A Toronto-area Liberal MP has crossed the floor to Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, citing concerns about the economy and foreign policy as her reasons for leaving the government benches.
In a rare defection to the Official Opposition, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MP Leona Alleslev announced on Monday that she was leaving her caucus as Parliament was set to resume for the first time since June, dramatically walking to the Opposition side of the Commons as her new colleagues cheered.
The news came on the same day Mr. Scheer welcomed another Conservative MP, Richard Martel, to the House of Commons for the first time after Mr. Martel won a June by-election in the Liberal riding of Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, Que. The fall sitting of Parliament is viewed as the unofficial kickoff of the October, 2019, federal election campaign, with Conservatives using the first Question Period to hammer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and illegal border crossings, while the NDP focused on trade, housing and Indigenous education.
Ms. Alleslev narrowly defeated her Conservative opponent to win her seat in 2015. She has a business background as a senior manager at Bombardier Aerospace and IBM, and also served as captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force. She told reporters that she had been considering the move for a while, but her decision wasn’t based on any one issue, listing tax reform, foreign policy, defence and security as her key concerns.
“My attempts to raise my concerns with this government were met with silence and, as I said in the House, the government must be challenged openly and for me to publicly criticize the government as a Liberal would undermine the government and according to my code of conduct, be dishonourable,” she told reporters.
“So after careful and deliberate consideration, I announced today that I am withdrawing from the government benches to take my seat among my Conservative colleagues under the strong leadership of Andrew Scheer.”
Mr. Scheer announced that Ms. Alleslev would take on the role of global security critic in caucus. He encouraged anyone else who is upset with the Liberals to join her.
“Leona made it clear that the direction that this government is headed under this current prime minister, under Justin Trudeau, is not the necessary leadership that we need as Canadians to deal with the very serious issues that are facing this country,” Mr. Scheer said.
The move comes two months after Ms. Alleslev played host to Mr. Trudeau in her riding on July 20, tweeting that "I’m proud to be part of this team as we head into 2019!”
Mr. Trudeau told reporters on Monday that Ms. Alleslev’s decision is something that is allowed for in Canada’s political system.
“I wish her well in her decision. I’m looking forward to getting to [the] House to talk about what we’re going to be doing for Canadians, what we’ve been working hard on all summer and over the past few years,” he said.
Ms. Alleslev won her riding by a margin of fewer than 1,100 votes in 2015. On Monday, former Conservative MP Costas Menegakis announced he would be withdrawing his candidacy in the riding and will instead seek the Conservative nomination in the riding of Richmond Hill.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who has openly criticized his government for abandoning its electoral reform pledge, said Ms. Alleslev’s decision for leaving “doesn’t make any sense.”
“I think it’s more of an indication that someone wanted to preserve her own seat,” he said.