For her end-of-year statement in the House of Commons last December, then-Conservative MP Eve Adams chose to brag about her government’s upcoming round of tax breaks.
“Thanks to our work, Canadian families can be assured that their hard-earned money is making its way back into their bank accounts,” Adams told the Commons on the week that it rose for the holidays.
Listening to her no one could possibly have guessed that the GTA MP was so troubled by the method her party had selected to deliver part of that money that she would cross the floor to the Liberals less than two months later.
But then that was about seven weeks before her party advised her in writing that she would not be allowed to run under the Conservative banner next fall.
On Monday, Adams referred to the government’s decision to allow parents of young children to split their incomes for tax purposes — a policy she campaigned on as a Conservative candidate in 2011 — as one of her main reasons for switching parties.
The income-splitting announcement came in the fall. The Conservative decision to dispense with her services as a candidate came at the end of January.
For an MP who was growing uncomfortable with her party, Adams certainly fought hard for a Conservative nomination in the 2015 election.
The battle for the riding of Oakville North—Burlington became so messy that the party suspended the hostilities last summer. That was after Adams’ fiancé — former Harper press secretary Dimitri Soudas — was fired as the party’s executive director for meddling in the nomination fight. On Monday he tweeted his support for her decision to defect. He plans to work for her Liberal campaign next fall.
Be it provincially or federally the Liberals do not frown on poaching but their gain is usually another party’s loss.
On the eve of the 2000 election Jean Chrétien recruited a handful of Quebec Tories the better to diminish Joe Clark’s prospects.
Paul Martin famously rolled out the red carpet for Belinda Stronach in 2005 to undercut a Conservative bid to bring down his minority government and after Jack Layton’s death Bob Rae took in Quebec NDP defector Lise St-Denis to send the signal that the Liberals planned to win back the province.
But by comparison the political calculus behind Trudeau’s decision to offer Adams political asylum does not easily add up.
If one had to select a pied piper to lead voters (and MPs?) out of the Conservative fold, Adams, whose main claim to political fame was borne out of partisan brawl rife with alleged dirty tricks and involving one of the leading architects of Harper’s take-no-prisoners approach to politics, would be a counterintuitive choice.
In the circumstances it is unclear whether the timing of Trudeau’s announcement on Monday was meant to praise the addition of Adams to his ranks or to bury it.
By scheduling a Parliament Hill news conference at the earliest possible hour in the working day, the Liberals beat the news of a major cabinet shuffle by minutes.
Of the three changes involved in that shuffle — Rob Nicholson to foreign affairs, Pierre Poilievre to employment and social development, and Jason Kenney to national defence — the latter comes across as the most significant.
Indeed Nicholson’s transfer to foreign affairs seemed designed to make room for Kenney rather than to fill John Baird’s recently vacated department. Canada has traditionally had bilingual foreign affairs ministers. Nicholson is not fluent in French.
Conservative strategists increasingly see the anti-terrorism file as an ace on par with the economy in their pre-election deck. Kenney will now have a lead role in the debate over Canada’s military involvement against Islamic State extremists in Iraq.
The shift of one of Harper’s strongest performers from the economic front to national defence came on the same day as a Léger Marketing poll confirmed that Quebec is uncharacteristically on side with the government’s anti-terrorism agenda.
The reassignment of three ministers to senior portfolios took place with minimal fanfare. It was announced after they had already been sworn in.
Governing parties usually scramble to deflect attention from the news of a defection from their ranks. But in the case of Adams, the Conservatives made an exception and gave Trudeau as much and possibly more time in the spotlight than he could have wanted.