Sunday, January 7, 2007

Floor Crossing

Well, once again the dance of spin-doctoring is in its full pageantry and pomp as an MP elected for one party crosses to another. In this case, it's Wajid Khan, elected a Liberal in the Greater Toronto Area and crossing to the Tories.

Predictably, the spin is going exactly according to the manual.

Party being jilted: "We're disappointed in his decision, and trust that he will be held to account by the voters of [insert riding]."

Party gaining a member: "We're pleased by his principled stand, have been impressed with him for quite a while, think he'll fit right in with our inclusive, big-tent party, and look forward to working with him to make life better for the people of [insert riding]."

NDP: "He should sit as an Independant MP, this is awful and can't be allowed!"

The political winners in this are, obviously, the Tories, who can show this defection as a shining example that not only are they and their policies appealing to Ontarians, and immigrants, and Muslims and visible minorities, but this all came about because "Darth Dion" was playing hardball, old-style politics and putting partisanship ahead of statesmanship. Home run for the Tories.

The hew and cry, from the predictible sources, is still the same: "This thwarts the democratic process!"

Let's examine that... first, for those who are unaware: The Conservative Party of Canada has a policy in place at this time that states that sitting MPs shall be declared, by acclaimation, the candidate for their riding in preparation for the next Federal Election. This is only true in a minority parliament, like we currently have, but what it means is that Tories in Khan's riding have no choice but to accept him as their candidate in that riding for the next election. Even though they were running against him not 12 months ago. So, if you live in a Conservative riding and are a party member, don't hold your breath waiting for the announcement of the candidacy process - there won't be one. Your incumbent IS the candidate. This is practical, and politically expedient, but hardly democratic.

Which beings us to our hallowed democracy that critics claim is being gutted every time someone crosses the floor...

The fact is, in Canada, you don't get to vote for a party. In fact, the average Canadian gets no say in directly electing their Prime Minister. Elections Canada records your vote as a vote for Candidate X, who at this time is representing the Purple Party. Whether you walked into that voting both intending to vote for the Liberals, or to elect Paul Martin as Prime Minister, you accomplished neither... your vote went to Mr. Wajid Khan, and if he wants to cross the floor and join the Marxist-Leninist Party or the Greens or the Marijuana Party, there's nothing you can do about it until the next election - your vote follows him, not the party he was with at election time, and not the leader he was representing.

At the end of the day, the Party with the greatest number of elected MPs who agree to ally themselves with that Party gets to form a government, and that Party's leader, elected internally by members of the Party, becomes Prime Minister. End of civics lesson.

So you see, many people feel betrayed by Khan's crossing. Just as many felt betrayed by Emerson's defection, or Belinda-gate. But at the sun's setting, who those people represent and take orders from is their own decision. Once the votes get counted, they can go wherever they choose and take the votes with them. It might not be scrupulous. It might not be right. And, personally, I think they SHOULD sit as Independant (for all the good it would do, supporting the Party they intend to join at every opportunity) until a byelection can be held, and the people of the riding can pass judgement on the move.

But keep this example in mind, especially as we get nominations out of the way and head for the inevitable election to come in the not-so-distant future: Ask yourself if you trust and believe in the PERSON you're voting for, in your riding... because you don't get to vote for a party, and you don't get to vote for Prime Minister. The person whose name is next to the "x" on your ballot gets to make that decision, and you're trusting THEM with your franchise. So spend less time worrying about the other party's leader, who lives 6 provinces away, and focus on the people running in your constituency - because one of them is going to represent you directly, however they best see fit - even if it's as a member of a party other than the one paying for their lawn signs.

In the words of the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "Choose Wisely".

- ES

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