UPDATE: Defecting MP says decision was 'personal' as Liberals left in disbelief - InfoNews

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UPDATE: Defecting MP says decision was 'personal' as Liberals left in disbelief

The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he had "no prior knowledge" of an MP's decision to leave the government benches for the official Opposition. Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer looks on as MP Leona Alleslev, who crossed the floor from the Liberal party to Conservative party before Question Period speaks with the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday September 17, 2018.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
September 18, 2018 - 12:45 PM

OTTAWA - A Toronto-area MP who shocked political observers on Monday by ditching the federal Liberals for their Conservative foes says she isn't aware of other members of her former party who are ready to cut bait.

Leona Alleslev said Tuesday her decision to switch parties was entirely a personal one, suggesting her choice may not reflect greater turbulence within the ranks.

"Of course leaving a party to go to another party, you're leaving a team to go to another team," she said in an interview.

"That's a difficult decision and one that everyone really needs to make, I think, on their own."

Alleslev's unexpected decision, however, has left her Liberal colleagues in disbelief, including dozens of volunteers who canvassed this spring to ensure she could fly under the Liberal banner again in 2019.

Clayton Haluza said he was sitting at his desk on Bay Street when he learned Alleslev had defected — a choice leaving him, and his party, blindsided a year out from an election.

Haluza, the president of the Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill Liberal riding association, said he spent a good five minutes on Monday staring at the wall thinking, "what the heck has just happened?" when he read an update on his phone about Alleslev's defection.

"There are no words to describe it," he said Tuesday, adding he did not receive a heads up.

"We had worked together since before she became a member of Parliament. We had a great working relationship."

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Alleslev "never" came to his door to relay complaints when he was Liberal whip.

Alleslev, elected in 2015, said Monday she made her choice after questions about the Liberal government's approach on files including the economy, trade and defence were met with silence.

Haluza's team is still trying to understand that.

"The reaction I've gotten from our membership base has been just one of hurt, anger, (and) displeasure," he said. "And from the community it's 'I voted for a Liberal.'"

For her part, Alleslev said she was lucky to have the support of volunteers, adding they are "honourable and committed."

But she said she hopes they were doing work for her because "they truly believed I was the best person to represent them in Ottawa."

"I am the same person today as I was then," she said. "I have the same values."

Earlier Tuesday, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould maintained a poker face when asked whether it feeds political cynicism when MPs switch parties.

"People have the right to change their opinions," she said in French, adding citizens will have their say during the election.

Haluza agrees voters will be able to weigh in on Alleslev's choice, noting his riding association is now focused on finding a replacement candidate to challenge Alleslev.

"A year from now the voters get the decision of whether they want her to still represent the riding," he said.

"I know that my team and I will be out there knocking on doors, convincing them that our party is still the right decision."

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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