Stronach bats for the other team

By Chris Beauchamp

This week’s revelation that Belinda Stronach is defecting to the Liberal Party makes for dramatic headlines, but it’s frightening to realize just who’s being served by this latest act in the political soap opera engulfing Ottawa–and more importantly–who’s not.

Certainly the Liberals are benefiting from Stronach’s support. With the Thu., May 19 Budget vote now coming down to a 151-152 split between the Liberal/NDP coalition and the Bloq/Conservative alliance, Paul Martin’s government is in a far more comfortable position than it was before Monday’s announcement. Even if the Grits can only gain the support of two of the three independent candidates (as seems likely), the ensuing tie would give the deciding vote to the Liberal Speaker of the House. The budget would be passed, and the Martin government would continue to shuffle along.

Stronach herself benefits greatly from her defection, at least in the short term. Although freshly appointed to a ministerial position in the Martin cabinet, Stronach may pay for her ambition when an election is eventually called. Voters in her Toronto-area riding voted for a Conservative and it remains to be seen how they will react to her shift. In the broader context of her obvious leadership ambitions, Stronach may face a backlash from Canadians as a whole (not to mention the wave of vitriol already being hurled by Conservative supporters), as her move is perceived as political opportunism at its worst.

Even the Conservatives have been given a nugget of gold in Stronach’s loss. Though her defection will likely be the deciding factor in this week’s non-confidence motion, the tone of indignation Conservative leader Stephen Harper has used to condemn the move perfectly echoes the same moral superiority marking his party’s stance on the sponsorship scandal. With fresh Liberal arrogance comes fresh Conservative preaching, and Stronach’s switch only gives Tory sound bites more ammunition. What kills Tory non-confidence hopes today may result in broader support tomorrow, with a fresh barrage of Harper’s derisive condemnations of Liberal politicking.

Belinda’s betrayal of the party she helped found is just the latest example in a string of self-serving political bickering crippling Parliament Hill. The examples are abundant on both sides of the spectrum.

Martin chose to use his ability to address the nation in a prime time TV spot–usually reserved for times of national emergency–to defend his own innocence in the sponsorship scandal. On top of his increasingly frequent tax-payer funded trips throughout the country delivering pre-election campaign speeches and federal funds to a number of provinces and programs, Martin’s arrogance seems to know no bounds.

Meanwhile, Harper’s boycott of Parliamentary procedures has effectively crippled Canada’s highest legislative body. His premature demands for an election (before this week’s constitutionally valid non-confidence vote) and increasingly condescending condemnations of Liberal scheming are hypocritical to say the least.

With parties concerned only about increasing their own hold on decision-making bodies–to the point where these bodies cease to function at all–is it any wonder voter apathy has reached unprecedented levels? Canadians don’t feel represented by these greedy politicos, nor should they.

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