An MP changes teams without crossing the floor

A member of the NDP, but not an NDP member of Parliament

Former Bloc Québécois-turned-Independent MP Maria Mourani has joined the NDP. Sort of.

Officially, she has only taken out a membership in the NDP, which it seems she can do for the price of a $10 annual fee. Otherwise, she will remain an Independent MP, at least until the next election, when she might run as an NDP candidate in Ahuntsic. She is a member of the NDP, without being an NDP member of Parliament.

This is complicated for the NDP, because it has a very strident position on MPs who would cross the floor to sit with a party other than the one they were aligned with at the time of election. New Democrats have proposed bills that would essentially ban the practice of floor-crossing, and they have chided departing colleagues who decided to switch teams. (As I’ve written before, I think there’s an entirely worthwhile debate to be had about whether MPs should be able to switch parties once elected.)

So it would have been rather awkward if Mourani became an NDP MP today. That, probably, is why she didn’t.

Does her move still somehow violate the spirit of the NDP’s intended ban? On first glance, I don’t think it quite does.

Officially, she will remain an Independent MP in the House of Commons. Will she attend meetings of the NDP caucus? Will she be expected to vote with the NDP on whipped votes? Will she be given an NDP committee assignment or critic portfolio? I’m told the answer to each of those questions is no. It also seems that she will remain in her currently assigned seat in the House: in the back-left corner with the other Independents, behind the Liberal caucus.

A ban on floor-crossing wouldn’t ban a Conservative MP or Liberal MP or NDP MP or Green MP from deciding to sit as an Independent MP. (There’s one other wrinkle to Mourani’s story: She was kicked out of the Bloc Québécois caucus, as opposed to deciding on her own to exit.) And Mourani still is just that. It’s just that she’ll be sending the NDP a cheque for $10 every year.

What would the NDP have said about an NDP MP who decided to sit as an Independent, then purchased a membership with another party and turned up at a news conference with said party’s leader? I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

Does this move amount to a fair alternative to crossing the floor or the cynical exploitation of a loophole? I suppose that might depend on how this little arrangement works out from here on, and to what degree Mourani ends up seeming like an NDP MP in everything but official designation.

For now, at least, she would seem to be without any of the benefits of caucus membership.

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