Is there a doctor in the House? Yes, but he’s no longer sitting on the government’s side.
Dr. James Lunney, MP for Nanaimo-Alberni, withdrew from the Conservative Party caucus this week, citing concerns over freedom of religion. He had already announced he would not be seeking election, and so he will sit as an independent for the balance of his term.
He is entitled to his opinions, and indeed, individual thought is too uncommon in the House of Commons. But Lunney’s actions mean Nanaimo won’t be receiving the representation in Ottawa that it should receive.
We know that voters mark their ballots not only based on their perceptions of their local candidate, but because they identify with that candidate’s political party. In the Nanaimo-Alberni riding, a first-past-the-post plurality elected Lunney because he represented the Conservatives and that party’s values, priorities and promises. Until this week, Nanaimo had a seat in the government’s caucus, and a voice, or a perceived voice, at the very least. No more.
Lunney will continue to vote with the Conservatives, but his separation from the government is an indication that his final months in Parliament will be self-serving. Free from any party affiliation, the MP has his religious freedom, finally, and we warily await how he will wield it.
Though Lunney says his actions this week are voluntary, forgive our suspicion he may have been prodded from the party, his extreme views becoming an embarrassment to the Conservatives in an election year. If his opinions are at odds with every major political party across the spectrum, it suggests that perhaps he has never been a reasonable representative of the people.
But it’s not up to Nanaimo to decide. Because Lunney, no longer a man of the people, will limp out of Parliament individually, independently.