Posted by Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau
The defection of rookie NDP MP Lise St-Denis (Saint-Maurice--Champlain) to the Liberals Tuesday morning was a surprise to her former party, but not by the time she told them about it.
Karl Bélanger, senior press secretary to NDP Interim Leader Nycole Turmel, said he received a phone call from St-Denis about 10 minutes before her 10:30 a.m. news conference with Liberal Leader Bob Rae and Quebec Liberal MP Denis Coderre.
“She gave me a call and then told me as she was probably on her way to the press conference," Bélanger said Tuesday afternoon. "By that time the cat was out of the bag and her name was being widely reported by different media, either on social media or the networks."
As for Turmel, Bélanger said that St-Denis never spoke to her directly.
"She was not able to reach her," said Bélanger, who speculated that St-Denis likely called him after trying unsuccessfully to contact Turmel, but he did not know what time she had first reached out.
St-Denis had said at the news conference that she had "called" Turmel and "spoke" to Bélanger.
While her phone call to Bélanger may have been anti-climactic, the defection itself -- and the stated reasons for it -- threw the NDP for a loop.
One senior NDP source noted that while St-Denis told reporters it was differences in opinion over the Senate, the mission in Libya and a public-private partnership for the Champlain Bridge that drove her to abandon her party for the Liberals, she had never aired those complaints in caucus or to anyone else in the party.
“Watching her on television was the first time that we heard about that,” said the source, later adding that she was not a prominent voice of dissent on any issue.