On Monday, Sept. 17 I made a difficult decision to do what is right, not what is easy.
When I marked an ‘x’ beside my name on the ballot in 2015, my constituents entrusted me to represent them. To honour that trust, I must do all that I can to serve the country to the best of my ability. After careful and deliberate consideration, I crossed the floor from the government benches to take my seat among Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
Since Monday I have been asked repeatedly, “What happened over the summer? What was the ONE thing that made you do this?”
The reality is that the vision I once shared with the Liberals has been eroding over time.
Some said my decision appeared sudden. This is simply not true. For me, and for many Canadians who voted Liberal in the last election, the party had distanced themselves from us long before I crossed the floor.
The platform that I ran on in 2015 represented a largely centrist political vision. After three years, this government has not delivered the change that Canadians expected. Instead, we have seen the Prime Minister move increasingly to the left and away from the centre.
My decision was not based on one issue. Rather, it was the gradual realization that the Liberal party was not focused on tackling the nation’s top priorities in a time of unprecedented global instability.
My constituents have voiced their concern to me that the current government appears to be increasingly out of touch with what’s going on in Canada and the world, and not responding appropriately.
As such, my decision to cross the floor is a result of the culmination of numerous policy shifts and government actions which, taken together, convinced me that our country is at risk of being tragically off course.
Here are the top three reasons that drove my decision:
1 ) FOREIGN AFFAIRS, TRADE AND THE ECONOMY
Canada is a trading nation; 80 per cent of our GDP is derived from trade. Relationships with partner countries are the lifeblood of our economic viability and growth. Relationships between countries are based on a feeling of security, trust, and mutual respect. That is why diplomacy, trade, and defence are inextricably linked to our economy. Essentially, 80 per cent of our GDP is dependent on foreign affairs. Therefore, missteps on the world stage often translate to job losses at home.
I have been disappointed at the pattern of undiplomatic behaviour exhibited by those holding the highest offices who speak for our country. This behaviour could pose a significant risk to our trade relations, economy, and jobs here at home. The government’s diplomatic missteps include the Minister of National Defence making a public attack on Boeing, our Minister of Foreign Affairs tweeting criticism on internal Saudi matters and participating in a “Taking on the Tyrant” anti-Trump panel while negotiating NAFTA, as well as incidents with China, India, and others.
Our economic security depends on other countries wanting to do business with Canada. Capital investment is leaving our country at alarming rates, and while the connection may not be obvious, it could be attributed to this pattern of behaviour on the world stage.
2) DEFENCE AND SECURITY
The world has changed significantly over the last three years. We are witnessing major shifts in the global power balance, while our defence and security structures are being challenged.
Canada cannot afford to “go it alone.” This Liberal government made a commitment to our NATO allies that we would move toward spending 2 per cent of our GDP on defence, yet we currently spend less than 1 per cent and there is no documented plan to fulfil the 2 per cent commitment. Additionally, the Liberals committed to purchasing new modernized equipment to address our military’s capability gap but 30 per cent of the defence budget remains unspent, and the 40-year-old Australian F-18 fighter jets that the government is purchasing are older than the ones we are trying to replace.
The Liberals have not transitioned from an election campaign to governing mode. Winning is easy, but governing is harder. Governing is about ethics, integrity, and effectively delivering national responsibilities and federal services to Canadians. The Government promised tax reform and better, easier ways for Canadians to deal with government.
The recent Liberal “tax fairness” proposal highlighted the dramatic disconnect between the current government and the taxpayer. Canadians feel that our tax system is neither fair nor balanced. The reform of our tax system must be more than tinkering with one tax bracket or one tax incentive. Our country needs a fundamental tax review, which is not on this government’s to-do list. Failure to achieve this review jeopardizes Canadians’ trust in the government, economic security, and whether or not foreign companies choose to invest in Canada.
My constituents have also told me how frustrating it is to deal with the federal government. Whether it’s calling Revenue Canada, applying for a visa, or informing the government of a death in the family, the message is clear: this government is not delivering the right standard of service to meet the needs of Canadians. This is in addition to challenges the Liberals have not resolved, including: Phoenix, Shared Services Canada, Canada Post, and others. This lack of performance and accountability in government service delivery undermines national confidence in the government and constrains Canadians ability to operate their businesses and grow our economy.
As I stated in the House of Commons, I was an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and I swore an oath to give my life in service to Canada, but even though I left the military, I never “unswore” that oath. Now I serve Canadians as a Member of Parliament and my oath is to country, not party, and my sacred obligation is to serve my constituents.
The policy shifts, and government actions outlined above were so significant that I felt they needed to be addressed immediately and publicly to advocate for substantive change to strengthen our country’s foundations. However, for me to publicly criticize the government as a Liberal would undermine the government and, according to my code of conduct, be dishonourable.
On Sept. 17th I took drastic action to hold the government to account. I had to change political parties to publicly address the fundamental priorities of our time. That is my job as a parliamentarian, and why I made the decision to cross the floor.
*Article made special to the National Post