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'I need time to prove myself,' NDP defector tells constituents

Interim Leader Bob Rae kisses Lise St-Denis, who crossed the floor from the NDP, as he arrives at Liberal Party's winter caucus meeting in Ottawa on Jan. 11, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Liberal MP Lise St-Denis rejects the existence of a wave of popular anger over her decision to leave the NDP last week, saying the outcry only reflects an organized campaign by her former colleagues.

Ms. St-Denis is refusing to resign her seat and run in a by-election in the riding of St-Maurice–Champlain, located between Montreal and Quebec City, which she won as an NDP candidate last spring. Locals have signed petitions criticizing Ms. St-Denis and sent angry letters to her office.

"I understand that the NDP is angry and encouraged people to act in that way," Ms. St-Denis said as she finally appeared on local media to defend her decision.

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"I don't think that the level of disapproval is as high as it would seem to be," she said on a radio interview with CKOI Mauricie 106.9.

Ms. St-Denis, 71, acknowledged she wouldn't have won her seat on May 2 if she had run as a Liberal candidate.

"We'll see in three years if voters feel that I made the right decision," she said. "I've been an MP for seven months – I need time to prove myself, and voters need time to see what I have done."

She added that in her view, "democracy means acting according to one's principles."

Ms. St-Denis had already angered many residents in her riding by refusing to leave her main residence in the Montreal area. During the interview, Ms. St-Denis mistakenly talked about having a constituency office in the city of Trois-Rivières, before the radio hosts corrected her. She then said she meant to refer to Shawinigan, which is the biggest city in her riding.

Ms. St-Denis said she bought a new car after the election, pointing out that she has already driven 32,000 kilometres to criss-cross the region during a series of weekly visits.

"I didn't know the riding at the start, I know it now," she said. "I was elected and I have a responsibility toward the people in my riding."

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Ms. St-Denis's decision to leave the NDP came as a surprise, but it reinforced the sense that the party's Quebec wing, now composed of 57 rookie MPs and only one veteran, is fragile. The move provided a boost to the Liberal Party ahead of its policy convention, which was held over the weekend.

In the radio interview, Ms. St-Denis blasted the NDP for being dogmatic and insisted the Liberal Party is more in tune with her desire to find concrete solutions to issues such as unemployment in her riding.

"The [NDP]was too negative and had a doctrinaire attitude regarding everything but the environment," she said, adding NDP positions would have a negative impact on the regional economy.

The NDP's interim leader, Nycole Turmel, is scheduled to travel to the city of Grand-Mère, located in St-Maurice–Champlain, to denounce Ms. St-Denis's move on Tuesday.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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