Two floor-crossers who ran were unceremoniously run out of parliament, perhaps haunted by the curse of David Emerson, uber-floor-crosser of them all.
While David Emerson wasn't the first floor-crosser muck with the democratic process, he'll go down in history as its worst example to be sure. Lets not forget that in this parliament, like peas in a pod, Emerson had company.
David Emerson was later joined in the floor-crossers hall of infamy by former Liberal then Conservative now nothing Wajid Khan, and by former Conservative then independent then Liberal Garth Turner. Where are they now? As of Tuesday's election results, all three are removed from parliament. Only two bothered to try for re-election, Emerson was too chicken to run.
One February morning about two and a half years ago David Emerson shocked the nation when he turned up at Rideau Hall to be sworn in as a member of Stephen Harper's Conservative cabinet. Only two weeks prior he'd been a sitting Liberal cabinet minister, re-elected in no small part thanks to his vow to be Stephen Harper's worst nightmare.
||Chased out of riding, electorally damaged forever.
Patronage will seek him out like mice to cheese.
||Wrote a report Canadians never got to see -
perhaps it was plagiarized? Having lost election
08, a return to the car sales biz seems likely.
||Booted from Harper's caucus for speaking out,
including criticizing Emerson's floor crossing,
Turner ends up crossing floor himself! Lost
election 08 and hits the lecture circuit.
Reaction was immediate and intense. From the start it was clear that Emerson's virtually instant defection was not viewed as a Vancouver-Kingsway specific issue but one of national concern. Vancouverites supported by democracy loving Canadians from right across the country, including even conservatives, erupted in sustained furor which carried on for months. One thousand De-Elect Emerson campaign signs sprouted on lawns all over the city, urged on by Emerson himself who called his detractors "locusts", and by Harper who claimed the outrage was the work of only a handful of partisan protesters.
This chronic lack of understanding of Canadians is precisely why Harper has twice been restricted to minority governments, and despite the apparent strength of his recent win, my instinct is Harper will not politically survive the next attempt.
Contrary to Harper's assertions, support for the effort was both broad and non-partisan, and only grew each time he or Emerson opened their mouths. Indeed the De-Elect Emerson Campaign mailboxes were filled to overflowing with letters of support, spiced with only an occasional and usually lamentable attack. Harper continued his own attacks on democracy, stooping at one point to rip into Parliament's own Ethics Commissioner , Bernard Shapiro, who, rightly, responded to public pressure by calling an inquiry into the Emerson Affair.
Public anger continued to mount despite or because of various outlets including standing-room only town hall meetings, numerous street corner protests and the on-going lawn sign campaign. A plane buzzed parliament pulling a giant banner suggesting "Emerson Call Home"; more De-Elect Emerson lawn signs started showing up outside Vancouver on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa and Montreal, even in Pictou-Antigonish, home of Progressive Conservative Party sell-out Peter MacKay. Public fury ran unabated. A hastily arranged rally and protest march drew out over nine hundred young and old, from every ethnic group imaginable, one breezy April Sunday. The value of our vote had been more than devalued, it'd been as good as ripped from our hands by Harper and Emerson and as we marched down Kingsway past Emerson's constituency office, we all had a sense that what we were doing could at least make a small difference.
Politicians were not universally sympathetic, and Liberals, despite claims by Conservatives that they were supporting our campaign, were actually less than helpful. For example, despite being reminded that his native India had passed legislation restricting floor-crossing, Vancouver South Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh, who in current times is now claiming high and mighty moral indignation over what he perceives as the centre / centre-left abandoning him, refused to support our call for legislation.
Dosanjh wasn't the only one keeping quiet. Every Conservative MP who had voted for floor-crossing legislation in an earlier parliament shut up tighter than a west coast mussel. Former MP for Liberal Vancouver Quadra Stephen Owen (who was also critic for Democratic Reform) empathized with our concerns but refused to speak out publicly against his "friend" Emerson. Still a number of MP's from various parties (notably the NDP which to this day continues to support a floor-crossing ban) responded to our campaign's calls for support.
We've learned a lot from the l'affair Emerson and you can be sure this knowledge is ready to be shared with any constituency which falls victim to a politician that follows Emerson's footsteps, regardless of party or direction, in the future.
Considering what happened to Emerson, and the fate of other floor-crossers from this last parliament, with any luck other Canadians will be spared this ignominy for some time.