Canada

'I won't quit' embattled Emerson tells CBC

International Trade Minister David Emerson says he isn't going to bow to pressure and step down and face the electorate again in a byelection.

International Trade Minister David Emerson says he isn't going to bow to pressure and step down and face the electorate again in a byelection.

In his first public comments in more than two days, Emerson told CBC News in Vancouver on Friday night, "No, I'm not going to quit."

"We've got at least three, perhaps more, members of Parliament who have crossed the floor or opted to sit as an Independent. Frankly, my circumstances are not any different than those. As, and when, Parliament changes the rules to apply to all members of Parliament, I will abide by those rules," he said after getting off a flight at the Vancouver airport.

Earlier this week, when Stephen Harper was sworn in as prime minister, Emerson was named to the Conservative leader's cabinet as minister of international trade.

He defected to the party he had repeatedly denounced in the weeks leading up to election day.

Critics are accusing the Conservatives of hypocrisy for supporting Emerson's move after they condemned Belinda Stronach for defecting to the Liberals.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Friday that Emerson's situation is different.

"It's one that took place in close proximity to the election. Unlike a previous situation where we saw an individual essentially salvage a government in exchange for a vote, receiving a cabinet post. I don't think anyone could attribute the same nefarious motives here."

Meanwhile, the NDP is asking the federal ethics commissioner, Bernard Shapiro, to investigate whether Harper breached any rules by offering Emerson a cabinet seat in exchange for crossing the floor.

"I think there's an appearance here that there was a reward that was offered for him crossing the floor and I think that's why Mr. Shapiro, our ethics commissioner, needs to conduct an inquiry into exactly what happened," said NDP MP Peter Julian, who wrote to the commissioner.

Emerson has said he was approached by the Tories and offered the cabinet job.

Meanwhile, Ontario Conservative MP Garth Turner said he is feeling the heat from his own party after speaking out against Emerson's defection to the Tories.

Turner is sticking by comments he made during the election campaign, that anyone who crosses the floor should step down and run in a byelection.

But he said his outspoken position on the subject has not been well received by his party.

"I think my talking about the need for members of parliament, in particular members of government to be elected as party representatives was not viewed as being helpful," Turner said.

He said he was called to a meeting with the prime minister Thursday. He won't say what the tone of the meeting was like, but he expects to face party discipline for speaking out.

Turner wrote in his blog that his new Ottawa office will be a "renovated washroom somewhere in a forgotten corner of a vermin-infested dank basement."

"That should go well with my seat in the House of Commons that will be visible only during lunar eclipses."