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.