The NDP is feeding popular protests against defector Lise St-Denis, encouraging voters in the riding of St-Maurice-Champlain to jam up her phone lines and force her to run in a by-election.
Elected last spring under the New Democrat banner, Ms. St-Denis jumped to the Liberal caucus last week, vowing to serve under her new party colours in the House until the 2015 general elections.
The NDP responded by endorsing an online petition calling for her resignation, and hiring a company to contact every household in the riding with a phone message criticizing Ms. St-Denis’s defection. On the telephone call, people who want to express their disapproval with the move can press 1 and be transferred to her riding office.
The NDP said hundreds of people have used the option so far, and Ms. St-Denis’s office has complained that its phone lines have been jamming up at times.
On Tuesday, Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel travelled to the city of Grand-Mère in Ms. St-Denis’s riding and held a news conference in front of one of her riding offices.
“St-Denis’s betrayal is a slap in the face to all those who voted for change,” Ms. Turmel said.
The Liberals finished fourth in St-Maurice-Champlain on May 2, attracting 11 per cent of the vote. The NDP, meanwhile, won the riding with 39 per cent of the vote as part of its large-scale victory across Quebec.
“If Lise St-Denis has confidence and an ounce of respect for democracy, she’ll let the citizens of her riding be the judge. If not, she’s unworthy of representing them,” Ms. Turmel said.
As part of a campaign to win support for her decision, Ms. St-Denis started making the rounds of local media this week. At every stop, she has refused to go back in front of the electorate to seek a new mandate, and rejected the notion that she betrayed voters who wanted to be represented by an NDP MP in Ottawa.
Ms. St-Denis famously said at her initial news conference last week that “Jack Layton is dead” when she explained that the NDP lost its leader last year and, as a result, its main drawing card in Quebec.
This week, Ms. St-Denis called for voters to give her time to convince them that she has made the right choice.
“I was elected, I’m here and I’m staying here,” she said on Tuesday morning in an interview with Montreal radio host Paul Arcand.
Ms. St-Denis acknowledged that she did not actively campaign in St-Maurice-Champlain during the spring election, and that as such, she is not personally responsible for her victory. She has also not taken up residence in the area, preferring to continue living in the Montreal area and making the 1½-hour drive to the riding once a week.
Still, she rejected any portrayal of her move as a betrayal of voters. “It’s a democratic gesture to go where I think I can best serve my constituents,” Ms. St-Denis said.
She added that NDP positions are “systematically negative” in the House, and that she feels the Liberal Party is better positioned to find solutions to the economic problems in her riding.
Ms. St-Denis, who was elected on May 2, called on one of her aides last month to contact Liberal MP Denis Coderre to discuss a potential defection. A meeting was then held that included Ms. St-Denis, her aide, Mr. Coderre and Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae.