What does it take to make politicians keep their word

Politicians who cross the floor double-cross their constituents

Is this what it’s come down to?

Are we at the stage where a politician running on his or her word should be legally binding?

In another one of those head-scratching how-can-this-happen moments, the politician formerly-known as the NDP candidate in Quebec’s St. Maurice-Champlain riding, Lise St. Denis, crossed the floor to join the Liberal party.

It’s not the first time that’s happened and certainly not as bad as David Emerson’s jump from the Liberals to Stephen Harper’s crew in 2006. That came barely two weeks after voters in the Vancouver-Kingsway riding elected him as their Liberal representative. Capping it off Emerson crosses the floor and sits down in a cabinet seat.

It was so outlandish that he merited an Order of B.C. medal. You have to be a pretty disliked politician to earn that one. Just ask Gordon Campbell.

Emerson’s move was so shocking and insulting to the democratic process that it still sticks in my craw.

So when St. Denis made her move, I couldn’t help but think of it as another reason the disdain and frustration grows with federal politics.

Just like Emerson, and Belinda Stronach’s theatrical move from the Tories to the Liberals in 2005, I believe these are decisions to further their political life rather than any altruistic motive.

St. Denis proclaimed that she was an NDP supporter for a decade before jumping into an election she didn’t expect to win. Someone to carry the NDP flag in the region so to speak.

Claiming to be a supporter of the NDP should also come with knowledge of what the party stands for. And carrying that flag into an election ring isn’t just something to do.

Anyone claiming to have any political sense realizes the work, preparation and dedication it takes to fulfill that role.

And with that comes the expectation that the person elected also represents the party you want in power.

Thanks to the changing dynamics of social media, the federal vote often hinges on the party leader and policies rather than the local candidate. If you don’t like Stephen Harper you probably wouldn’t even vote for Mother Teresa if she ran in the Kootenays under the Tory banner.

So no doubt St. Denis’s win came on the strength of Jack Layton and the NDP surge of support more than what she brought to the table.

I understand it’s possible to suddenly find out what is going on behind the scenes and have a change of heart.

But shouldn’t you come clean first?  Come forward and express your concerns with the policies, there might be more like-minded people out there. If the party rejects you, well, you were going to leave anyway. If they make a change then you’ve impacted the party.

Then return to your constituents, inform them of your decision and return the power where it rightfully belongs, in the hands of the electorate.

You can sit as an independent while the voters decide if they want an NDP representative or a Liberal representative in Parliament.

It’s the democratic way.

Or am I misinterpreting the process?

I knew we voted for a candidate but I never realized the elected person then gets to decide which party they want to represent.

Next thing you know Alex Atamanenko is crossing the floor to the Bloc Quebecois and all we can say is “Geez, thanks for that.”

You can’t even do that in hockey! Which ranks on par with politics in “Things that Canadians like to talk and complain about.”

In hockey, if you sign to play for that team you can’t just leave for another team. There has to be an agreement between everyone involved. If any one of the parties balks at the move then it’s off. Simple as that.

It should be the same in federal politics

But there is one big difference between the two.

In hockey the player signs a card thereby committing him to that team.

Should we ask anything less of our federal representatives?

“You vote for me and my party and we will commit ourselves to helping you.”

Where have I heard that before?

So there it is. You want to run for office and perhaps slide into that nice pension with a few years of serving your local citizens?

Then all we ask is you sign a piece of paper committing to that.

If you want to change the letter of that agreement, then you have to ask us, the people that hired you with their votes, if it’s okay.

Sit as an independent while we determine if your new party is right for us and not just you.

That’s democracy in action.

St. Denis is going to somehow stay under the radar and now tell her constituents she’s there for them. Judging by how the NDP shine appears to be fading, it’s probable the Liberals will enjoy a slight rebirth in La Belle Province during the next election.

Can’t see St. Denis leaving the Liberals soon … unless the Bloc gets its own renaissance.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Daily Times


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