the most serious policy issues are at stake, changing parties may be one of the most responsible decision a Member of Parliament can make.

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