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Monday, November 21, 2011

Crossing the Floor

Today Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor crossed the floor, leaving the Official Opposition Liberals to join the Progressive Conservative government. Many Albertans are crying foul, arguing that as a matter of principle elected politicians who switch sides should step down so that a by-election can be called, or that the offending politician should at least sit as an independent. These folks argue that the people who live in the constituency elected a Liberal (or a Tory, or whoever), and that they should have a chance to vote on whether or not they approve of their elected representative's new choice of parties.

I can sympathize with that view, but floor-crossing is a longstanding tradition in the Westminster parliamentary system that allows elected officials a way to express immediate support or opposition to a particular party agenda. Ideally such a drastic move should be used only on urgent matters of principle, but of course floor-crossing is often opportunistic. In any event, constituents will have their opportunity to express their approval or disapproval come the next election. No system is perfect; that's democracy.

Personally, however, I'm disappointed in Bridget's choice. I don't believe you can change this particular 40-year-old government from within, as Bridget hopes; after so many years in power, the culture of entitlement is simply too entrenched. After 40 years, Alberta needs a new government, and I'd be saying that even if it were the Alberta Liberals who'd been in power so long. Every so often, the people need to clean house in a democracy, give new people and new ideas a try.

That being said, Bridget is a good person; I've worked with her for almost six years, writing speeches and articles and statements in her voice. (Heck, I spent several hours writing a major keynote speech for her just a few days ago, and don't think I didn't feel a moment of annoyance about that when I heard the news this morning.) I know she cares about seniors and disabled Albertans, and that she'll continue to do her best to represent the people of Lethbridge-East.

But I also hope that the voters of Lethbridge-East will recognize the need for a change in government and elect a new Alberta Liberal in Bridget's stead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The provincial NDP also offer a strong set of policies for progressive voters. Earl is right, you must judge the current government on 40 years of actions, and those actions continually put the environment, health care and education at risk. Lately, they are also failing economically by running large deficits.