When Eve Adams bolted for the Liberals this week, Conservatives wasted little time making it clear that they didn’t want her anyway.
Conservative Party president John Walsh released a statement saying Adams was informed “in writing on Jan. 29” that she wouldn’t be allowed to run for the party because of the much-publicized drama surrounding her bid to run in Oakville North-Burlington last year.
When asked about the defection Monday night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the party’s national council told Adams 10 days ago she couldn’t run “for reasons that I think everybody understands.” The PM suggested that rejection was the “sole reason” she crossed the floor to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Longtime Harper loyalist Jenni Byrne, who will run the Tory campaign this year, apparently sent top Trudeau adviser Gerry Butts some flowers to say thanks for taking Adams off their hands.
And Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton jumped online to say she was pleased to see Adams go.
But while the Tories seem to be pleased to say good riddance to bad rubbish, a puzzling question could complicate that narrative.
Namely: If they were happy to see her go, why was Adams serving as a parliamentary secretary to the minister of health until the moment she quit?
Several people wondered as much online Monday.
The fact that Adams remained a parliamentary secretary until the end could be significant for a number of reasons.
Much like cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries serve at the pleasure of the top boss. Parliamentary secretaries are supposed to assist a cabinet minister (or several) with their official duties, including fielding queries in question period and tabling documents.
Harper appointed Adams parliamentary secretary to the minister of veterans affairs in 2011, the year she was first elected. In 2013, he named her parliamentary secretary to the minister of health.
Adams earned more than $16,000 on top of her base MP salary of $163,700 while serving as parliamentary secretary this year.
The pay bump is part of what makes the role a reward for MPs judged by a prime minister to be stronger performers or rising stars.
Of course, Adams will lose out on that extra money now that she’s joined the third-place party.
While there are plenty of parliamentary secretaries who moved no further up the ladder, the role has always been seen as something of a stepping stone for impressive MPs.
Current Tory heavy-hitters like Jason Kenney and James Moore both started off as parliamentary secretaries before eventually being promoted to Harper's cabinet.
In Harper’s last big cabinet shuffle in July 2013, he appointed parliamentary secretaries Michelle Rempel, Greg Rickford, Candice Bergen, Pierre Poilievre, Alice Wong, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, and Shelly Glover to his inner circle.
Last month, Erin O’Toole moved from parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade to veterans affairs minister.
Harper also made some slight changes to his parliamentary secretaries on Jan. 23 but did not demote Adams.
Harper named MP Pierre Lemieux the parliamentary secretary to the veterans affairs minister, Parm Gill the parliamentary secretary for international trade, and Gerald Keddy the parliamentary secretary for agriculture, in addition to his roles with national revenue and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
As mentioned, Conservative Party president John Walsh says he told Adams in writing on Jan. 29 that she would not be able to run for the Tories in the next election… in any riding.
But on Jan. 30, Adams rose in the House of Commons to defend Harper for skipping a meeting with provincial premiers in which health care funding was expected to be a major topic.
Adams told the House “transfers to the provinces for health care will reach a record high of $40 billion by the end of the decade.” She also said the Harper government had reduced wait times and recruited more physicians.
“We are taking concrete action,” she said.
Less than two weeks later, she was a Liberal.
With files from The Canadian Press
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