Sandra Jansen (left) and Premier Rachel Notley (right) at the press conference announcing the PC MLA had crossed the floor to join the NDP.

Floor Crossing! What to make of Tory MLA Sandra Jansen joining the NDP?

Progressive Conservative Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen took to the podium with Premier Rachel Notley this afternoon to announce that she is crossing the floor to join the governing New Democratic Party Caucus.

It would have been hard to imagine only one year ago that we would witness a PC MLA join the NDP but nothing should surprise us in Alberta politics anymore. Ms. Jansen has spent the past 18 months as an unwelcome moderate in a largely conservative caucus of 9 PC MLAs and it is hard to see what other options she may have had.

“Most Albertans are reasonable, moderate, pragmatic people,” Ms. Jansen was quoted as saying in an NDP caucus press release. “And most Albertans want a reasonable, moderate, pragmatic government. I believe we are getting that kind of government from Premier Notley.”

“I also believe that is absolutely not what would be on offer from those who are taking over the Progressive Conservative Party,” Ms. Jansen said. “The best traditions of the Peter Lougheed legacy in Alberta politics are being pursued by Premier Notley. And that legacy is being kicked to the curb by the extremists who are taking over my former party.”

There could not be a more direct shot at her conservative opponents in the PC and Wildrose parties but mostly PC leadership front-runner Jason Kenney.

In the opposition benches, Ms. Jansen has been a voice for moderate conservatism in the Legislative Assembly, clashing with her conservative MLA colleagues, including interim party leader Ric McIver, on numerous occasions. She also faced a backlash from conservative activists when she decided to publicly endorse Liberal candidates Kent Hehr and Nirmala Naidoo during last year’s federal election.

Last month Ms. Jansen announced plans to run for the PC Party leadership, building a campaign team that included Ms. Naidoo and strategist Stephen Carter. But she dropped out of the race last week, claiming that Mr. Kenney’s social conservative supporters had bullied her at the party’s annual convention over her progressive views on abortion and gay rights. She has also been the target of fierce sexist harassment on social media.

With Mr. Kenney’s hostile takeover of the PC Party in full-swing, it has become increasingly clear that there is less room for the moderates and liberals who played a key role in the party’s broad governing coalition from 1971 until 2015. Ms. Jansen was the voice of the “progressive wing” in the PC Caucus and she will certainly sit in the “conservative wing” of the NDP, which is a fascinating development in the evolution of the Alberta NDP’s centre-ish political coalition two years ahead of the next election.

While I expect Ms. Jansen had an opportunity to consider joining MLA Greg Clark in the Alberta Party or run for the leadership of the Liberal Party, returning to a position where she can influence government policy would have certainly been more appealing than joining or leading a smaller opposition caucus.

Although she is a moderate, Ms. Jansen has clashed with the NDP on a few occasions. In November 2015, Ms. Jansen accused then-Status of Women Minister Shannon Phillips of having “lost the authority to govern” after a heated debate over budget estimates and the old PC government’s record.

Her strong connections to former premier Alison Redford’s government are also notable.

A broadcaster by trade, she traded in her journalist’s hat for a job working in Ms. Redford’s southern Alberta office at the McDougall Centre in 2011. Shortly after that she was elected as a PC MLA and served as associate minister of families and community safety from 2013 until after Ms. Redford’s departure in 2014.

With this floor crossing, the NDP Government Caucus is one MLA short of having an an equal number of women and men, what I expect is a first in Canadian history. As far as I can tell, she is the first MLA, from any party, to cross the floor to join the NDP in Alberta’s history.

Ms. Jansen will sit as a backbench government MLA but we should expect she will soon make her way into cabinet in the new year.

15 thoughts on “Floor Crossing! What to make of Tory MLA Sandra Jansen joining the NDP?

  1. Diane Marie

    The Alberta PCs are taking a walk on the Trump side. I’ve voted PC. I’ve donated to the PCs, but Mr. Kenney is executing a takeover and that puts paid to any support I might lend the party. Mr. Kenney is selling something he can’t deliver: Unite Alberta = another oil boom. The NDP, on the other hand, is left to deal with what the former PCs sold, which is a fiscal regime based on a perpetual oil boom. In other words, Mr. Kenney is selling a fantasy and the NDP government is dealing with reality.

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  2. Jerrymacgp

    I did not see this coming. I expected a second shoe to drop, and she would leave the PC caucus and maybe the entire party, but I had thought she’d join either the David Swann-led Liberals or Greg Clark’s Alberta Party. Who would have thought that the other shoe would be her left one???

    Reply
  3. Jan Johnstone

    Checked the last election results, and not surprised Sandra crossed to the NDP. NDP came a very close 2ND, while wild rose came 3rd. Both Alberta Party and libs were in single digits.

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  4. Kyle H

    I respect Sandra immensely and I was hoping she would cross the floor and give Dr. Swann some company, but the NDP move makes sense as well.

