At first glance, it is very easy to consider the decision by Belinda Stronach, MP for the Ontario riding of Newmarket-Aurora, as unprincipled and hypocritical – and that’s the tact the federal Conservative caucus wants us to take. However, after taking a moment to reflect on this historic and dramatic bolt from Conservatives to the Liberal caucus, one begins to realize that she was very unhappy in caucus and in the party.
To be sure, critics of the bold departure of Stronach to the Liberals ask why she bothered to engineer the merger of the former Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties in the fall of 2003 and subsequent run for its leadership in early spring of 2004 if she had no intention of staying there for very long. Both points are valid; however, consider that the party still, over a year and a half since the merger, does not resemble that of the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Let’s be clear: it does not support marriage by couples of the same gender; waffles on whether or not it would use the Canadian constitution’s notwithstanding clause to overturn judges decisions in nine provinces and territories that guaranteed the fundamental right of equality for all citizens regardless of different character or mental traits; believes in unusually harsh U.S. style mandatory minimum sentencing; would press for a sharply curtailed National Parole Board; wants to see a return to the wrong-headed U.S.-like “war on drugs” campaign instead of a so-called four-pillars approach; and supports an increased reliance on oil, among other things. These are policies the vast majority of Canadians, including those in crucial central Canada do not, and will not, support.
Ms. Stronach differs from her party on many of those issues mentioned above, including same-gendered marriage. She’s quite socially-progressive. She may be a so-called “blue Tory” when it comes to sound economic policy and tight fiscal management, but I don’t believe that prohibits her from the Liberal Party of Canada. Prime Minister Martin shares those ideals, in fact.
Are people really so shallow that they seek to see her as a “turncoat”, a traitor, or someone without morals and ethics? I choose to take what she said at face value and strongly believe she’ll fit much better in the Liberal caucus. Besides, it’s not like she has much of a chance for the leadership of the Liberal party considering that shallow view of her that quite a few, although I’m confident not most, Canadians share. Because of this, it’s even more abundantly clear she didn’t make the switch because of “leadership ambitions” as the television media and its pundits are quick to “analyze” and ponder.
I am absolutely thrilled she has made this move and I’m not even a member of any federal or provincial political party, not just because it brings stability to the Parliament of Canada and the government but for her own personal and professional happiness where she should be much more content.
Moreover, because of that unhappiness and a feeling that she was out of place in the Conservative caucus, I believe she would have went to the Liberals to sit as a backbench MP with some sort of relatively insignificant parliamentary secretary role. However, I believe that it was probably Mr. Martin who made the offer of Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal, not the suggestion that she sought and demanded a cabinet post.
As a footnote on the riding of Newmarket-Aurora, it is not likely she will lose the Toronto-area riding given its electoral history. In the 2004 general election as arguably the most high-profile Conservative candidate, she beat Liberal challenger Martha Hall-Findlay by only 711 votes, according to Elections Canada official voting results. So, given her already-high prominence and the riding’s electoral voting pattern, it is very likely she stands a better chance of winning now as a Liberal than as a Conservative where Hall-Findlay, who has a agreed to step down as the Newmarket-Aurora Liberal candidate of record, could’ve knocked her off in the next election – which would’ve been equally embarrassing for the Conservatives.