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Voters should get what they pay for in democracy

Posted on November 23, 2016 by Taber Times

Palms sweaty, heart racing, feet shuffling, a young person crosses the floor not knowing what the answer is going to be. ‘Would you like to dance’ says the shy teenager, in a cracking voice, to the apple of their eye, having gathered courage all night long from the various love ballads being played, to make the request.

If only floor crossings in politics were so sweet and innocent.

In a ‘here-we-go-again’ moment last week, Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen defected to Alberta’s NDP government less than 10 days after pulling out of the very Tory party leadership race she wanted to lead. Considered by many as a more centrist PC with her pro-choice stance and support of LGBTQ rights, murmurs have been made that politicians crossing the floor to other parties is simply a disenchantment. That the party one was previously a member of, was no longer belonging to the set of ideals the politician thought were their foundation.

Fair enough, if not for the quick and swift about face politicians seems to be showing by speaking out of both sides of their mouth when these floor crossings happen.

Jansen has had PC connections since 1985 when she was with the Ron Ghitter campaign alongside Alison Redford. A three decade run in a belief system, and only now (after withdrawing from the leadership race that has only been in months of fruition) a shift in party ideology as being ‘too far’ right is being noticed?

Speaking on Global News in a ‘what’s-the-big deal’ tone, former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith noted many incidences of floor crossing in Alberta politics, a group she seems to be a proud alumni of all of a sudden.

Alberta has had a history of floor crossers apart from the highly-publicized Smith departure, who, along with eight of her party colleagues, were accepted into Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative caucus back in 2014.

Rob Anderson, Guy Boutilier and Heather Forsyth left the PCs to join Wildrose. Gene Zwozdesky left the Liberals and later joined the PCs. Raj Sherman left the PCs and eventually joined the Liberals. Gary Masyk left the PCs to join Alberta Alliance. Dave Taylor left the Liberals to join the Alberta Party.

Smith did not seem so nonchalant about the phenomena back in November/December 2014 when Smith blasted former Opposition members Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan for joining the PCs as backbenchers, condemning them for abandoning their principles to enjoy the perks of power, promising there would be no more defections from Wildrose.

Anger which seemed to easily subside in less than a month when Smith herself crossed the floor, noting, ‘Over the course of the last several months, I’ve become more and more convinced that these are values I share with Premier Prentice when it comes to balanced budgets, elimination of wasteful spending, respect for property rights and ethics in government’, Smith said…less than two months after disastrous by-election results for the Wildrose party losing seats.

No coincidence there.

Current premier Rachel Notley was outraged at the time of the Wildrose floor crossers as well and was quoted as saying ‘I think this represents a betrayal to a number of different voters, not just to Wildrose voters but also to PC voters and so both leaders are equally guilty of betraying the people who voted for them in the last election just a little over two years ago. (It’s) a sad day for honesty and integrity in Alberta politics.’
Flash forward to November 2016 with Jansen’s floor crossing to Team NDP, ‘When the MLA crosses the floor, it means they’re abandoning their voters, unless the party has really, really gone a different direction from the way they had originally presented themselves.’

So which is it? It seems to be whichever serves one’s political career best at any given time, furthering voters disillusionment with the whole process in that we are breeding career politicians as opposed to people who should be helping the electorate.

An electorate that is becoming increasingly afraid their politician will not end up for the party they voted for.

Perhaps now is the time to look at penalties or by-elections for politicians in ridings that have floor crossers. People who took the time to vote should get the politician they paid for in the currency known as democracy.

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