Normally the political party losing a floor-crosser is upset. Not this time
Call it Justin Trudeau’s very bad week. His bizarre decision to welcome controversial former Conservative MP Eve Adams into his Liberal caucus, and sanction her to contest the Liberal nomination in Toronto’s Eglinton-Lawrence riding, shows just how in over his head the leader of the third party is. To be sure, floor-crossing is nothing new on Parliament Hill or in provincial legislatures across the country. We all see it from time to time.
A politician leaves the party under whose banner he or she won the election to cross the floor and align with former adversaries. The public is often unimpressed by such self-serving moves. Politicos — who attempt to shape public opinion — react differently. Typically, partisans from the party the politician is leaving are angry and upset, while those receiving the new member into their ranks are thrilled and delighted.
That is what made watching Adams’ defection unfold so fascinating. It was in fact the Conservatives who seemed quite thrilled with losing Adams. By contrast, many rank-and-file Liberals were mortified to see their leader accept the Conservatives’ rejected laundry with such open arms. Case in point: When Adams announced she will run for the Liberal nomination in the north Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, Mike Colle, the long-time Liberal MPP for the area, pointedly remarked “over my dead body”.
It seems only Trudeau and the group of insiders surrounding him thought that Adams’ conversion on the road to electoral oblivion — the Conservatives had already told her she couldn’t run for them because of her internal clashes with fellow Tories — was a win for the Liberals. The irony is that Eglinton-Lawrence was a long-time Liberal stronghold until Finance Minister Joe Oliver stole it away for the Conservatives in 2011. It’s a riding that should very much be in play for Trudeau’s Liberals this time around.
However, if Adams wins the nomination, and we have seen what the Trudeau camp is willing to do to ensure its preferred candidate is nominated, she will surely be defeated in this fall’s election. She is a poor fit for her new party and the latest riding into which she is attempting to parachute. Adams claims her defection — up until last week she was a fiercely partisan Conservative — is based on both policy and personality.
She claims Prime Minister Stephen Harper, her former leader, is not a nice guy. That apparently wasn’t an issue a few weeks ago when she approached him and Conservative Party president John Walsh about being allowed to seek a Tory riding nomination. Somehow, Adams went from being a Harper Conservative to a Trudeau Liberal in a span of just two weeks . That alone, is an extraordinary feat. On policy, Adams claims to now be against income splitting for families.
So someone who spent a lifetime as a partisan Conservative is now against tax relief for families. This was a policy she highlighted in her local election campaign in 2011. But after a few years on the Tory benches, and repeated infighting with fellow Conservatives about which riding she would run in in this year’s election – Adams just doesn’t seem to care that much about income splitting any more. Adams may have found herself a political lifeline and Trudeau seems to be pleased in accepting her, past controversies and all.
Maybe he’s thinking her partner, Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s former director of communications, has all sorts of Tory secrets to spill to the Liberals. In any event, both Adams and Trudeau put on their best plastic smiles in a show of unity in front of a clearly surprised and skeptical parliamentary press gallery last week. But Harper may very well be the one who gets the last laugh in this particularly bizarre case of floor crossing.