De­fec­tion an­other sign thrill has gone

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The script in the House of Com­mons is usu­ally pre­dictable and repet­i­tive, as if de­signed for early learn­ers. But Par­lia­ment re­tains the power to ex­cite. Milling around in the foyer of the House Mon­day, it was sug­gested to me that I might want to be in the cham­ber at 1:30 p.m.I en­tered dur­ing the de­bate on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship leg­is­la­tion, to the char­ac­ter­is­tic sound of the NDP — on any dis­cus­sion on trade — bark­ing up the wrong tree.There was a smat­ter­ing of gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion MPs, lis­ten­ing un­der duress to the NDP trade critic’s pro­posal to take us back to the good old days of bar­ter­ing and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.But as Con­ser­va­tive af­ter Con­ser­va­tive shuf­fled into their seats, in­clud­ing leader An­drew Scheer, it was ap­par­ent some­thing un­ex­pected was about to hap­pen.And it did. Leona Alleslev, the MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Rich­mond Hill in On­tario, stood on a mat­ter of priv­i­lege and made it clear she was not a happy Lib­eral.A for­mer cap­tain in the Royal Cana­dian Air Force, she said she swore an oath to serve and de­fend Canada. Now she said she was deeply con­cerned about the fu­ture of the coun­try, as large amounts of cap­i­tal in­vest­ment fled. “This is not a strong econ­omy,” she said.Be­yond the coun­try’s bor­ders, “our po­si­tion re­mains vastly di­min­ished,” with for­eign pol­icy dis­con­nected from trade re­la­tion­ships.“It’s my duty to stand and be counted. Our coun­try is at risk. My at­tempts to raise my con­cerns with this gov­ern­ment were met with si­lence.”As a re­sult, she said she was leav­ing the gov­ern­ment benches to take a seat with the Con­ser­va­tives, at which point she crossed the floor of the House and did just that.Alleslev’s state­ment was greeted with a roar of ap­proval from the Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus and she was en­veloped by MPs grate­ful to have found some­one to sit in Maxime Bernier’s seat. The few Lib­eral MPs in the cham­ber looked as if they’d just dis­cov­ered why Mar­lon Brando had nipped out for some but­ter in Last Tango in Paris.It’s not ev­ery day that you see a gov­ern­ment MP quit to join the op­po­si­tion. The cynic in me sug­gests it might be be­cause she sniffed the elec­toral wind in her rid­ing and de­cided it might be eas­ier to get re-elected as a Con­ser­va­tive. She won by just 1,100 votes in 2015 and On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Michael Parsa re­cently won a crush­ing vic­tory. Alleslev may have read the tea leaves.Al­ter­na­tively, Lib­er­als sug­gested, it might just be sour grapes. Not only did she miss out on cab­i­net in the sum­mer re-shuf­fle, she didn’t fea­ture in the list of par­lia­men­tary sec­re­taries un­veiled last week — de­spite serv­ing as one at Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment in 2016.But that may im­pugn her mo­tives un­fairly. There are a few good un­happy Lib­eral back­benchers out there — a num­ber of whom feel that the re­lent­less at­tempt to woo left-of-cen­tre vot­ers has left Cana­di­ans in the mid­dle of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum feel­ing aban­doned. Throw in the non-stop iden­tity pol­i­tics, with its baked-in hos­til­ity to any­thing that smacks of priv­i­lege, and there is a feel­ing that new di­vi­sions have been cleaved. “We are more po­lar­iz­ing than the Con­ser­va­tives were,” said one MP re­cently.What­ever Alleslev’s mo­ti­va­tion, Scheer was de­lighted to em­brace her, in an ef­fort to put the mem­o­ries of Bernier’s de­fec­tion be­hind him.In a par­al­lel of Trudeau’s olive branch to Con­ser­va­tives — “they’re not your en­e­mies, they’re your neigh­bours” — Scheer ap­pealed for dis­af­fected Lib­er­als to join him.“If like Leona, you sup­ported Justin Trudeau but are frus­trated or an­gry at his in­ef­fec­tual lead­er­ship, you are wel­come and needed in the Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada,” he said.In­ef­fec­tual lead­er­ship was the theme of the first ques­tion pe­riod of the ses­sion. Ev­ery Con­ser­va­tive who stood lamented the “sum­mer of fail­ure” — ex­cept the one MP who roasted the prime min­is­ter for his “sum­mer of to­tal fail­ure.”Scheer pointed to the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line de­ba­cle, the in­crease in wait times for new refugees be­cause of the il­le­gal border cross­ings in Que­bec, and the con­tin­ued de­lays in strik­ing a new NAFTA deal.It adds up to a daunt­ing list of chal­lenges for a gov­ern­ment that now has a track record to de­fend. On the way into the House, I lis­tened to In­dige­nous Ser­vices Min­is­ter Jane Philpott speak to stu­dents from the Kashechewan First Nation, who had come to Ot­tawa to com­plain about the need for a new school for their flood­prone re­serve on James Bay.Philpott talked about cre­at­ing con­di­tions that would al­low a girl from Kashechewan to be­come the next Supreme Court jus­tice. In times past, there would have been po­lite ap­plause, but the min­is­ter was heck­led by stu­dents de­mand­ing “no more bro­ken prom­ises.”While the thrill may be gone, Trudeau re­tains a com­mand­ing lead in the polls. His de­fault re­sponse dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod was that unem­ploy­ment is at 40-year lows, half-a-mil­lion full-time jobs have been cre­ated and Canada led the G7 in growth last year. Be­fore the On­tario elec­tion in June, the Lib­er­als and Con­ser­va­tives were run­ning neck and neck, but vot­ers seem to have vented in the pro­vin­cial elec­tion.The Lib­er­als once again have a com­mand­ing lead in most polls, thanks to a re­cov­ery in On­tario and over­whelm­ing sup­port in Que­bec.Alleslev’s de­fec­tion is a wel­come boost, but the ar­rival of a sin­gle swal­low does not in­di­cate a mi­gra­tion is im­mi­nent.

“I look for­ward to work­ing with my Con­ser­va­tive col­leagues who are un­afraid to do the real work,” said for­mer Lib­eral MP Leona Alleslev on Mon­day, with Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer at her side.

MP Leona Alleslev crossed the floor from the Lib­eral party to the Con­ser­va­tives on Mon­day.

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