February 06, 2006

Emerson v. Stronach

It's interesting that the Conservatives cried 'foul!' and then proceeded to call Stronach every derogatory female name they could think of. So what are they calling David Emerson for crossing the floor (err, staying seated since he didn't bother to sit in opposition)? They're calling him Minister. For jumping ship from the Liberals to the Conservatives, David Emerson received the post of Minister of International Trade with responsibilities over the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Some will say that this situation isn't any different than when Stronach jumped to the Liberals and also recieved a cabinet job. However, there are differences between these two incidences. When Stronach decided she was going to switch parties, it came as a surprise to few who had been following politics closely. It was not a well kept secret that Harper had been having conflicts with those of his party that were still more-alligned with the centre then the far-right. Stronach was amongst those that was known to be displeased with Harper's direction with the Conservatives. She also made it known that she believed the Liberals' NDP budget, which was arguably a budget for the lower and middle classes, was good for Canadians and that the Conservatives had no intention of supporting it. Nowhere does there seem to be any digression between Emerson and the Liberals. He seems to have been a strong Liberal member and was recently touted to be a possible strong candidate for the Liberal leadership vacancy. Another large difference is that the riding of Newmarket-Aurora, formerly known as York North (until 2003), was known for supporting the Liberals federally. Since 1988 (the last election that Mulroney won), this riding was held by the Liberals until 2004 when it elected Stronach as their first Conservative MP in 15 years. However, Stronach's Conservative victory was far from earth shattering. In the 2004 election Stronach won her riding by less than 700 votes whereas her win in 2006, as a Liberal, was by almost 5000 votes. Not only did she increase her margin of victory over the 2004 election but she also was to increase her total number of votes by approximately 5300 votes. From these numbers and recent past election results, Stronach's riding is seemingly supportive of the Liberals and Stronach most likely was able to win for the Conservatives for being a Stronach (a family with a strong reputation in the riding) and being a more centrist-conservative than on the far-right. By being a Liberal, Stronach only fortified her position in the 2006 election. This is in definite contrast to the situation of Emerson and his riding of Vancouver-Kingsway. Whereas Newmarket-Aurora has a history of being supportive to centrist parties and/or politicians and Stronach herself being more centrist than not made an accepted party switch, David Emerson has definitely defied the wishes of his constituents. Both provincially and federally, Vancouver-Kingsway has been anything but supportive of the right. Provincially, since 1991, this riding has been overwhelmingly been supportive of the NDP with the exception of the 2001 provincial election. Each time the NDP has won, it has done so with a majority of support (50%+1). Federally, this riding has been supportive of the Liberals as of 1997 but prior to that had given a lot of support to the NDP. As well, with the exception of 2000, since 1997 the support for the NDP while coming in second has almost always been a blow-out over any right-wing party. Federally and provincially it would seem then that this riding, politically, is very much centre-left. And it's because of this that Emerson's floor-crossing is very much a slap in the faces of the voters whereas Stronach's party-change was more inline with her constituents' position. It is likely that if Emerson had run as a Conservative he wouldn't have won which is quite a different story from that of Stronach. A third difference is that when Stronach crossed she did so a year after being elected. During the course of that year she, arguably, had tried to keep the Progressive Conservative wing of the party alive and well within the new Conservative Party of Canada. She has admitted she ultimately failed and that the CPC would eventually become overly right-wing. It was essentially because of this Stronach joined the Liberals, a party that better reflected her own personal stances. However, she did honestly run as Conservative in 2004 and represented them and defended them for a year in the House and tried to further the Conservative cause in that time span. Emerson, on the other hand, while initially elected in 2004 as a Liberal and again as a Liberal in 2006, has switched parties before even sitting in the new parliament. As recent as election night Emerson is quoted as saying,

"I'm going to be Stephen Harper's worst enemy,"..."We're going to stir the pot and you better believe we are going to make a heck of a lot of noise."

Emerson had also talked about the rebuilding of the Liberal party and what his role would be in that process. According to the CBC, Emerson also called himself a "small-c Liberal". This then raises some questions. First, if he is still a Liberal, however small-c, why would he jump ship rather than further his own positions as a Liberal? Second, whereas Stronach sat as an elected Conservative only to be re-elected as a Liberal, how can constituents trust they elected Emerson in good faith as a Liberal in the last election? Third, whereas Stronach's conflicts with the Conservatives preceded her switch, how can Emerson's switch not be seen as opportunistic? (No, the last question is not rhetorical, but one that is hopeful of an actual answer) I think it's too easy for people to look at Emerson's switch as a reversal of Stronach's 2005 move. There are some clear differences, not only in the situations surrounding the changes but also in the motives. Whereas one was changing to bring herself and her constituency to a party that better represented them, the other has made a change in defiance of his own stated positions and definitely in the positions of his constituents. While this move may have been encouraged by that of Stronach (and even that of Scott Brison), its rationale is wholly new.

1 comment:

Dave said...

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/RDE/petition.html I have it recall this guy now.

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