February 14, 2011 by Joseph Krohn
Crossing the floor in the House of Commons is not as uncommon as we might think. It is as old as Canada itself. There are various reasons why an MP or an MPP would shift party loyalty in the middle of a session. Some of them switched for political gain (examples listed below). Others left because of disagreement over party policy. Some felt more comfortable sitting as independents and still others were forced out of their preferred political safe havens.
A list of “floor crossings” both federal and provincial:
- In the 1860’s there were a total of seven floor crossings.
- In the 1870’s there were an additional seven floor crossings.
- In the 1880’s there was only one case.
- From 1910-1919 there were a total of 22 floor crossings.
- In the 1920’s there were two case of floor crossings.
- In the 1930’s there was only one case.
- In the 1950’s there were three cases.
- In the 1960’s there were five cases.
- In the 1970’s there were ten cases.
- In the 1980’s there were nine cases.
- In the 1990’s there were 31 cases of floor crossing.
- In the 2000’s there were more than 50 cases of floor crossings.
It definitely seems as time goes on, more and more MPs and MPPs are crossing the floor. In many cases it is for some kind of gain and in others it is for matters of principle or conscience.
Here are some examples of MP’s that could be bought:
**Note: There were approximately 20 MPs that crossed the floor during 1917 to seat with Sir. Robert Borden’s Unionist (Conservative) Government. Many of them joined the new Progressive Party after the war and a few of them returned to the Liberal Party. Here are two of them that were amply rewarded for their shift in party loyalties:
August 29, 1917 – Hugh Guthrie, Liberal MP since 1900, crossed the floor to sit with Sir. Robert Bordon’s Unionist Government. What did he get in exchange for his loyalties? He was made Solicitor General during the First World War and then served as Minister of Defence. He was re-elected as a Unionist in 1917 and later officially joined the Conservative Party and stayed with them when they were defeated in the 1921 election.
October 17, 1917 – Frank Broadstreet Carvell, Liberal MP since 1900, joins Sir. Robert Borden’s government. What did he get for crossing the floor? He was added to the cabinet as Minister of Public Works in October 1917. He was not re-elected to the House of Commons.
April 20, 1977 – Jack Horner, Progressive Conservatives to Liberals; joined Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet. What did he get? Well, he was immediately made a Minister without portfolio and was promoted in September 1977 to the position of Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce. Mr. Diefenbaker described the defection by saying “the sheriff has joined the rustlers.” He was defeated as a Liberal candidate in his Alberta riding during the 1979 election.
December 11, 2003 – Scott Brison, Progressive Conservative MP to Liberals on the former’s merger into the Conservative Party. What did he get from then, Prime Minister Paul Martin? He was made Minister of Public Works and Government Services (2004-2006) and in 2006 sought to replace Mr. Martin as the head of the Liberal Party.
May 17, 2005 – Belinda Stronach, MP, Conservative Party to Liberal Party. What did she get from Mr. Martin? She was made Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal (2005-2006). It seems the only reason she is not still serving as a Liberal MP and why she didn’t seek to replace Mr. Martin is because of the realization of her current parties decline.
February 6, 2006 – David Emerson MP, Liberals to the Conservatives and joined Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet two weeks after the election. What did he receive for his shift in loyalty? He served as Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics, followed by Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was considered third in ranking of the priority of the members of the cabinet. He retired before the 2008 federal election.
**With this knowledge in mind that many MPs and MPPs are for sale to the highest bidders, perhaps Mr. Harper or Mr. Ignatieff can do some shopping in the next several weeks, to see if the election is close for either of their parties, who are for sale and who are not.