OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s Liberals scored a two-fer Monday.
Well-connected Toronto-area Conservative MP Eve Adams crossed the floor to sit with the Liberals.
And insiders said her surprise defection has the support of her fiance, former top Conservative operative Dimitri Soudas — long considered one of Stephen Harper’s fiercest loyalists and an architect of the Tories’ re-election strategy for 2015.
Adams made the surprise announcement Monday morning at a news conference with Trudeau.
Related post: Newsmaker of the day: Eve Adams
Conservatives cast the decision as pure opportunism by a woman spurned by the governing party. Party president John Walsh said Adams asked “just a couple weeks ago” about running in another riding, after the party barred her last summer from running in Oakville North-Burlington.
“I informed her in writing on Jan. 29 that she would not be permitted to run for our party in the next election due to the misconduct from the Oakville North-Burlington nomination race,” Walsh said in a statement.
But Adams and Trudeau cast her move as a matter of principle.
“This is not about having a tough day at the office; everybody has grumpy bosses from time to time,” Adams said. “This is about the fact that my values simply don’t align with this (Conservative) team and I’d like to continue serving Canadians.”
Related post: All about Eve — and suddenly, Steve
Whatever the Conservatives may say about Adams now, Trudeau noted that she continued to serve as a parliamentary secretary to the health minister even after the Oakville nomination furor. Parliamentary secretaries are appointed by the prime minister and are one rung down from cabinet.
Adams took some harsh parting shots at the party she has championed since she was 14 and at Harper as she blasted the Tories’ recently introduced income-splitting tax measures for families.
“I cannot support mean-spirited measures that benefit only the richest few,” she said. “I can no longer support mean-spirited leadership that divides people instead of bringing them together. We need a kind, generous and strong leadership that champions a shared vision for how to make Canada work for everyone. I want to work with someone who inspires, not with fear mongerers and bullies.”
Adams was first elected for the Conservatives in 2011 in the Toronto-area riding of Mississauga-Brampton South but had hoped to run again for the Tories in the newly-created riding of Oakville North-Burlington.
Related post: Eve Adams, Dimitri Soudas: The real story
A bitter nomination contest ensued and both she and her opponent were forced to drop out. Among other things, the contest involved allegations that Soudas, at the time the executive director of the Conservative Party, was using his position to unfairly help Adams.
Soudas, who formerly served as the prime minister’s communications director, subsequently lost his party job, to which he’d been personally appointed by Harper.
At that time, Soudas said he put his loyalty to Adams above his loyalty to the Conservative party and Harper.
“If there’s one good thing about me I’d say it’s loyalty. And my loyalty to her is eternal and I would do it all over again,” Soudas said.
Adams said her family supports her decision but declined to specifically address questions about Soudas, suggesting such questions were sexist.
But Soudas later confirmed, through Twitter, that he is indeed on side with Adams’ switch:
Fully support @MPEveAdams's decision. She is smart, hard working & caring.
— Dimitri Soudas (@D_Soudas) February 9, 2015
Trudeau said only that he welcomes any family, friends or supporters that Adams brings with her.
— Gerald Butts (@gmbutts) February 9, 2015
— Dimitri Soudas (@D_Soudas) February 9, 2015
Liberal insiders later confirmed that Adams is still engaged to Soudas and that he’s supportive of her decision to switch to the Liberals.
Adams said she’ll run for a Liberal nomination in a Toronto-area riding but declined to identify the riding. She’ll sit with the Liberal caucus for now.
Liberal insiders say it has been made clear to Adams that candidates are responsible for the conduct of their campaign teams and any misconduct could be grounds for being barred from running.
Trudeau said he discussed the possibility of a hypothetical Tory floor crosser with his caucus last week, without identifying Adams.
“The very strong sense that caucus expressed was that what is most important is the hard work done in the riding, the building of a relationship with constituents and bringing them along and demonstrating a local focus as a counter to some of the inevitable accusations that get thrown around any time someone makes a decision like this,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said Adams has proved herself a devoted local politician and looks forward to having her on the team.