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‘Follow-Up’ Podcast: Parliament’s Top Rebel Explains Why It’s Healthy To Dissent

MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith balances independence and toeing the Liberal party line.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith hosts a question and answer session at the Fox Theatre in Toronto on Feb. 11, 2020.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith hosts a question and answer session at the Fox Theatre in Toronto on Feb. 11, 2020.

OTTAWA — Nathaniel Erskine-Smith doesn’t sound vexed that his independent streak in Parliament may have torpedoed his chances of landing a plum cabinet seat.

“I bought into the Liberal Party... I bought into it because Justin Trudeau and his leadership was talking about reasonable disagreement and empowering parliamentarians and free votes.”

The Toronto Liberal MP is the House of Common’s top rebel, having gone against his own government 37 times out of hundreds of votes in the last Parliament. In a candid interview with HuffPost Canada’s ”Follow-Up” politics podcast, he explains his dissent as “principled” and reflective of “evidence and constituents and my own conscience.”

It’s been more than four years since Erskine-Smith left law to join Team Trudeau. But there are some elements of the job he still finds hard to stomach.

“I go into classrooms and talk to kids, and I explain there’s literally a job called chief government whip. And yes, it is what you think,” he told podcast host Althia Raj, as they dug into party discipline and the cost of breaking rank at the federal level of politics.

We also hear from NDP MP Peter Julian, Conservative MP Bruce Stanton, and Liberal MPs James Maloney and Ali Ehsassi about being on the receiving end of carrots and sticks meant to keep partisans in sync.

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