Ontario MP Khan leaves Liberals to join Tories

Ontario MP Wajid Khan is leaving the Liberals to join the Tories, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Friday.

Ontario MP Wajid Khan is leaving the Liberals to join the Tories, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Friday.

"I am proud to announce today that Wajid Khan, the member of Parliament for Mississauga-Streetsville, is joining our Conservative caucus," Harper told a news conference on Friday, with Khan at his side.

Wajid Khan has been acting as a special adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the Middle East and Afghanistan since August. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))
"I believe that this gesture made by Mr. Khan is a positive message for all Canadians — new Canadians as well as Canadians who have been here for a long time:In our party, there is room for all Canadians," he said.

Khan, formerly a pilot in the Pakistani military, told reporters that while "politics makes strange bedfellows … nothing about my decision to join the Conservative caucus feels strange to me.

"The best leader for Canada is the man who now has the job, Mr. Harper," he said.

As aLiberal MP, Khan has served Harper since August as a consultant on the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion had reportedly told Khan to choose his political loyalties, saying it was "bizarre" that a Liberal MP could serve as a consultant to the Conservative prime minister.

Dion posted a statement on the Liberal party website after the defection that expressed "regret" at receiving word of Khan's decision.

"I was never comfortable with Mr. Khan serving as an adviser to a Conservative Prime Minister, as Mr. Khan has done since August of last year," Dion's statement said.

Defection shifts balance of power in Parliament

Khan's move across the floor gives the Tories 125 seats, leaving the Liberals with 101. The minority government will now need the support of 29 opposition MPs — the same number the NDP has —to pass legislation in the 308-seat Parliament.

Khansaid he had called Dion to inform him of the decision and said he has received support for his decision from the president and members of his riding association.

In an interview with the CBC following the defection, riding association president Khalid Sagheer said Khan "is my friend, I support him and I will continue to support him."

Asked whether backing Khan would mean switching party memberships himself, Sagheer said "that decision will come in due course."

"I agree with him and my own personal opinion is that the Liberal party has been taking us for granted — immigrants that have worked and supported the party so much, it's been so far only a one-way street," Sagheer said.

Khan offered services to Harper in August

Harper said Dion had pushed Khan to make thedecision.

Khan "wasn't asking the Conservative Party [to join], but in the end the choice was made by Mr. Dion," Harper said. "Mr. Dion said Mr. Khan … couldn't be a true Liberal and participate positively in the government of Canada."

"When I'm given a choice … between a political party and my country, I will always choose Canada and that's why I chose the Conservative government," said Khan.

Earlier on Friday, Dion told CBC News that he was confident Khan was a loyal Liberal and that there was "no indication" a defection was coming.

Harper said "the first phase" occurred when Khan first approached him in August to collaborate with the government on Mideast issues, after police foiled an alleged Toronto bomb plot andarrested 17 Muslim suspects.

"He contacted me directly and offered to help in any way he could," Harper said. "The more we worked together, the more both of us began to realize that politically, we have an awful lot in common."

Fellow Liberals questioned allegiances

Fellow Liberal MPs at the time questioned how Khan would balance his allegiance to the party with his new role as an adviser to the prime minister, butKhan noted that he had sought approval from then Liberal leader Bill Graham to take on the job.

During his time as an adviser to the government, Khan said he felt the Liberal party seemed to be out of step with his ideas for foreign policy and family values.

Khan, 60, immigrated to Canada in 1974, emerging in Toronto as a successful businessman and a prominent voice for the Pakistani and Muslim communities. He left the Liberal caucus on Aug. 11, though he continued to sit as a Liberal.

Harper shuffled his cabinet on Thursday, moving several key ministers into new roles, and expanding the number of MPs in cabinet.

In the 2006 federal election, Khan defeated Conservative candidate Raminder Gill by 5,792 votes, taking 46 per cent of the vote.