THE BLOG

St-Denis is No Saint

01/12/2012 10:52 EST | Updated 03/13/2012 05:12 EDT
Althia Raj

It's a Hobson's choice whether to be amused or contemptuous of Lise St-Denis' defection as a New Democratic MP to become the Liberal MP for the Quebec riding of St-Maurice-Champlain.

One thing that is certain is that this 71-year-old woman will never be elected again. She shouldn't have even been elected once, since in the last election she ran as an NDP candidate in a traditionally Bloc Quebecois riding without ever putting in an appearance.

Until she won, that is.

Imagine: No campaign posters, never attending an all-candidates meeting, just agreeing to let her name stand in a riding that the Bloc won in 2008 with 44 per cent of the vote and the NDP getting 7.8 per cent.

In the 2011 election, the NDP soared to 39 per cent, while the Bloc tumbled to 29 per cent.

The federal Liberals who now welcome her went from 21 per cent of the riding's vote in 2008 to 12 per cent in 2011, so the beloved Lise is hardly riding a tidal wave of local popularity. If nothing else, she displayed extremely bad manners in being an NDP candidate in the 2011 vote and not bothering to show up. Serves the riding right for electing her.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae implies her defection to the Liberals is an act of principle and conviction. Phooey. If anything, it seems an act of opportunism because the NDP is going nowhere in Quebec. Anyone who thinks the NDP won't lose seats in Quebec in the next federal election is smoking something that is illegal.

Then again, Ms St-Denis justifies her "principled" betrayal of those who voted for her by saying: "They voted for Jack Layton. Jack Layton is dead."

Wow! There's a lady any political leader would want as a supporter.

Rae is correct not to make too much of his new MP, and clearly recognizes that the NDP is in turmoil in Quebec, despite (or because of) the bunch of new MPs who are filling seats in the Commons but are without a leader.

Rae isn't stupid and knows that the NDP will sag in the next election, and that the Liberals cannot help but improve in Quebec. Any small improvement will reflect on whoever the leader is. And, at the moment, there seems no one except Rae in that role.

None of those vying to fill Jack Layton's boots gives heartburn to Stephen Harper. Nor does Bob Rae, for that matter. St-Denis seems to be relishing her few minutes of national publicity with unseemly enthusiasm. She is quoted saying that her move to the Liberals was influenced by her disagreement with the NDP's interest in abolishing the Senate, and that she disapproved on the NDP's stand on Canada's air war against Libya.

More nonsense. Anyway, she's Bob Rae's problem now.

A question begs as to who will be the next of those Quebec MPs who got elected in spite of themselves, to embarrass the party. The adage that in politics or war -- it's better to be lucky than good -- seems to apply to Canada's Conservative government these days.

While the Harper government seems to know what it is doing, as sure as the sun rises in the east, the Liberals will revive themselves and the NDP will sag. Canada will be better with a viable opposition that, after the next general election, will not include people like Lise St-Denis.