Madam Speaker, this is the time of the year that the seasons change with Halloween, the geese fly south and for 30 days the moustache of the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore disappears before it makes its annual return to our chamber.
I want to take this opportunity to address the bill. I think it is an unwise bill. It is problematic on a technical level and I will explain what that is very briefly. However, even if it worked, which I do not think it would, it would do something that is not in the public interest, and that is to establish greater control for the party leadership in each of the parties, not just the governing party but all the parties, over the individual member, something which, frankly, there is too much right now. In fact, that was a fair part of the substance of the member's speech.
I will read one of the four sections by which it would amend the Parliament of Canada Act. The bill states:
Any person holding a seat in the House of Commons who becomes a member of a registered party as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Canada Elections Act is deemed to have vacated the seat and ceases to be a member of the House if, in the last election, the person was endorsed by another registered party or was not endorsed by a registered party.
In other words the member is an independent. It is trying to say that if I were elected as a Conservative in my riding and I crossed the floor to the New Democrats, I would cease to be a member and there would be a byelection. It does not actually achieve that goal because I could just as well sit with the New Democrats as a member of the caucus without being an actual card carrying member of the New Democratic Party. It may very well be that the New Democrats would not accept me, but I am assume if they were willing to accept me on those terms, this whole process would be obviated. There have been many examples, both of opposition parties and of governments which have functioned with members of multiple parties.
The actual goal of the bill will not be achieved even if it is passed. Quite frankly, that is a good thing because the bill is a bad bill. It is a bad idea and it was a bad idea when it was proposed by a New Democratic member a couple of Parliaments ago. I spoke to it then. It was a bad idea when it was proposed by a Conservative member a few Parliaments ago, when I spoke against it and voted against it as well.
It is not because these are bad members or members who are lacking in goodwill, but because anything that establishes further control for the reasons that my hon. colleague from Calgary spelled out in her speech and anything that creates greater control for the party leadership over the individual MPs is a bad thing.
I am not alone in thinking this. As my colleague from Calgary mentioned, there have been 194 floor crossings at the federal level and many more at the provincial level since the time of Confederation. The Library of Parliament apparently did that research, but there have been so many floor crossings that there is actually a Wikipedia article about Canadian floor crossings. I asked one of the researchers to print the pages that dealt with floor crossings since I became a MP in the year 2000.
It is interesting to look at what happened to people who tried crossing the floor. Some of them were defeated in the next election, indicating that their voters did not like what they did. Others were re-elected, some of them many times. I will read some of the names and members will see my point.
In September 2000, just before I first ran and was elected, David Price, Diane St-Jacques and André Harvey all left the Progressive Conservative Party caucus and joined the Liberals. At least two of those were re-elected successfully in the next election.
Rick Laliberte, a New Democrat, left the NDP to join the Liberals at that time as well.
In 2001 there was rebellion against Stockwell Day, the leader of my party at that time. I was a member of the Canadian Alliance and a number of members rebelled against his leadership and sat as the Democratic Representative caucus, a separate group which had not previously existed. Whether that would violate the terms of this act, I do not know, but they sat separately: Art Hanger, Chuck Strahl, Gary Lunn, Jim Pankiw, Val Meredith, Grant McNally, Jay Hill, Jim Gouk, Monte Solberg, Andy Burton, Brian Fitzpatrick, Deborah Grey and Inky Mark all did that. Most but not all of them returned to the new Conservative Party caucus once the new Conservative Party had been created.
Others of us did not go through that process, but we did enter that Parliament as Canadian Alliance Canada and left as Conservatives after the creation of the new Conservative Party, or as Progressive Conservatives, and left as Conservatives. Those were all legitimate changes.
Would they fall afoul of this bill? I do not know, but they were legitimate changes. I can say for myself, I was re-elected with a much more substantial margin following that election. Was it because people liked me more? Was it because they liked the new party more? Was it because they liked the new leader more? I am not sure. It was some combination I suppose, but the point is in the end that choice was validated by my voters.
Continuing along down here, in 2002, this was while the Canadian Alliance was still in existence, before the merger of the CA and PC, Joe Peschisolido, a Canadian Alliance MP, left to join the Liberals. He was defeated in a subsequent election.
In 2003, in the course of the merger negotiations between the PCs and the CA, the member for Kings--Hants left the PCs, just as the new Conservative Party was to be created, to sit as a Liberal, ran, and has been successfully re-elected several times.
That was also what Keith Martin did. He was re-elected twice, or maybe three times after that as a Liberal, and chose not to run in the recent election.
About the same time, a year later, John Bryden, a Liberal MP, stepped down. He sat as an independent first, joined the Conservative Party, and then was defeated in the nomination battle for the Conservative Party, so we never got the chance to see what the voters thought of his proposal.
David Kilgour sat for many years as a Liberal. He had been elected as a Progressive Conservative and chose to cross the floor prior to the 1993 election. He was then re-elected, served as a Liberal, and in fact became a cabinet minister for the Liberals. Clearly, the voters were willing to accept what he did.
Belinda Stronach, of course, left the Conservatives after having sought its leadership. She sat as a Liberal and was re-elected as a Liberal, so voters agreed with that.
Wajid Khan tried leaving the Liberals to join the Conservatives in 2007. He was defeated in the subsequent election. Voters were not willing to accept that.
Blair Wilson ran as a Liberal, was essentially pushed out of his party, and then sat as the first Green Party MP. He was then defeated in the next election, so his voters were not willing to accept that.
As we can see, there is a wide range of people who have done this, and there has been a wide range of voter reactions. The general reaction has not been to say, “We absolutely reject what these MPs have done”. Absolutely not. There has, in fact, been a considerable acceptance when the circumstances seemed legitimate.
I want to make a further point about this. There have been some quite well-known people who have made multiple floor crossing changes. Someone earlier mentioned Winston Churchill. Here is what Winston Churchill did. He was elected in 1901 as a Conservative in England. In 1904, he crossed the floor to the Liberals and served in their cabinet. This rankled the Conservatives so much that in 1915, during the first world war, when the Conservatives joined with the Liberal party to form a coalition government, they demanded that he be demoted as a condition of joining a coalition government, in the time of war, so this really bothered them a lot.
However, as it turned out, his voters thought it was okay and he continued to be re-elected and served until 1924 as a Liberal MP. He was then defeated, spent some time, about a year, as a private citizen, then came back in as a Conservative again. He made the observation, because some people did not approve of this sort of thing, by saying, “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat”.
He then went on and served his country, admirably of course, as prime minister. He did save western civilization, so he could not have been all bad. He did so, I should point out, as head of a coalition government. Effectively, he was not a Conservative while he was doing that. He served as prime minister the second time as a Conservative. He served, really, in three different parties. He served as prime minister in two different parties. Clearly, these things are permissible in certain circumstances.
I have a final note, because I know I am just about out of time. My former colleague, Inky Mark, was one of those who was a floor crosser to the Democratic Reform caucus. Here is his history, party wise. He was elected as a Reformer, served as a Canadian Alliance MP when the party changed, then served in the Democratic Reform caucus, then served as a Progressive Conservative, then served in the Conservative Party of Canada. His voters re-elected him over and over again.
Clearly, this is an acceptable practice and I do not think we should make it illegal.