Floor-crossing ban proposed by NDP bill

A private member's bill from the NDP that seeks to ban MPs from switching parties while in office is being debated Wednesday.
A private member's bill from the NDP that seeks to ban MPs from crossing the floor is being debated Wednesday. David Emerson, left, ditched the Liberals in 2006 to join Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, prompting outrage from voters. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Members of Parliament shouldn't be allowed to switch parties while in office according to a private member's bill from a New Democrat MP that is being debated in Parliament Wednesday.

Quebec MP Mathieu Ravignat introduced his private member's bill in September and it is up for debate for the first time. It seeks to prevent MPs from changing political affiliations during their term in office, something that has caused plenty of controversy on Parliament Hill.

One of the most high-profile floor-crossings in recent years occurred in May 2005 when Belinda Stronach ditched the Conservatives for the Liberals and received a cabinet post in Paul Martin's government. The defection put an end to her personal relationship with Defence Minister Peter MacKay and helped Martin's minority government survive a crucial budget vote.

Another shocker came a year later on Feb. 6, 2006, when David Emerson, elected as a Liberal a few weeks earlier, showed up at Rideau Hall for the cabinet swearing-in ceremony for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new government. He was sworn in as Harper's trade minister and his floor crossing prompted outrage from voters in his British Columbia riding.


Should MPs be banned from crossing the floor while in office? Take our survey.

"Members shouldn’t play petty politics and think only of their career, by changing political parties whenever they like," said Ravignat in a statement. "MPs were elected personally, and under their party banner. We must ensure that members are accountable to their constituents." 

According to the proposed legislation, a member who leaves his or her party would be deemed to have vacated the seat and he or she would either have to sit as an independent or run in a byelection.

The NDP has tried to do this before with private member's bills from Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer. 

"I am happy to support my colleague who is bringing the issue back to Parliament," said Stoffer. "At the present time, any member can cross the House without accountability to their constituents. We are determined to prevent this from happening once and for all."