February 9, 2015 4:34 pm

A brief history of floor crossing in Ottawa

In August 1868, Nova Scotia's Stewart Campbell became the first ever MP to cross the floor since then, another 270 followed in his footsteps.

Michele Falzone/AWL Images

OTTAWA —Though Canadians vote for individuals to represent their ridings, the attraction to a particular federal candidate often rides on the party banner they’re running under.

So, people in Ottawa can sometimes get their knickers in a knot when an elected member of Parliament suddenly decides to switch teams.

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While the party left behind may say the defected MP has betrayed the voters in a particular riding, the party gaining a soldier usually says that MP is best positioned to know exactly what his or her constituents want —and it’s not (insert name of former affiliation here).

READ MORE: Ontario MP Eve Adams joins Liberals, calls Tories ‘fear-mongers and bullies’

Parliament has kept tabs on MPs who have either jumped from one party to another or been elected under two parties, though it notes difficulty with tracking some of the earlier examples.

The first ever MP to cross the floor was Stewart Campbell, the Nova Scotia MP who, on Aug. 30, 1868, crossed from the Anti-Confederates to the Liberal-Conservatives.

Over the next 146 years, 270 more followed in his footsteps, with Eve Adams on Monday becoming the 271st MP ever to leave the party under which she was first elected to either become an independent or sit with another party, according to the Parliament of Canada.

READ MORE: Who is Eve Adams?

The numbers also show that, in walking over to the Liberal side from the Conservatives, Adams became the 18th MP to cross the floor since the May 2, 2011 election —a relatively high number compared to Parliaments of recent past.

Between November 2008 and March 2011, only one MP, Helena Guergis, crossed the floor —and that was under a thick cloud of controversy.

Between April 2006 and September 2008, meanwhile, eight MPs defected. The previous Parliament, from October 2004 to November 2005, six MPs crossed the floor.

With all these floor crossings, you have to wonder how different the House of Commons looks today than it did when MPs filed into their seats on the first sitting day after the May 2, 2011 election.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

PartySeats on May 2, 2011Seats on Feb. 9, 2015
Bloc Quebecois42
Green Party12
Force et democratie02


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