Monday marked the Canadian federal parliament’s first day back after the summer break and things got real wild real fast when Liberal MP Leona Alleslev crossed the floor to join the Conservative party. The Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MP is the first to leave the Liberal party since Justin Trudeau took the leadership in 2014.
In a speech before her colleagues, Alleslev cited the current economy and the Canadian government’s approach to foreign policy as the main reasons she sees a better future with the Conservative party. She said that she feels she can better influence the government by challenging it, rather than working within it.
“It’s my duty to stand and be counted. Our country is at risk. My attempts to raise my concerns with this government were met with silence,” Alleslev said, “The government must be challenged openly and publicly. But for me to publicly criticize the government as a Liberal would undermine the government and, according to my code of conduct, be dishonourable.
“After careful and deliberate consideration, I must withdraw from the government benches to take my seat among the ranks of my Conservative colleagues and join Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition whose role it is to challenge and hold the government to account.”
Alleslev then physically crossed the floor to take a seat with her new party. She was reportedly in talks with Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer for weeks during the summer break and he immediately assigned her to his shadow cabinet as global security critic.
This dramatic switch has raised many questions for Canadians, including but not limited to: “Can she even do that?” and “What does this mean?”
Here’s what we know.
What happens with Alleslev’s riding?
In the 2015 federal election, Alleslev only won the Toronto-area riding of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill by just 1,000 votes as a Liberal. The area also went to the Conservatives in the recent provincial election. A margin that small would suggest that almost half Alleslev’s constituents are likely pleased with the defection. Alleslev herself said that she is focused on country over party, so that may ease the minds of some of her supporters in the area.
Despite the fact there are likely constituents who voted for Alleslev’s party affiliation, there will not be another election until the next official federal one in 2019 — which is perfectly legal. Costas Menegakis, the Conservative who ran against Alleslev in 2015 and was already slated to run in the riding again next year, withdrew his candidacy shortly after Alleslev’s announcement and said he would instead pursue a neighbouring seat in the spirit of team-building in the party.
To my constituents, I am the same person you elected in 2015. I believe in a strong federal gov that leads Canadians. But to achieve what you demand of me, I must change parties.
— Leona Alleslev (@LeonaAlleslev) September 17, 2018
How are people reacting?
In an interview with Your Morning Tuesday, Alleslev said that she spoke to constituents before making her final decision to switch parties and found that many were displeased with the work the government is doing. She and the Conservative party interpret that displeasure to mean that voters will be understanding of her choice. As for the party problem, she thinks that’s a minor issue.
“[My constituents] have given me the indication that there are always going to be people who are going to support a party and there’s always going to be people that don’t support,” she said, “But the support has been overwhelmingly positive from the constituents in my riding and I’m very grateful for it.”
The online reaction seems to be split. Some people appreciate Alleslev’s honesty and drive to make a difference while others are concerned about the constituents who voted for a Liberal MP and now have a Conservative one.
Her husband is a veteran, she herself one of the first female graduates from RMC. She has restored my faith in democracy and care for the citizen who ultimately has their freedom because of the sacrifices of veterans. All of my respect to her, she is a champion of the people.
— Reed Larson 🇨🇦 (@jimmygotyme) September 17, 2018
Love her speech…Canada first!
— Mark Bourck (@bourcky) September 17, 2018
Duty, honour, country. What a courageous and brave decision you have made. I admire your personal strength and dedication to your beliefs. It is a rare thing to see. Would be proud to shake your hand one day!
— Thom. C.J. Young (@Thomcat04) September 17, 2018
She should resign her seat, she ran for the Liberal’s people voted for her under the Liberal banner. You can’t just say to all the voter’s l want to be part of another party. If so then quit and run later in 2019 problem solved.
— Jed (@Thejedman468) September 17, 2018
It’s not her job to decide, her constituents sent her there based on her running as a Liberal and the policies that entailed. She should resign and run in a by-election if she wants to swing to the right and keep her seat.
— Blaine Gurrie (@BlaineGurrie1) September 17, 2018
This is not democracy! She was voted in as a Liberal, she should have to resign and a bi-election done.
— Larry Baker (@Larry_J_Baker) September 17, 2018
How is Trudeau taking this?
The blow is a tough one for Justin Trudeau and his government, which has had a bit of a rough year between his infamous India trip, trade tensions and increasingly difficult NAFTA negotiations. It seemed Trudeau was caught off guard, but wished his former-colleague the best in her new position and asserted that he has seen no indications that anyone else will be leaving the Liberals.
“This is something we allow in our system, obviously,” he told reporters outside of the House, “I wish her well in her decision. I’m looking forward to getting back in the House to talk about what we’re going to be doing for Canadians, what we’ve been working hard on all summer and over the past few years.”
PM Justin Trudeau reacts after Toronto-area MP Leona Alleslev crosses floor to Conservatives:
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) September 17, 2018
In a sit-down interview with Maclean’s later in the day, he expanded on that, saying that Alleslev was “thoughtful about her approach” as a candidate in 2015 because she “knew she was in a riding that leaned Conservative” but was excited about what the Liberal party could do.
“I wish her the best in her new choices, and you know, that’s something that happens from time to time in politics. It’s not great but it’s also not the be all and end all,” Trudeau added, “One team lost a member and it went to the other side. It can be an indicator of larger things. It can be just what it is and we’ll just stay focused on the things that we’re focused on doing.”
“I wish her the best in her new choices.” @JustinTrudeau speaks about MP Leona Alleslev crossing the floor from the Liberals to the Conservative Party. Watch @InklessPW interview the PM on #MacleansLive now: https://t.co/MAeGSz7fOA pic.twitter.com/BebAKLMvaa
— Maclean’s Magazine (@macleans) September 17, 2018