NDP MP defects to Liberal party

MP Rick Laliberte, who represents the riding of Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan, has defected from the NDP to the Liberal party.

He says his defection should send a message to the NDP.

"It's a wake-up call that they can't make government," he said Wednesday. "To be in a government is a crucial instrument to making change."

But at least one senior New Democrat doesn't think much of Laliberte's move.

Lorne Nystrom told the CBC the Liberals "are really political vultures. They'll sweep down and pick up anybody for their own ends. They prey on people who are weak and vulnerable."

Nystrom says he doesn't think any more members of the NDP caucus will leave. He says Laliberte, who was first elected in 1997, wasn't a longtime member of the party.

Laliberte, 41, ran in the 1993 federal election as an independent.

Laliberte, of aboriginal descent, said he hopes to be better able to influence policy in favour of the North, especially for native people.

"I may play on the Liberal hockey team but I'm still a left-winger," he said.

He said the Liberal party had been trying to recruit him since the last election.

It's been a good month for the Liberals. Two Progressive Conservative MPs crossed the floor to join them earlier this month.

The latest change boosts Liberal numbers to 160 members in the 301-seat House of Commons.

The Canadian Alliance has 58 MPs, the Bloc Quebecois has 44, the New Democrats now have 19 and there are 15 Conservatives.

There are five people sitting in the House as independents.