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Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party and Leader of the Official Opposition walks with Leona Alleslev who crossed the floor and joined his party in the House of Commons on Sept. 17, 2018.LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Leona Alleslev cited her own “code of conduct” as she crossed the floor from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives. To stay in the Liberal party and criticize it, she said, would mean undermining her own party, and that would be “dishonourable.” So she crossed the floor to the Tories.

It’s too bad that Ms. Alleslev’s code is incompatible with being a parliamentarian. And the same ethical deficit afflicts a lot of legislators, in the House of Commons and provincial legislatures.

Ms. Alleslev somehow came to think she’s required to always clap and cheer for the leader and the team, even if they think the team has gone off track – and if they can’t stomach it any more, they have to switch to another team, with another leader.

No wonder Ontario PC MPPs are happy to stay up all night to pass through a rush bill to change the size of Toronto’s municipal council using the notwithstanding clause to override Charter rights, making an emergency priority out of a municipal matter that wasn’t in their platform – because the leader, Premier Doug Ford, says it’s important.

Ms. Alleslev, it seems, felt she could do no differently but blow smoke for her team and her leader. It perhaps explains why her Twitter feed was full of excited praise for Team Trudeau until two months before she decided, for reasons that remain vague, that only Team Andrew Scheer could save the country. Wasn’t she supposed to be speaking up for what’s right, on behalf of her constituents, all along?

She didn’t have a binary choice between marketing mouthpiece for the Liberals or a marketing mouthpiece for the Tories.

Voters in local ridings elect representatives to shape the direction of their party, and the government. If they’re just going to bleat approval for the leader’s decisions, they don’t serve much purpose at all. So aside from things that were in the party platform they ran on, they’re supposed to speak up, inside their party, or if it’s worth fighting for, in public. Even when their party is in government.

It’s easy to believe Ms. Alleslev’s claim that when she raised concerns and criticisms inside Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal caucus, they were “met with silence.” A handful of Liberal backbenchers have been handed their own mandates by Mr. Trudeau’s government, but most lack real influence. Mr. Trudeau’s promises to empower MPs have largely proven empty.

This is just the latest PMO to find it easier to run things from the top down. It’s not easy for an MP to break ranks. A few have. But then amid all the partisan battles, many parliamentarians seem to have forgotten that when push comes to shove, it’s their duty to speak out about their own party, too, especially when it’s in government.

Ms. Alleslev even seems to have worked up a misplaced code. Perhaps the former Air Force captain internalized the military culture of institutional loyalty. But after she was elected by the people of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, she had a duty to her voters, and that was to press her concerns on her party – in public if need be. Yet, there wasn’t a peep. It’s not dishonourable for a Liberal backbencher with strong objections to criticize a Liberal government. It’s their job.

MPs are supposed to hold their own party to account, too, especially when it is in government. Canada doesn’t have to be like Australia, where the prime ministership regularly changes hands in caucus revolts, but it could be more like Britain, where backbench MPs voice dissent – and a PM who steps out on a limb has to worry their caucus might not be behind them.

One might like to think that Ms. Alleslev has taught Mr. Trudeau a sharp lesson that MPs cannot be ignored – using her feet to make her point. But no. The PM lost a seat, and maybe a few political points. But the MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill didn’t speak up for MP power. She didn’t even make much of a specific point about Mr. Trudeau’s failings. She just switched loyalties.

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