02/13/2015 01:09 EST | Updated 04/15/2015 05:59 EDT

It's Not What Liberals Gain With Eve Adams But What Conservatives Lose


With much ado about Eve Adamscrossing the floor from the Conservative to the Liberal Party, the talk seems to centre on whether Justin Trudeau's Liberals gained much, if anything.

That talk misses the point: the question is not what the Liberals got, but what the Conservatives lost.

First let's put to rest any theory that this political event is being treated in a balanced fashion: the talk is about Adams' checkered past and challenges in finding a seat for this year's election; the fact that the MPP in the riding she intends to contest says she'll win over his dead body; and whether or not the value of the deal is really in the secrets held by her fiancee Dimitri Soudas, obtained over his long and close association with the PMO.

Perhaps because it is the most titillating as well as the most unlikely, the love story has attracted disproportionate attention: we have learned that like Meatloaf, Soudas would do anything for love including break any contract, and he has already lost his membership in Toronto's storied conservative retreatThe Albany Club.

Certainly, some coverage emphasizes Adams' parting attacks on Harper's "mean-spirited leadership," yet it still seems to be treated as the news that isn't news because we've heard it all before, and apparently the Conservative base doesn't care. And there is clearly no particular vote of conscience motivating the decision, which quite rightly prompts speculation that this is just politics as usual, in the worst meaning of the phrase.

But coming on the heels of the clearly unplanned departure of John Baird, the real story is not the questionable value of the asset Trudeau has acquired but the fact that a sitting government member has crossed the floor to sit with a third party. While government members have infrequently left their parties to become independents on issues of conscience, and while readers will recall members like David Emerson and Belinda Stronach who left their smaller parties to take up portfolios in government, the departure of a government member for a third party is, I believe, unprecedented in Canadian politics.

To scoff at the value of that lost MP seems like collective participation in a sour grapes story, as if it doesn't matter that the government lost another member because they didn't really want her anyway. Her departure for the third party Liberals, rather than the opposition NDP, only serves to underline the Liberal positioning as the big-tent party of the center and the real alternative to the current government, in spite of their numbers in the House.

And similarly while Soudas might do anything for love, the fact is that even if he clams up like Johnny Tightlips sucking a lemon, the Conservatives have lost a valued and trusted advisor. Even if Adams loses the nomination and is worth nothing as a candidate, and Soudas refuses to bend his dark arts to the aid of her new team, the Liberals have won significant victories simply in working these Conservative losses.

Finally, balancing the equation of whether the third party Liberals got a good deal for this sitting government MP -- an almost absurd question when considered from that perspective -- we must ask 'what did they pay?'. The answer seems to be 'nothing', unless you count the strange way in which the media has treated this as a questionable pick-up for the third party rather than another alarming loss for an increasingly creaky government.

If the defection is worth more than nothing, it's a good deal for the Liberals. And clearly the damage she has already done to Harper with her comments is already worth something, and at the very least she will have to compete for her nomination, attracting attention and members and contributors to the Liberal Party whether she wins or loses.

Either or both of them may turn out to be worth much more, but it makes no difference. When rats start fleeing the ship, it's not worth debating their quality. Whether they're fat healthy rats or sick and wounded rats, they flee the ship because they realize that it's sinking.


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