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February 10, 2006
Some Tories Criticize Emerson's Switch

It didn't take long for Stephen Harper to generate controversy in his new role as Prime Minister. As noted earlier here, Harper offered a ministerial post to Liberal David Emerson, and he switched parties to take the international trade portfolio. Having just won re-election in his riding as a Liberal, however, several members of that party and the NDP objected. Now some Tories have joined them:

International Trade Minister David Emerson is under increasing pressure from some of his new Conservative colleagues to resign and run in a federal by-election.

Several Tory MPs publicly criticized his defection from the Liberal Party and appointment to Stephen Harper's cabinet as they took part in orientation meetings yesterday on Parliament Hill. ...

The most vocal critic among the Conservative MPs yesterday was Garth Turner, from Halton, Ont., who said the public was justified in being concerned about the controversial appointments of Mr. Emerson and Michel Fortier, the unelected party organizer who will be a Quebec senator and Public Works Minister.

"My own view would be I think a by-election would be a great idea," Mr. Turner told reporters when asked about Mr. Emerson. "This kind of thing actually grates a lot of people the wrong way."

Garth Turner, as it turns out, has his own blog -- and he's not shy about sharing the fallout of his remarks. He doesn't regret them, but he acknowledges that they came at a cost.

Americans probably won't relate to the outrage that Turner and others feel. We don't require people to change parties when they get Cabinet-level appointments. Bill Bennett was still a Democrat when Reagan picked him to be Secretary of Education, according to Bennett on his show. Bill Clinton picked a Republican to be Secretary of Defense for the last term of office (William Cohen). Usually such appointments are made to offer an olive branch to the opposition and to garner bipartisan support for key portions of the agenda.

At least one can understand the reaction of the Tories, who got bypassed for a ministerial position in favor of Emerson. It seems rather striking that so much controversy would arise on behalf of other MPs from a cross-partisan appointment at the beginning of the term. Harper doesn't need to count seats and the motivations would appear more straightforward than with Belinda Stronach's stroll across the aisle that rescued the Martin government -- for a few more months. Martin had much more to gain by inducing Stronach to cross over, and the ministerial position appeared to be much more of a bribe for Martin's personal sake than with Emerson -- but the NDP and the Liberals choose now to become outraged by this behavior.

The sauce, in Liberal/NDP circles, is not as tasty for the gander as it was with the goose, I suppose.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 10, 2006 6:09 AM

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