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May 17, 2005
Belinda's Betrayal Also Personal: Canadian Press

Belinda Stronach's defection to the Liberal Party came as a surprise to to Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who claims that Stronach never consulted him on her concerns or thoughts on crossing the aisle. However, Harper comes in a distant second in the betrayal stakes as the Canadian Press reports that Stronach never even bothered to consult her boyfriend on her abrupt about-face -- her boyfriend being Peter MacKay, Harper's second in command for the Tories:

With news reverberating around Parliament Hill of Belinda Stronach's blockbuster bolt from the Tories to the Liberals, the indelicate question was unavoidable: "What about Peter MacKay?"

Stronach's well-publicized romance with the Conservative deputy leader could hardly have come to a more stunning end.

Sources confirmed the pair are taking a "break" from the photogenic relationship first made public in January.

"Suffice it to say, I'm very happy and quite smitten," MacKay beamed at the time.

Tory insiders now say he was one of the last to know of Stronach's planned defection.

MacKay got the news early Tuesday and had the unhappy task of notifying Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

"If he was smitten a few weeks ago, he's probably smoked today," said a party source.

MacKay won't respond to press inquiries at the moment, and who could blame him? The dissipation of this relationship could hardly have been more public and more embarassing for him. Not only did his girlfriend leave him, she left him on a moment's notice for Paul Martin, of all people, and for a cushy government position.

The entire episode appears distasteful, and reminds one of the interesting romantic intertwining of Paul Martin's office and Earnscliffe, where his chief of staff, Terrie O'Leary, lives with the consulting firm's senior partner, David Herle. Canadian politics these days appear to involve the bedroom on a more literal basis than ever before, and certainly more than in American politics. Can you imagine the political shock waves that would happen here (and the weather forecasts for Hades) if Hillary Clinton announced her defection to the GOP in order to get an appointment to George Bush's Cabinet?

Stronach appears to be the kind of politician that even politicians hate. Despite the warm welcome that Martin gave her as his potential savior of the week, don't expect too many Liberals to join enthusiastically in trusting Belinda with their backs turned.

UPDATE: Perhaps the Clinton analogy was a bit too close for comfort. The American Spectator profiled Stronach last year (h/t CQ reader Jim T) and noted the close personal connection between Stronach and Bill Clinton at the time:

For the last two years Stronach has served as CEO of Magna International, the $13 billion auto parts manufacturer her father founded. She's the only woman CEO of a Fortune Global 500 company based outside the U.S. Completely untested in politics, she shares with Arnold both celebrity status and a famous Democratic political connection in the U.S.: the Washington Post reports that she has a close personal and business relationship with Bill Clinton, with whom she has been constantly linked in gossip columns. She has told friends that Clinton inspired her to enter politics.

"She could become Canada's Arnold or a morph of Bill and Hillary Clinton," says a Conservative Party activist. "But it's the Clinton connection that really worries Canadian conservatives." Ms. Stronach was asked about her friendship with Clinton at her campaign launch in January. The National Post reported the exchange: "Had she consulted with pal Bill Clinton on her campaign? Next question please, she fumed." ...

STRONACH'S TOUCHINESS IS understandable. She recently divorced her second husband, a Norwegian four-time Olympic gold medal-winning speedskater. She is thus the most eligible woman in Canada whether or not she ever becomes prime minister.

Her friends have gone out of their way to downplay salacious thinking about her friendship with Clinton. "They are good friends," a close friend of Stronach's told the CanWest News Service last year, "but there is not a romantic linkage. It's just not that way. You shouldn't jump to conclusions that they are having a serious fling," though the friend added Stronach is attracted to Clinton. Another friend told the wire service that Stronach is "intrigued" by Clinton's "charisma and brainpower, particularly his knowledge of world events." Stronach, according to that friend, said of Clinton: "'The guy is really smart and he really knows a lot of stuff.'"

A Magna spokesman says the two met when Mr. Clinton spoke at a company event at its private golf course three years ago and characterized their friendship as a "business relationship." Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said last year that the former president "has met with Ms. Stronach and her father several times over the past year to discuss the Clinton Library and Foundation."

Last year, the two were also spotted dining together at a Toronto restaurant and sharing the Stronach family's box at the Preakness horse race. Frank Stronach, Belinda's father, owns Pimlico Race Course, where the Preakness is run. Last November, Ms. Stronach was being honored with a humanitarian award at a Toronto dinner when a cellphone rang. The caller was instantly connected to a speaker phone. It was Bill Clinton calling from 12 time zones away in China to congratulate Stronach and express regret for not being able to be there in person.

To put it delicately, it appears that Stronach has employed her networking abilities to their limit in promotion of her political career. She seems to have gathered her scruples from her American political mentor as well.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 17, 2005 3:01 PM

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