OTTAWA — An Ontario Liberal MP is crossing the floor of the House of Commons to join the Opposition Conservatives, saying Canada needs strong leadership on the economy and global issues.
Leona Alleslev made the stunning announcement as MPs returned to Ottawa following their summer break.
Alleslev said the Trudeau government must be openly and publicly challenged, but to do that she must join Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.
“The leader of her majesty’s Opposition and his team have a firm grasp of the urgent issues we face as Canadians and the resolve to confront them, and it is my duty to align myself with those values,” she told the House.
“To my Liberal colleagues, thank you, but my oath is to country, not party, and my sacred obligation is to serve my constituents.”
Alleslev said the world has changed since she was first elected in 2015, and she feels her questions about the Liberal government’s handling of issues such as the economy and trade were largely ignored.
Scheer ushered Alleslev into the Conservative fold, making his new MP the critic for global security. He invited others to follow her, saying they are “welcome and needed” in the Conservative party.
Coming down the steps on the way into question period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the system allows for Alleslev’s decision, adding that he wishes her well.
The opposition parties took shots early and often Monday at how the Liberals have handled the economy and the ongoing negotiations of a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement — the outcome of which is tied to the fate of countless jobs on both sides of the border.
Conservative House leader Candice Bergen said her party wouldn’t lecture the U.S. on gender rights and the environment in the midst of trade talks— a jab at the Liberal government’s approach on NAFTA.
Bergen said Trudeau has managed to “tick off” a lot of key people during the trade negotiations, which have dragged on for 13 months.
The primary sticking points for Canada in negotiations include maintaining an independent dispute-resolution mechanism and finding a way to protect Canadian dairy farmers.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says it is difficult to negotiate with U.S. President Donald Trump, but adds the government must make life better for Canadian workers and protect the existing supply management system for dairy farmers.
Trudeau tweeted the first order of business this fall will be debating a bill on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership — a trade deal with the Pacific Rim designed to open up new markets for exports beyond the U.S.
MPs discussed the bill as Alleslev rose in her chair to announce her political change of heart.
Alleslev has represented the new Toronto-area riding of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill since narrowly defeating her Conservative challenger by 1,093 votes three years ago.
Prior to politics, Alleslev served for several years in the Canadian military before joining IBM and Bombardier Aerospace. As an MP, she has served on the immigration and defence committees and as chair of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association.
The Canadian Press