Idea alert

by Aaron Wherry

The NDP’s Peter Stoffer is going to try again to ban floor crossing.

“If I pick up the phone right now and call Mr. Harper’s office and if they’re in agreement, within an hour I can become a Conservative member of Parliament,” Stoffer said Monday. “I don’t have to go to my constituents, I don’t have to tell my party, I could just sit tomorrow as a Conservative MP. That’s wrong on every count.”

His bill, if passed, would prohibit MPs from crossing the floor. Instead, if an MP wanted to change parties, they’d have to quit and run for the new party in a by-election, assuming they won the nomination. They could still sit as an independent, but someone elected as an independent couldn’t join a political party after the election.

Mr. Stoffer’s previous attempt, in 2006, was defeated with New Democrats voting in favour, Bloc and Liberal MPs voting against and the Conservatives almost evenly split. If those splits occurred again, the bill would pass.




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Idea alert

  1. Friendly amendment, Mr. Stoffer?

    “In addition, political parties cannot remove MPs from the party without going back to the riding.”

    That way, MPs can be free to look out for their constituents interests without endangering the rest of their HOC career as an ineffective and powerless independent.  Without the spots on committees, unable to ask questions, no budget for anything, etc.

    • This is even better than the Stoffer bill.

  2. I don’t know. I flip flop on this issue all the time. We live in a representative democracy. We vote on who we would like our representative to be in Parliament then off they go to do their jobs as they see fit. I guess I’m one of those 10% of Canadians who vote for the candidate rather than the party. 

    If Peter Stouffer thinks he can get s**t done by crossing the floor then so be it. Party discipline is too heavy in Canada anyhow. Floor crossing is a nice way to circumvent this no?

    • I’m with you.  I want less blind loyalty to a party, not more.  If my MP leaves the party he belonged to when I voted for him/her I will deal with it at the next election. 

      • Agreed, it’s a more complex and nuanced issue than some people make it out to be.  There are way bigger fish to fry than this.

    • At least make it illegal to offer a dying MP a million dollar life insurance policy if they cross the floor.  The Canadian public would probably be happy to start with the egregious, Dr. Evil level outrages.

    • While I appreciate your point, I think the party affiliation does serve as a kind of shorthand to indicate to voters generally what position they may expect a candidate to take on issues which may come up in future. Not everything can be anticipated in an election campaign, but if I vote for an NDP candidate, I can reasonably anticipate what position they will take on certain issues. The same if I vote for a Conservative candidate, their party affiliation would suggest what position they would take on the issues. It’s not perfect, but it’s not entirely useless either.

  3. This Bill, if passed, would pretty well complete the decades-long process of making MPs completely dependent on the approval of parties and leaders.

    Given this, I would expect that leaders and parties will reach an informal agreement that this is one private members bill which is so very very important that they should throw their considerable weight in support of its passage.

  4. You can’t stop de facto floor crossings where someone leaves their caucus, sits as an independent until the next election, but is otherwise is a member of their new party’s caucus.

    • excellent point.  this makes this bill completely ineffectual.   perhaps it could prevent stunts like those of Belinda Stronach and David Emerson, who switched parties for cabinet posts, but that’s it.

      • I think in those cases, they could have just been sitting in Cabinet as an independent.

        • A Cabinet Minister doesn’t even have to be a M.P. (could be a Senator or a civilian – e.g. – Stéphane Dion and Pierre Pettigrew – although they had already agreed to run in upcoming byelections).

  5. This is what Harper promised when he was in opposition (see his rants re Stronach) – and which he then completely renounced with his first act as PM. It will be interesting to see which stance he takes this time around.

    BTW – great amendment @2Jenn

  6. Stoffer is doing this mainly to stop any of his new colleagues from switching to the Bloc.

    • Then why did he try to introduce similar measures several time before he had the new colleagues?

      • This just makes it the more urgent.

  7. I don’t think I’m with Stoffer or the NDP on this one because this would just be another weapon for the party to whip the caucus with. While I’d consider crossing the floor before ever taking a seat (Emerson) an affront to democracy, crossing can also be principled and justifiable when, for instance an MP has irreconcilable differences with the party or the party leader over direction.

    I might support some limits or conditions on floor crossing, though. Perhaps more than a year before or after an election and a cooling off period for any kind of additional appointment as a parliamentary secretary, or cabinet minister (or Senate or civil service appt.) to avoid any appearance of inducement.

  8. This is simply unworkable.  There is already a major detriment for anyone seeking re-election, and Stoffer’s proposal would do very little other than influence the MP’s office.  For example, after becoming independent, said MP could vote with their new party on all votes.  Hell, the PM could even invite them into Cabinet while they remain an independent.

    On the flip side, while Jenn’s comment is thoughtful what exactly would be done with those popular MP’s who are not welcome in caucus?  Secret meetings on the side, perhaps.  

    If  we are to accept Stoffer’s (and many others opinion) that we already vote for parties and not people, then lets be effective and go all-in.   The technology exists to replace all of the MP’s with wireless, noise making devices capable of voting on legislation. The party leaders would each be given a game console to manipulate their “players”.  

    Gotta say as I wrote the above a little chill ran down my spine…. Harper would love it.

    • I believe they were testing out those consoles at the convention. 

    • All your MP are belong to us!

    • I have to agree with StewartSmith.  It’s unworkable. For example, an NDP MP could state that he/she is not leaving the party.  He/she will just vote the same way that the his/her new party is voting.

      What would happen if a political party and/or its leader kicked an MP out of the caucus (and party) and that MP was forced to become an independent?  Would that MP be forced to seek a by-election?

      What would have happened when the Progressive Conservatives and Reformers merged into the new Conservative Party?  Would every MP have been technically changing parties?  Would they have been forced to resign and run in by-elections?

      How about when Lucien Bouchard and a few other MPs left the PC’s and formed the Bloc Quebecois?  They changed parties?  Would they have been forced to resign?

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