Glenn Thibeault quits NDP for Ontario Liberals

Federal NDP MP goes to the Ontario Liberals
Glenn Thibeault
NDP MP Glenn Thibeault holds a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, to discuss his private members bill calling for a national strategy to reduce concussion rates in amateur sport. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Glenn Thibeault

Glenn Thibeault, until this morning the New Democrat MP for Sudbury, has quit the NDP. Here is his official statement of explanation.

“I am proud to announce that I will be running as the Ontario Liberal party candidate in the upcoming by-election in my community of Sudbury.

The need for this by-election was sudden and unexpected, and I have come to the decision to move to provincial politics after much reflection and discussion with those people close to me. Anyone who knows me, understands that I put representing this community first and foremost. It is something I have done with pride over the past six years. It is my belief that I can continue to do so from a different vantage point working as part of the Ontario Liberal Government.

I have spoken to Premier Kathleen Wynne about her plan to create greater opportunity and security for all Ontarians – and her plan is exactly what Sudbury needs. Investing in the talents of our people and building modern infrastructure will ensure good jobs for our community for decades. Supporting workers – whether it’s helping find a first job, or helping save for a secure retirement – is the kind of practical and valuable policy I have always supported and am proud to be part of.

I have taken the time to read the mandate letters the Premier assigned to Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Assistants and it has become clear to me that I want to play a part in the important work her government is doing to build for the future.

The issues the Premier is championing – retirement security, investment in the Ring of Fire, better health care – are the same issues I care deeply about and areas where the people of Sudbury rightly expect to see real progress.

I need to be clear, this is not a decision I made easily. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve my community for the past six years at the federal level, but my time at the federal level has come to an end. I am excited by the opportunity to continue that representation in a new, exciting way. I believe I can make an even greater difference for the constituents of Sudbury as a member of this Ontario Liberal government.

My career has been spent fighting for supports for persons with developmental disabilities, for services for families struggling with autism and for better consumer protection for our citizens, I will continue to advocate for these issues and I know I will be a more effective champion working at the provincial level.

Sudbury is my home, it is where my wife and I are raising our family, and I believe an Ontario Liberal government is the best choice to lead Sudbury and the rest of our province forward to greater security and opportunity.

I am very excited to be part of the Ontario Liberal team and to work hard in earning the votes of Sudburians so I can once again represent their voice in government.”

Thibeault becomes the sixth NDP MP to quit the party since the 2011 election, following Lise St-Denis, Bruce Hyer, Claude Patry, Sana Hassainia and Jean-Francois Larose. A seventh, Manon Perreault, is sitting outside of the NDP caucus at the NDP’s behest. The official opposition also lost its hold on Trinity-Spadina when Olivia Chow resigned and Liberal MP Adam Vaughan won a by-election.

In sum, a caucus of 103 has been reduced to 95.

None of the defections have gone in the same direction (one to the Liberals, one to the Bloc Québécois, one to the Greens, one to sit as an Independent, one to Forces et Democratie and now one to the Ontario Liberals) and until now they could be more easily described as low-profile figures. Thibeault, though, was the party’s critic for small business and consumer affairs and, until recently, chair of the national caucus. He was also the first New Democrat candidate to win the riding of Sudbury in a general election. (Save for a narrow victory by a New Democrat in a by-election in 1967, the riding had been entirely Liberal since 1949.)

On first glance, this thus seems more significant as a loss for the NDP than previous moves. There’s also a certain novelty to the move from federal New Democrat to provincial Liberal. In breaking the news this morning, the Star also made a vague reference to “strained” relations between Thibeault and Thomas Mulcair.

Update 2:06pm. A statement from NDP caucus chair Irene Mathyssen.

“I am saddened and disappointed to lose a respected friend and colleague. I understand the allure of power for some, but don’t really understand his choice since Ms. Wynne’s Liberals have proven time and again they are not a progressive government. The real progressives in Ontario are Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats. People are cynical about these kinds of actions; but regardless of Mr. Thibeault’s decision, we in the NDP remain focused on holding Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to account.  We will continue to propose the practical ideas that help Canadian families with their important priorities like childcare and health care.”

Update 9:27pm. Thibeault spoke to the CBC tonight and explained that he did not see eye-to-eye with the NDP on several counts, but he identified only the issue of a gun registry—something that came up after Thomas Mulcair suggested some kind of measure to allow police to track firearms.

Thibeault also spoke with Northern Life and the Sudbury Star.