British Columbia

Emerson 'flabbergasted' by reaction to defection

Conservative cabinet minister David Emerson says he's surprised by the reaction he has received to his decision to join the Stephen Harper cabinet.

Conservative cabinet minister David Emerson says he's surprised by the reaction he has received to his decision to join the Stephen Harper cabinet.

Emerson was elected as a Liberal on Jan. 23 in the riding of Vancouver-Kingsway but was sworn in as a Conservative cabinet minister earlier this week. Some voters in his riding and Liberal riding association officials are angry that he crossed the floor.


Protester in front of MP David Emerson's
constituency office in Vancouver-Kingsway.
Since then, there have been calls for a byelection and demands by the riding association that he return nearly $100,000 in campaign funds. 

But in a telephone news conference late Wednesday, Emerson scoffed at the demand calling it a "pathetic distortion" – saying he brought a "substantial financial contribution" to the Liberals.

"I think these people ought to give their heads a shake and ask themselves how much of that money would even have come to the Liberal party if I hadn't been there," said the newly minted Conservative.

Pablo Coffey, a voter in the riding who showed up at Emerson's constituency office to protest the defection, said Emerson should see if his constituents back his defection.

"If he had the courage to run in a byelection, he wouldn't receive 500 votes. He would be destroyed in this riding."

The Conservatives last won the riding in 1958, and the Tory candidate got less than 20 per cent of the vote on Jan. 23, compared with 43.5 per cent for Emerson and 34 per cent for the NDP candidate

Emerson says he expected there would be critics, but adds he's surprised by the level of animosity directed at him and his family since his decision to join the Conservatives.

"I've been flabbergasted to say the least about the way people treat each other in politics."

Emerson says it is possible he misjudged the level of loyalty expected in politics. But he continues to insist he can do more for his constituents from the government side of the house than from the opposition benches.

Emerson says he plans to stay on with his new party and plans to run as Conservative in the next election.


David Emerson in 2004. (CP Photo/
Andrew Vaughan)
He bristled at the suggestion that his defection showed a lack of respect for the voters and his campaign team in Vancouver-Kingsway. 

"If you want to call it arrogance, go ahead, fill the newspaper with it. I don't really care. I am pursuing the very agenda that I got involved to pursue when I was in the Liberal Party supporting Paul Martin. I'm continuing to pursue it. So if that's arrogant to you, then so be it."

Emerson says he hasn't spoken with Martin since his decision to cross the floor.

Emerson opposed Liberal softwood deal

Emerson, formerly the Liberal industry minister, objected to a deal to settle the softwood dispute that the former government was close to disclosing, the Toronto Star reported.

He told the newspaper that he opposed the deal in cabinet because it wasn't good enough.

While Canada maintained that it had won international trade rulings giving the Canadian industry a complete victory, he says the Liberals were prepared to settle for less.

And while publicly rejecting the U.S. call for more negotiations, Ottawa was in fact close to reaching a backroom deal that would have allowed the U.S. to keep some of the tariffs it had collected on Canadian lumber and limit Canadian access to the U.S. market, the newspaper said.