    Still, got to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced of her “principles” here. Jansen did not take much of a stand on anything as a cabinet member and her moderate credentials only came out because that’s what separated her from the old stodgy crop og MLAs she called colleagues up until yesterday. I’m not saying she’s doing all of this for attention, but as she sits in the backbenches for a good long time – Notley would be smart *not* to put her into cabinet IMO – I suspect she’s going to find another set of principles to get upset about.

    Again, I legitimately like Sandra so if I sound harsh it’s just because, well, I’m not naive about politics or politicians!

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  5. Alan

    History does not treat floor crossers well. The constituents feel betrayed and no one ever trusts them again. Ask Danielle Smith.

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    1. David

      Yes, it didn’t work out for Danielle and her merry band, but often in the past it o worked out just fine for the floor crossers. NDPer Stan Woloshyn was re-elected as a PC after crossing over, Liberal Gene Zwodesky was also re-elected several times as a PC after and Federally David Kilgour who went from the PC’s to the Liberals was also re-elected.

      Given the close race between the NDP and PC’s in her riding in the last election, Jansen may be able to appeal to a enough moderate centre/left voters to be re-elected. She may also get some sympathy, as it could be argued she was being pushed out of the PC’s by extremists.

      Reply
      1. Dave Cournoyer Post author

        The mass floor crossing of 11 Wildrose MLAs back in 2014 was unprecedented, and all of the floor crossers either lost their PC nominations, lost the election or decided to retire. Other floor crossers have had better luck.

        Bridget Pastoor crossed the floor from the Liberals to the PCs in 2011 and was re-elected as a PC in 2012.

        Raj Sherman crossed the floor from the PCs to the Liberals in 2010 and was re-elected as a Liberal in 2012.

        Gene Zwozdesky crossed the floor from the Liberals to the PCs in 1998 and was re-elected as a PC in 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2012 (he was defeated in the NDP sweep of 2015).

        Reply
  6. Don G

    If your prediction comes true Dave, I’m just wondering how some of the NDP backbenchers who would be passed over feel about Ms. Jansen being offered a cabinet post.

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    1. Dave Cournoyer Post author

      I think she will have to prove that she can bring some value to the NDP caucus before they appoint her to cabinet. The NDP caucus has some experience MLAs in cabinet but outside of cabinet in the general caucus it gets much thinner in terms of political experience. Jansen was an associate cabinet minister in the past and served as a government MLA longer than any of the other NDP MLAs. It might ruffle some feathers but that’s politics.

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  7. Gilles Bernier

    You know what, I like what Sandra did. I’ve been a PC all my life, even served in Ottawa for awhile, also served with Kenny when he was part of the Reform-Alliance. I also know that when people put their confidence in you to serve them and fight for their interests, I know what that also means unlike Jenny, sitting in the house during debates, reading the newspaper and falling asleep in his seat. I’m old enough that I’ve seen and went through a lot in my life, and I love Alberta. Now don’t get me wrong, I also like the Alberta PC’S but they need to change, go back to their roots, and I’ll tell you more, what Notley did since she became Premier, she did more for Alberta than the pc’s did in their last 44 years. Diversifying the economy should have been done years ago while the pc’s were getting paid for doing nothing and being rude at it’s citizens. Now if they want to regain power someday, they need to remain the pc party and try by making good gesture in the best interest of the people of this province to the wildrose so that those people could come back to their old party where they belong. But by having Kenny distroying our party just because he wants to become Premier of this province would be a disaster but again, all Kenny thinks about is POWER. Also, discriminating against woman in politics is a no brainer for me. For God sake, we are in 2016 not the 40’s. That is my opinion, I’m an old politician, and I respect both comments and criticism. It’s called Democracy at it’s best. lol

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  8. Jacqueline Deck

    No representative should be allowed to cross the floor period. The real story is not about her, the real story is the negation of the vote. Not her, not ANY politician should be allowed to jump ship…it IS the equivalent of traitor politics. The PEOPLE voted for a specific thing…..her changing her views or values or political stance should then require her to remove herself, concede to another and rerun for the other party. Why the legislature allows such behavior is beyond belief. No politician should be allowed to do that…male or female. The representative is their based on people’s vote….it’s not about her job…it’s about the peoples vote. Period.

    Reply
    1. Dave Cournoyer Post author

      Hi Jacqueline, Thanks for the comment. MLAs are elected as individual candidates who are members of political parties, so I don’t have a general problem with MLAs crossing the floor. It is part of how our parliamentary system works.

      Ms. Jansen feels that she can better represent her constituents in Calgary-North West better by joining the NDP caucus, and voters in her constituency will have an opportunity to cast their ballot in favour or against her decision when the next election is held in 2019 or 2020.

      Dave

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      1. Kyle H

        You know who does have a problem with it out, however – the New Democratic Party. How quickly one’s moral stands are forgotten once it benefits them, eh?

        Reply
  9. Andrew

    “It’s a tremendous betrayal to those people who voted PC thinking that’s what they were getting.” – Rachel Notley.

    Reply

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