Belinda’s 15 minutes

Belinda Stronach is entitled to her fifteen minutes of fame, right? This may be the biggest moment of her life. Stronach has crossed the floor of the House of Commons to sit as a Liberal. Prime Minister Paul Martin has appointed her to Cabinet, as Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Why did she do it? You may have some ideas of your own! But here is Stronach’s explanation, which I transcribed from the CBC audio of Stronach’s press conference with Prime Minister Paul Martin:

“To have healthy politics in Canada we need the checks and balances of more than one strong and vibrant party. Over time the Conservative Party will mature and grow to provide that option.

“There are many good and talented folks that I have a great deal of respect for in the Conservative Party, but I find myself at a crossroads forced on me by the decision of the leader of the Conservative Party to try to force the defeat of this government this Thursday. It is now the moment to stand and be counted because the consequences are serious.

“I’ve been uncomfortable for some time with the direction the leader of the Conservative Party has been taking. I tried to the very best of my ability to play a constructive role within the Conservative Party — to advance issues that really matter to Canadians in cities, to women, to young people, to many Ontarians. But I regret to say that I do not believe the party leader is truly sensitive to the needs of each part of the country and just how big and complex Canada really is.

“Also, by forcing an election before the Conservative Party has grown and established itself in Quebec, the hold over Quebec of the Bloc Québecois can only grow into the vacuum. The result will be to stack the deck in favour of separatism and the possibility of a Conservative government beholden to the separatists.

“After agonizing soul searching, I just cannot support such large risk with my country.

“I am as offended as any Canadian by the arrogance of entitlement at the core of the sponsorship scandal. Today, the Prime Minister has given me the chance to serve my constituents and my country by making a difference at a critical time. Among several things, he has asked me to take aggressive action on the lessons that will come from the Gomery inquiry and to put priority on renewing the Canadian democracy.

“Our political structures and institutions need renewal. Canadians are crying for political stability. Only in this way can we direct the focus of government once again to growing a competitive economy that safeguards our quality of life. Only when the people of Canada have renewed confidence and faith in the systems of government can we return to ethics and civility.”


7 thoughts on “Belinda’s 15 minutes

  1. never Bill… She should have waited for the election. I will never vote for someone who is elected to one party and then crosses the floor to another party. She should have called a by-election and ran for the Liberals. Or she should have sat as an independent until the next election.

    Newmarket-Aurora voted Conservative because of the sponsorship scandal. In fact the Liberal nominee, iniatally, dropped out over the sponsorship scandal and the Liberals had to find a new candidate. This new candidate had to move back from Collingwood, Ontario to Newmarket in order to be elgible for the election.

    Belinda, I just don’t get it…I just don’t get it.

  2. On CBC’s “The National”, the At Issue panel was very hard on Stronach tonight: all four panelists said she was motivated by ambition rather than principle. (Though I note that three of the panelists were from the PC/Reform camp.)

    I think Stronach was genuinely following her convictions when she decided to cross the floor.

    (1) Stronach supported a lot of Liberal positions while she was still a Conservative. She was already on record as supporting gay marriage, pro-choice on abortion, in favour of Paul Martin’s urban investment strategy, and preferring to trigger an election after Justice Gomery has tabled his report.

    (2) If Stronach was only after a Cabinet post, she could have had one in a Conservative government. The Conservatives stood a good chance of forming at least a minority government, and Harper couldn’t afford to leave a high-profile, socially progressive Ontarian out of his Cabinet.

    (3) This is just my opinion, but I think Stronach’s remarks on Quebec separatism have a ring of sincerity to them. Support for sovereignty is now above 50%. The Parti Québécois says it will hold another referendum early in its mandate if it wins the next provincial election.

    I think it genuinely offends Stronach to see the Conservative Party forging an alliance with the Bloc Québécois under these circumstances. And she rightly observes that the Conservatives have no Quebec base — therefore they could contribute little to the federalist cause in a referendum campaign.

    If that’s really Stronach’s analysis of the situation — that the unity of the country hangs in the balance — she had to act decisively now. If the budget is defeated in the House on Thursday, it could set a train of events in motion that will culminate in Quebec independence.

    Surely that’s just cause to switch party allegiances.

  3. I understand Michael’s reluctance to vote for someone who jumped ship.

    We are encouraged to vote by party but the system is geared to the person choice of the person you vote in. Therefore you should be voting for the individual.

    Here is another bit of info from CTV that if true sheads more light on Belinda’s choice.

    A few weeks ago, Stronach was summoned by Harper to his Rockcliffe mansion over comments she had made to The Globe warning against defeating the budget, which would kill money for infrastructure to her Ontario riding of Newmarket-Aurora.

    A Tory insider told the newspaper that Stronach was reportedly told she was being frozen out of appearances in election ads.

    A report in the Toronto Star suggests the meeting between the two ended in a shouting match, with Harper telling her she would never be the leader of the party.

    Stronach told CTV that shouting is not her style. But she said she had begun feeling uncomfortable with the direction the party was going, in terms of urban issues, and social issues, such as a youth wing.

  4. Sorry that should be “the system is geared to the personal choice of the person you vote in.”

    I must stop typing comments so fast.

  5. Sorry Q, I think you’re dead wrong on this one.

    (1) If it was about policies, what changed in the last week, when she spoke and voted against the same budget? Why the sudden urgency now? You have to consider the timing of it to be a little suspect, don’t you?

    (2) But it wasn’t just about getting a Cabinet post. It was also about getting is (a) sooner and (b) making sure she’d win her seat. Remember, she won a squeaker last time against a no-name Liberal. If the party did poorly in 905, she would be toast.
    The Tories might well have formed a government without her.

    (3) Of course national unity is a big concern. But the extremely obvious point to make is – why is separatism on the rise? Anger at the federal government. Who is responsible? The Federal Liberals! So why on earth would you join the party who is responsible for causing national unity problems in the name of national unity?

    The Liberals are nearly as dead in the water in Quebec as the Tories. And even if that were not true, are we saying that under any circumstances – any at all – we should continute to elect the Liberal Party in the name of national unity? Outrageous!

    What may very well happen now is that the government will survive and the unity problem will get worse, not better. We may lose the country because of the Liberal Party – and the foolish people who convinced themselves that the very people who are the problem must also be the solution.

  6. Thanks for an intelligent presentation of an alternative point of view.

    It’s inarguable that corruption linked to the Liberals has caused the resurgence in support for Quebec separatism.

    That said, the Conservatives have formed an unholy alliance with the Bloc Québécois. And the Liberals have organizational strength in Quebec — an important asset if there is a referendum on sovereignty — while the Conservatives do not have a viable organization in the province.

    Otherwise, I can’t lightly dismiss what you’ve written. Stronach’s action is open to more than one possible interpretation. Canadians will have to decide for themselves what to think.

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