September 17, 2018 5:03 pm
Updated: September 19, 2018 9:30 pm

Why MPs cross the floor and the impact of Leona Alleslev’s Tory flip

WATCH: Leona Alleslev explains why she's leaving the Liberal Party to join the Conservatives.


On Monday, Toronto-area Liberal MP Leona Alleslev crossed the floor to join the Conservative Party, a move that has a long legacy in Canadian politics.

Alleslev, who represents the riding of Aurora-Oak Ridge-Richmond Hill said, “Do not accept the status quo. Our country is at stake,” in explaining her decision. She will now take the newly-created global security critic role with the Conservatives.

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READ MORE: Leona Alleslev leaves Liberals, crosses floor to sit as Conservative MP

“It is a bad news day for Justin Trudeau and the Liberals,” said University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman on the crossing. “It is a big coup for Scheer and the Conservatives.”

However, Wiseman doesn’t believe it will have long-lasting effects for the Liberals, especially considering the federal election is more than a year away, in November 2019.

“It’ll be fizzled out by next week,” he said. “It will only be remembered in her constituency, [and even there] people will likely vote on party and leader.”

WATCH: Andrew Scheer welcomes Leona Alleslev to the Conservative Party

Wiseman speculates that Alleslev likely crossed the floor due to personal reasons, as has been common in the past, rather than ideological.

He notes that last year, Alleslev got demoted from her position as parliamentary secretary, so “obviously, Trudeau wasn’t happy with her.”

“The Conservatives might have come up to her and offered her something,” Wiseman said. He also noted that Alleslev had only won her constituency by 2.2 percentage points, signifying that her riding could likely vote Conservative, as it did in the Ontario provincial election in June.

READ MORE: A brief history of floor crossing in Ottawa

“I don’t know what the principle is here other than she raised concerns and they were met by silence,” Wiseman said, dismissing Alleslev’s reason for crossing the floor being because “our country is at stake.”

History of floor crossing

The first MP to cross the floor was in August 1868 with Nova Scotia’s Stewart Campbell, and since then, 274 MPs have followed his footsteps.

Wiseman says that in the 19th century, crossing the floor was very common, but over time, it has become rarer.

READ MORE: Former floor-crossing law not a violation of rights: Manitoba judge after Fletcher lawsuit

He says the main reason it has become rarer is due to the policy passed in 1974 that asserts that a candidate needs the party’s signature on their nomination paper in order to run for that party. Due to this, politicians are “more disciplined now as teams.” Wiseman cites Doug Ford’s recent election, where a lot of politicians stuck with him because they needed his signature to run under the Conservative banner.

An MP can cross the floor at any time, regardless of the fact voters may have voted due to the party they aligned with, which Wiseman admits some say is a betrayal to the voters.

WATCH: MP Leona Alleslev says the Conservative party is ‘what we need’ following defection

It can happen for a variety of reasons, such as an offer to be put in the opposing party’s cabinet, such as was the case with Belinda Stronach in 2005 when she went from the Conservatives to the Liberals, or because they don’t have a chance of gaining their party leader’s signature, as happened to Eve Adams in 2015 when she joined the Liberals from the Conservatives, according to Wiseman.

WATCH: Political parties creating partisan content for voters

Floor crossings may not exist as it does forever, though. The NDP has proposed that if you cross the floor, then you have to resign your seat and have a byelection, allowing voters a new chance to judge the MP.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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