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Crossing the Floor: Canadians weigh in

With one Ontario MPP leaving the governing Progressive Conservative Party to sit as an independent and party leaders reportedly concerned about future defections, a new public opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians divided on the practice of “floor-crossing” in their nation’s legislatures.

Politicians changing parties is not uncommon in Canada. Some 20 members of Parliament have crossed the floor of the House of Commons in the last decade, and numerous other elected officials have switched parties at the provincial level in that time.

That said, four-in-ten Canadians (42%) are of the opinion that politicians leaving one party and joining another between elections should not be allowed. Roughly the same number (41%) say the practice is acceptable.

Asked about potential alternatives to representatives switching their party affiliations, those opposed to floor-crossing are inclined to say would-be floor-crossers should be required to step down and re-contest their seats in by-elections (55% of floor-crossing opponents say this), while those who support the practice tend to prefer allowing members to continue their terms as independents (63% of floor-crossing supporters say this).

More Key Findings:

  • Ultimately, Canadians can be divided into five broad categories in terms of their perspectives on floor-crossing: Those who support it (41% of the population), those who oppose it (42%, subdivided into three groups based on how they would prefer to see would-be floor-crossings addressed), and those who are unsure (17%)
  • Quebec residents are most opposed to floor-crossing as a concept (50% are), while those in Alberta (50%), Saskatchewan (49%) and Ontario (47%) are most likely to say it should be allowed
  • Three-quarters of Canadians (75%) are aware of the practice of floor-crossing, with men and older respondents more likely to express familiarity with the procedure

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