OTTAWA – It was one of the first questions put to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau after his jaw-dropping announcement Monday morning – mouths in Ottawa’s National Press Theatre were literally agape – that now-former Conservative Eve Adams was joining his team.
Why would you want Eve Adams as a candidate?
It was Adams, after all, who was embroiled in a bitter Conservative nomination battle in Oakville-North Burlington, forced to step down due to “health reasons.” It’s Adams who is romantically linked to Dimitri Soudas, the prime minister’s former director of communications and executive director of the Conservative party – who quit his job after it was found he got involved in her nomination.
But Trudeau says the choice was clear.
“I am recognizing that one of the keys for the Liberal party to win the next election is to convince a lot of people who voted for different parties in the last election to vote for this party now,” Trudeau said.
“When we can showcase that people of all different political stripes are turning towards the Liberal Party as a strong and capable, better government, this is what we’re most proud of bringing together.”
Trudeau couldn’t promise there wouldn’t be others – “I have no further announcements this morning,” he said, to chuckles – but Adams’ political switch is key to a party that wants to form government in the upcoming election.
Ontario is set to gain 15 seats as part of the federal riding redistribution, including two in the Greater Toronto Area. And the Liberals believe Adams, who holds the seat for Mississauga-Brampton South and served as parliamentary secretary to the health minister, can win.
READ MORE: Who is Eve Adams?
She’s already beaten one of their own– Liberal Navdeep Bains – in the 2011 election.
“We just got a new caucus member who’s an excellent politician,” one Liberal strategist said.
“It’s a very positive acquisition.”
Speculation was swirling Monday as to what Soudas’ role would be – and what part he’ll play in Adams’ nomination, which she still has to win. For now, it appears Soudas will be involved only at the riding level.
‘You want everybody – unless maybe it’s Mike Duffy’
University of Toronto Canadian politics professor Nelson Wiseman says that for the third-party Liberals, any defection is a coup.
“Hey, you want everybody – unless maybe it’s Mike Duffy,” said Wiseman, referring to the disgraced Tory senator’s protracted expenses scandal.
WATCH: MP Eve Adams elaborates on her description of what she calls a “mean-spirited” and “divisive” Tory leadership.
Adams’ defection grabbed headlines Monday, Wiseman said but may not even be a factor in the election, which tends to focus on party leaders and policy announcements.
Adams, who served as a Mississauga city councillor for more than a decade, also has considerable local name recognition, which could help the Liberals gain ground in the Toronto area.
And for a career politician, that may be enough.
“When she was a local councillor, she apparently was well-known for her constituency activities, so if she can project that rather than her change of party, then she could bring along voters for the Liberals,” said Pauline Beange, a Canadian government and politics professor at the University of Toronto in Scarborough.
The issue, Beange said, will be public trust.
“Just in terms of her own self-interest, assuming that she wants to continue to be a Member of Parliament … she was seen as easy pickings by the Liberal Party.”
Adams wouldn’t say where in Toronto she will seek the Liberal party nomination, saving the announcement for the coming days.
But the Liberals have 13 open ridings in the GTA – including adjacent ridings of Brampton North and South.
WATCH: Trudeau explains why he wants MP Adams with Liberals.
Conservative Party president John Walsh was quick to counter Adams’ claim that she hadn’t felt “at home” in the party for many years, releasing a letter saying the party barred her from running as recently as two weeks ago.
But Adams dismissed suggestions that she was being opportunistic.
“Honestly this is not about having a tough day at the office. Everybody has grumpy bosses from time to time,” she said.
“I believe truly that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party offer the most positive, hopeful leadership available to Canadians.”
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