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The Canadian Greater Plumed Parliamentary Floor-Crossing is a peculiar beast. It appears at odd intervals and emits a characteristic squawk: two parts proclamation of allegiance to high ideals, one part denial of opportunism. It is amphibious and nomadic. There have been many sightings this season in Alberta. But this morning, a particularly brightly plumed specimen was spotted within sight of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.
“One of the many things that have impressed me about Eve Adams in recent weeks is her commitment to public service,” Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, told a roomful of aghast reporters. He called his new recruit “value-driven” and pronounced himself “incredibly proud of the process we’ve established” for selecting candidates. I was unable to attend the news conference in person, and it’s probably for the best, because, simply watching it on the Internet, I had so many questions, I was fit to bust. Samples: What are the other things that have impressed him in recent weeks about Eve Adams? And: Does his process for selecting candidates involve, by any chance, a jug of hooch and a wheelbarrow?
Live sightings of the Canadian Greater Plumed Parliamentary Floor-Crossing inevitably provoke certain responses from other fauna in the fragile parliamentary ecosphere. This includes prompt assertions from the specimen’s former neighbours that they are well shut of her. And indeed, Conservatives—who were still, as recently as last week, positioning Adams in the Helena Guergis Memorial PM-Softening Seat within the camera frame with Prime Minister Stephen Harper—flocked to Twitter to announce that she was, all along, a pestilence.
Related reading: Tory Eve Adams quits to run for Liberals in next election
Another conditioned response to a floor-crossing sighting is the chorus of protestations from members of the specimen’s new flock that any inconvenient questions are low and scurrilous. Thus it fell to Trudeau to remonstrate with scribes, who insisted on asking about Dimitri Soudas—a former prime ministerial communications director and Prime Ministerially hand-picked Conservative Party of Canada executive director—who took a break between those two jobs to “spend more time” with his family before, er, floor-crossing to Adams’s side, where he sought to arrange her nomination in a process he was contractually obligated to ignore. He told Global News his loyalty to her was “eternal” and the CBC he would “breach any contract” that forbade him from helping her. (A quick peek at Soudas’s Twitter account shows he has successfully defended his master’s thesis. So there’s that.)
Trudeau and Adams were sorely vexed by this line of questioning. “This is all about Eve,” Trudeau said. Which led many of us to look up the plot of the 1950 Bette Davis melodrama All About Eve. Which cannot have been the effect Trudeau was seeking. Here’s a great line from that movie, spoken by George Sanders as the theatre critic Addison DeWitt:
“That I should want you at all suddenly strikes me as the height of improbability. But that in itself is probably the reason: You’re an improbable person, Eve, and so am I. We have that in common. Also our contempt for humanity and inability to love and be loved, insatiable ambition, and talent. We deserve each other.”
But I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
The floor-crossing has been making a comeback lately after having seemed, for most of a decade, to be an endangered species. In the odd late ’90s, when the leader of the Opposition himself, Preston Manning, was proposing to mutate his own party into a hybrid with bits of a smaller conservative party, allegiances were fluid and every party sought refugees from the others. Jean Chrétien was the net winner throughout that period. On one memorable occasion, the day after Joe Clark won a by-election so he could at last lead the Progressive Conservatives from inside the House, Chrétien announced that three Quebec MPs elected as Progressive Conservatives at the previous election—David Price, Diane St.-Jacques and André Harvey—would now sit as Liberals.
Related reading: Eve Adams, Dimitri Soudas: The real story
Later floor-crossings seemed increasingly threadbare. Chrétien roped in Joe Peschisolido, a former long-shot Canadian Alliance leadership candidate who resembled a Dick Tracy villain. Paul Martin recruited Belinda Stronach, a car-parts heiress who was reputed to have been backed by Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris for the leadership of Stephen Harper’s party. The Liberals spent years afterward according credibility to Stronach and never noticing that their own store of credibility was being steadily depleted, perhaps in part for precisely this reason. But surely history doesn’t repeat itself.
Just before the first anniversary of his election as PM, Harper announced that Wajid Khan, a Mississauga Liberal, would sit as a Conservative, travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and counsel Harper on policy for that region. Khan was never heard from again. Harper has not managed to recruit any MPs since, though bits of the NDP keep shearing off and flying in assorted directions. Perhaps the effort no longer interests him.
I was set to spend the rest of the morning parsing the significance of the Eve Adams floor-crossing when I was interrupted by a flurry of activity across the pond. The Prime Minister had announced a cabinet shuffle. To compensate for last week’s surprise departure from politics by John Baird, Harper appointed former defence minister Rob Nicholson to Foreign Affairs; former jobs minister Jason Kenney to Defence; and former Pierre Poilievre, perhaps the Conservative MP the Conservatives’ opponents most love to hate, to Employment and Social Development. Liberals on Twitter immediately started to complain that Poilievre now holds a portfolio that once resided between the sainted hands of Ken Dryden. Guess you shouldn’t have lost all those elections, guys.
Having moved key players into key cabinet portfolios, Harper will end the day in a crisis meeting on Ukraine and Russia with the chancellor of Germany. Trudeau will come up with something, I’m sure. A fun Abacus poll last week suggested Harper is the major-party leader most respondents would trust to run a large company, counsel an investor, or negotiate a contract. Respondents imagined Trudeau would be the best leader to sing a song, babysit a pet or survive in the wilderness. Today, both leaders seemed hard at work deepening their differences.