Crossing the Floor

This article originally appeared July 4, 2008, in issue 1627.

Now, we all have the right to change our minds. I do it frequently. I like a nice, fresh mind, with an ocean scent and clean sheets. Presumably, changing my mind harms no one except me, and possibly a few of my friends, and perhaps the guy at the pizza shop if I decide that dieting isn’t such a bad idea after all.

But then there’s Canadian politics.

For example, what harm might be done by a party member who, after being elected to office in the Plaid Party, suddenly changes his mind and joins the Paisley Party? Is Plaid Party person now acting in my best interest, or are they acting in their own?

In good faith, I voted to have a Plaid Party person running my business for me because I like Plaid Party principles. I did not ask for Paisley Party principles; in fact, I just voted against them.

So what good is it doing me, or my vote, if the person I chose has suddenly become a switch hitter in the middle of the ninth inning, bases loaded, two men out? It doesn’t do much good for my political ideals, or the way governments conduct people’s lives; or, rather, ?orchestrate.?

And I think It’s long past time for there to be consequences.

If a person crosses the floor to the Other Side (by which I do not mean the much-lamented former drinking haunt of me and some of my friends during our misspent youth), that person shouldn’t be able to continue reaping the benefits of the things that put them in power to begin with, i.e., the votes of me and my aforementioned drinking buddies.

(Most of us gave up paisley when we discarded being ’80s-era mods and adopted a more plaid-like outlook on life, becoming ’90s-era Madchester and grunge addicts and devotees of the god-like Pixies.)

All kidding aside, though, don’t you think your vote should count in the place you put it, given that we have a party system in this country?

I don’t believe any of us should be put in the position of having to vote against ourselves (sounds naughty), which is essentially what a floor-crossing would equate to. Sure, you vote for a person, but you don’t just vote for a person.

Voting for the party is like religion in this country: a good chunk of the time people don’t give a flying tinker’s toy box whose name is on the ballot, so long as they belong to the right party. So how ?bout some recourse when a person divorces that party?

It seems to me that the best way to affect someone in government is to threaten either their status or their wallet?or both. So here are a few choices for payback:

If you decide to cross the floor, you must repay all the money you reaped from the party that got you elected. Furthermore, you automatically lose your seat. So, really, you win?a battle of personal conscience that reaps you no actual benefits.

And now that you’ve done so, there’s also the joy of facing the judgement of those who followed their conscience when they elected you, and will follow it when they hand you your hat. don’t cry foul, matey; they’re just doing to you what you did to them: asking for their conscience to remain intacta.

You are also ineligible for any potential by-election that happens in your riding because of your move, and must wait until the next full election to run again. Or, if you wish to run, the party in whose bosom you now rest must foot the bill for said by-election. The people already paid for their choice; they shouldn’t pay twice. (We have the GST for that.) Oh, I can just about smell the love this would generate.

There’s really only one major flaw in my theories of punishment: people who don’t cross because they don’t want to face the storm it would kindle, and who then fail to work in the interest of the party that got them elected. Or worse, even go so far as to work to its detriment.

we’ll call this double-dealing, mole-type bullshit, yet how this would be different from a good bit of what goes on in the political forum now I’d be hard-pressed to figure out.

I’d like to say I had a vehicle for effecting some kind of political alteration but I don’t, and anything else I might add right now would leave me sounding preachy; I would have about as much popularity as the jerk at the back of the bar who keeps shouting for the band to play ?Freebird.?

Yet whatever the consequences might be, and despite its rarity and the fact that we don’t ever seem to question it when it happens, crossing the floor of Parliament shouldn’t go unnoticed, or garner only a little ill will as its punishment.

I made a choice at the polls and I’d like to have at least some modicum of my integrity held up. If they can’t do it, I’ll happily send them packing, but they’ll go bare-handed?not with the contents of the mini-bar in the hotel room of my political ideals.

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