Friday, February 10, 2006

Day Five -- Former Stronach riding president calls Emerson appointment “a mistake”

Joan's note: This is not yet posted on, where Aurora Era-Banner stories are posted. It was e-mailed directly to me by a reliable source.

UPDATE: The story is now posted online here.

Move different from Stronach’s because her switch made ‘on principle’, she says

Aurora Era-Banner
Feb 9, 2006
Caroline Grech, Staff Writer

A mistake.

That’s what one prominent York Region Conservative is calling the bombshell defection of a Liberal cabinet minister to Steven Harper’s government.

Stephen Somerville, president of the Newmarket-Aurora Conservative riding association, said while he understand bringing Vancouver MP David Emerson into the Tory fold will give the West Coast a voice in cabinet, he doesn’t like it.

“We’ve elected a great number of highly skilled people ... we didn’t have to go outside,” Mr. Somerville said. “I think we have a great platform, but did we make a mistake on the first day of government? Yes.”

Mr. Harper named Mr. Emerson international trade minister and minister responsible for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and the Pacific gateway strategy to boost Asian trade Monday.

In 2004, Mr. Emerson was named to former prime minister Paul Martin’s cabinet as industry minister.

York Simcoe Conservative MP Peter Van Loan said while he could never cross the floor himself, he welcomed the move by Mr. Harper to bring the Liberal into the cabinet.

While some are calling the move hypocritical given the party’s campaign vows to bring ethics and accountability to government, Mr. Van Loan defended Mr. Harper’s decision.

“I don’t think he ever said he would turn people away from our party,” Mr. Van Loan said.

While the Conservatives were outraged when Newmarket-Aurora MP Belinda Stronach crossed the floor last spring, Mr. Van Loan said Mr. Emerson’s defection is different.

“I think it was a different environment when she crossed the floor. She brought a vote with her that kept a corrupt government in power eight months longer than they should have been,” Mr. Van Loan said, adding Mr. Emerson’s vote isn’t a pivotal one right now.

Ms Stronach’s switch from the Conservative Party continuously placed her at the centre of an acrimonious campaign in Newmarket-Aurora.

Despite the parallels of Mr. Emerson’s move to the Liberals to those of Ms Stronach and Liberal MP Scott Brison, Mr. Somerville made a distinction.

“The qualifications of Mr. Emerson speak for themselves. His qualifications are stronger than the other two,” he said, adding Mr. Harper’s move is not retribution for other MP defections.

While the crossover has garnered some attention, missing are the scathing headlines that accompanied Ms Stronach’s defection.

Also missing are the negative comments from various elected officials.

Expressing her shock at the news of Mr. Emerson’s defection, Ms Stronach said the focus should fall on Mr. Harper for the move.

“I find it hypocritical and a double standard,” Ms Stronach said. “He (Mr. Harper) criticized me and the Liberal Party of doing anything to have power when I joined the government.”

Like Mr. Somerville, Ms Stronach drew a distinction between her move and Mr. Emerson’s, but in a different way.

“... I crossed on principle,” Ms Stronach said, stressing a desire to see the Liberal budget passed and concern for national unity as reasons for changing parties. “Mr. Emerson just got elected two weeks ago.”

As for the much more charged reaction to her decision than, Ms Stronach attributes much of that to the media reporting reactions from politicians such as Ontario Tory MPP Bob Runciman, who called her “a dipstick”.

“They were able to get away with those comments,” Ms Stronach said.

As for how the move will go over with voters, Ms Stronach said, “I don’t think the public will dismiss this or take it lightly,” adding Mr. Harper campaigned on ethics.

While Mr. Van Loan defended the prime minister’s decisions for his cabinet, he admitted he was disappointed he wasn’t among them.

“Of course, I’m disappointed but politics is a team sport... I got parliamentary secretary to foreign affairs and am very pleased with that. It’s about the best thing you can get if you’re not named to cabinet.”

Mr. Emerson represents the riding of Vancouver Kingsway and was first elected to Parliament in 2004.

He is the first MP to cross the floor after being officially elected, but before being officially sworn in.

On election night, Mr. Emerson was quoted as saying, “I’m going to be Stephen Harper’s worst enemy.”

His defection gives the Conservatives 125 seats in the House of Commons and 102 for the opposition Liberals.


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