Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Belinda Joins the Dark Side

I have to give Angry in TO his props. Last week he predicted something like this would happen, which was one of the reasons for the Liberals holding off the budget vote until this Thursday.

And it's not surprising that Stronach would be the one to cross the floor. Her politics are pure Red Tory (i.e. socially progressive, viz. her stance on SSM) which means she probably would be the most sympathetic to the Liberals. And for a fast-track executive the offer of Human Resources Minister may be her best chance of wielding influence.

Note that a no-confidence win is still possible. Adding Carolyn Parrish to the Liberal-NDP side gives the Government 153 votes, including Stronach's. The Tory/Bloc have 152. To avoid the tie (and therefore a government win), both remaining independent MPs have to vote against the government, which is certainly possible but by no means a sure thing.

Also, keep an eye on Peter Mackay. The Liberals won't be happy with a squeaker; a second defection would make them much more comfortable. And given Pete's past relationship with Stronach, I have no doubt there's pressure on him to join the Dark Side, too.

UPDATE (13h12 17 May): As you can imagine, there is one word floating out among the Blogging Tories: "traitor." And I'll admit, for those of us who want honest government, it's awfully tempting to rhetorically roast the new Human Resources Minister for letting her ambition get the better of her.

But I don't have the right to be angry at Belinda. Most of us don't. She's not my MP, her positions on social issues are radically different from mine.

The people who do have a right to be angry are the constituents of Newmarket-Aurora, Belinda's riding. While some Tories who supported her may change their memberships, the majority of Tories who voted for her will be upset that all their efforts in electing her have resulted in their viewpoint being shut out at the national level. And the people in the local Liberal riding association will wonder if they can truly trust an MP with such personal ambition.

The riding also loses because Belinda is a cabinet minister. Running a department must take precedence over local constituency matters, and it's quite likely that Belinda will have her local duties delegated to a neighboring MP.

There may also be unease among the existing Liberal caucus. A lot of those MPs have served far longer than Belinda and may have had ambitions to be part of the Cabinet. What does Belinda's elevation say about Paul Martin's opinion of his backbenchers?

And even assuming this government survives, what will happen when the time comes to shuffle the cabinet? (And a cabinet shuffle is inevitable depending on whether any more scandals pop out.) If Martin decides to replace Belinda, what does that do to her future?

It seems Belinda is going to find out that betrayal has a high price -- and it's probably higher than what she can pay.