Floor-crossing MP praised Trudeau government in weeks before departure

Leona Alleslev heaped public and private praise on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his senior ministers in the weeks before she started a secret process to defect to the opposition Conservatives, according to an email and an audio recording obtained by CBC News.

Trudeau, Freeland and Sajjan 'were truly awesome,' Alleslev wrote in a July email

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer looks on as MP Leona Alleslev, who crossed the floor from the Liberal party to Conservative party before question period, speaks to the media Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Leona Alleslev heaped public and private praise on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his senior ministers in the weeks before she started a secret process to defect to the opposition Conservatives, according to an email and an audio recording obtained by CBC News.

On July 11 — when Alleslev was part of the Canadian delegation at the NATO summit in Brussels — the MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill sent a emotional email to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in Alleslev's riding on July 20 after his visit to the NATO Summit in Brussels 1:31

"Want to tell you that the hug and kiss you gave me on the way out was just truly the best — you made me cry!" Alleslev wrote in the email, supplied to CBC News by a Liberal source.

"You and the PM and Harj (Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan) were truly awesome today. This is not only who we are as Canadians – but also who we are as global citizens – and that was on full display today."

She ended the note by thanking Freeland for "everything you do!"

Alleslev delivered a similar message just nine days later on July 20, when Trudeau headlined a fundraiser in her riding and the then-Liberal MP made a statement.

"The greatest thing about being a member of Parliament in this prime minister's government is that we are each and every one of us valued for the contribution that we bring to the team," Alleslev said, according to a recording of her remarks.

Just weeks later, in early August, Alleslev was sitting down with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer at a Pearson airport hotel outside Toronto, discussing the terms of her defection from the Liberals.

Alleslev — who cited what she called Trudeau's failures on foreign policy and defence as her motivation for crossing the floor — also praised the prime minister's performance at the NATO summit.

Leona Alleslev, MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, sent this email to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on July 11, 2018, praising her, the prime minister and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. Alleslev crossed the floor this week to join the Conservatives, saying the Trudeau government was not addressing the "foundational challenges" facing Canada. (CBC)

"I decided about four years ago that I really was worried about what my country was becoming. And it was getting more difficult to represent this country, and so that's why I decided to become a Member of Parliament," Alleslev told a crowd of Liberal donors.

"And last week, when I was in Brussels, at the NATO summit, and the prime minister was there, you would have been truly amazed, proud, overcome with the power of the remarks that this prime minister made. Not to Canadians, but to members of Parliament from governments, from social organizations all over the world, and he set the example for what our NATO allies and what other countries can become.

Power Panel on floor-crossing MP's prior praise for Trudeau 9:30

"So I would like to thank this prime minister for creating the country that I am honoured to serve and defend, not only for what he is doing here at home, but for how he is representing us around the world."

In a statement issued this evening, Alleslev called the email a "very personal" message she sent to someone she still thinks of as "a friend."

"I was at an event in Brussels with Ministers Freeland and Sajjan, as well as the prime minister, and it was a good event," she wrote. "However, one good event does not equal delivering the foundational change Canada needs at home and abroad. My decision to leave the government was based on the direction I feel Canada is headed due to a number of actions and policy decisions taken over the last three years."

A P&P peek into some of the most shocking floor crossing moments in Canadian politics. 1:07

Still, Alleslev's earlier statements stand in stark contrast to the public condemnation she gave when she blindsided the Liberals by announcing in the House of Commons Monday that she was bolting to the Conservative bench.

"I stand here today deeply concerned for the future of our country," she said on Monday. "On the world stage, Canada has yet to rise to the occasion. The world has changed and Canada must change with it. We do not have the luxury of time. We must recognize that foreign policy, trade, defence, and our economy all depend on each other and cannot be viewed separately."

Transcript of Alleslev's remarks at July 20 fundraiser in her riding:

Well, I have the privilege of thanking everyone.

But first, of course, welcome to my riding of Aurora Oak Ridges Richmond Hill. 

I am Leona Alleslev, the member of Parliament for this riding. 

First and foremost, thank you to my colleagues, because York Region is better because of the team that we are here. 

And the greatest thing about being a member of Parliament in this prime minister's government is that we are each and every one of us valued for the contribution that we bring to the team. We each have our strengths and we're valued for it and we lean on each other. And you have a great team, if I do say so myself, with the members of Parliament here in York Region.

I also want to thank each and every one of you for being here. It is a Friday night in July and you are the diehards, you are the people who are there when we need you, when it's good times and when it's rough.

I want to thank you for not only your financial and moral support, but for something slightly more fundamental — not telling us what we want to hear, but telling us what we need to hear, even if we don't want to hear it.

You are our eyes and ears to make sure that we stay connected to the real pulse of what's going on and how our citizens are feeling in our communities. So thank you for being here, but thank you for the contribution you you make to making this country better.

And last but not least, I swore an oath to serve and defend this country when I was granted my Queen's Commission to become an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.

And I decided about four years ago that I really was worried about what my country was becoming. And it was getting more difficult to represent this country, and so that's why I decided to become a member of Parliament.

And last week, when I was in Brussels, at the NATO summit, and the prime minister was there, you would have been truly amazed, proud, overcome with the power of the remarks that this prime minister made. Not to Canadians, but to members of Parliament from governments, from social organizations all over the world, and he set the example for what our NATO allies and what other countries can become.

So I would like to thank this prime minister for creating the country that I am honoured to serve and defend, not only for what he is doing here at home, but for how he is representing us around the world.

About the Author

David Cochrane

CBC News

David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.