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See you on the other side

by Kenneth Gibson October 2, 2018
See you on the other side

Floor-crossing MP Leona Alleslev is symbolic of the political threshold Canada faces

When the House of Commons reconvened after summer recess on Sept. 17, Leona Alleslev, the Liberal member of Parliament for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, stood and announced that she was joining the opposition Conservative Party.

Such a move is rare but not unprecedented. Citing the oath she swore to serve Canadians upon joining the military, Alleslev painted a gloomy picture by saying, “Canada faces a perfect storm of serious challenges at home and abroad.” The world has changed, Alleslev said, and Canada needs strong federal leadership in order to change with it.

Floor-crossing raises questions about an MP’s duty to their constituents, and whether the MP should be forced to run in a by-election. Crossing the aisle is generally seen as opportunistic at best. Yet, trying to ban it would arguably contravene the Charter’s freedom of speech provision.

I don’t wish to dispute the ethics of floor-crossing, but rather point out the deep cynicism behind Alleslev’s decision. One of her specific criticisms of the government was that capital investment is leaving the country, and that “tax structures” and “politics” prevent businesses from expanding. Yet, investigative journalists have shown time and again that corporations in Canada pay much less taxes than what is advertised. How much more cushy of a business environment do corporations need?

Alleslev’s other complaint was that Canada’s “foreign policy is disconnected from our trade relationships” and “our ability to deliver on our defense commitments is undermined by politics,” which comes off a bit vague. I would argue that if Canada’s foreign policy and trading partnerships are fraught right now, it has little to do with what Canada is doing. Moreover, when has the Trudeau government ever shown a unwillingness to follow through on defense commitments?

Given all this, it’s easy to view Alleslev’s move as a cynical attempt to ride the wave of right-wing populism sweeping through Canada to a higher-profile government position. Alleslev faced the same choice we all face right now––a choice between empathy, humanitarianism and solidarity with those in need, or the narcissistic politics of contemporary conservatives like Doug Ford. In my opinion, she chose a route seemingly driven by self-interest, spite and cold-bloodedness.

As Conservative Party leaders in Canada rush to imitate the oafish political performance art taking place in the United States, they’re pedaling a viciously cynical brand of politics that glorifies mercenary selfishness and contempt for others. Sadly, it is registering with a lot of people, including some MPs.

Rather than stand up for the principles that led her to liberalism, Alleslev has joined the cynics who advise us to back militarism over lifting people out of poverty; who suggest we take a  common sense approach to economic plight; who claim we can’t afford progressive policies for the environment, taxation or immigration.

The truth, though, is that we can afford it. The problem is we prioritize economic policy that favours the yacht- and Lamborghini-owning class (to borrow a phrase from New Democratic Party MPP Joel Harden) over ensuring all Canadians live above the poverty line.

Yet, the global economic policies and military interventionism of conservative ideology is driving the contemporary global instability Alleslev is so worried about. So, how is adopting increasingly conservative politics going to solve that problem?

We’re living in a time where Canadians have an important choice to make, and it feels like a point-of-no-return moment. Two paths, two very different destinations. We, as citizens, still have a choice to reject the politics of fear and greed, to resist being browbeaten into indifference and jadedness. See you on the other side.

Graphic by @spooky_soda

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