Opposition targets Emerson, Fortier appointments

Opposition leader Bill Graham says he's concerned by a number of Conservative cabinet appointments, including unelected minister Michael Fortier and former Liberal David Emerson.

Opposition Leader Bill Graham says he's concerned by a number of Conservative cabinet appointments, including unelected minister Michael Fortier and former Liberal David Emerson.

Graham, who has taken over parliamentary duties from Liberal leader Paul Martin, spoke Monday after Stephen Harper was sworn in as the country's 22nd prime minister.

The Opposition leader criticized Harper for appointing Montreal businessman Fortier as public works minister, even though he did not run in the federal election.

"Mr. Harper ran a campaign which emphasized accountability and ethical behaviour by Canadians and by parliamentarians," said Graham.

Harper said he would make Fortier a senator until the next election, when he would resign and run as an MP.

But Graham said Fortier would be responsible for billions of dollars in public spending and should answer to voters by sitting in the House of Commons.

NDP Leader Jack Layton also objected to Fortier's appointment because he was unelected and won't be available for questioning in the House.

"That's got to be regarded with some concern," Layton said at a separate news conference.

Harper called hypocrite for appointing floor-crosser

The Liberals and New Democrats also took aim at the appointment of former Liberal cabinet minister David Emerson, whose defection to the Tories became public on Monday when he arrived at the swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall.

Graham condemned Harper as a hypocrite for appointing Emerson to cabinet after criticizing Martin for giving Belinda Stronach a cabinet post when she crossed the floor in 2005.

"I was in the House of Commons when Mr. Harper vigorously criticized Mr. Martin for including Ms. Stronach in the cabinet," Graham said.

"And now, before he has even been appointed prime minister of Canada, he's already negotiated to have someone come over to his cabinet from the other side."

Graham said no Liberals knew Emerson was planning to cross the floor and learned of the defection Monday morning.

Layton, whose party holds 29 seats, said Emerson should resign and run in a byelection as a Conservative. He accused the former Liberal of turning his back on the people who voted for him.

Layton said the NDP had put forward legislation in the House that would have prevented MPs from crossing the floor by requiring them to sit as Independents and face re-election before they could join another party.

"If someone wanted to switch parties, they would have to go back to their voters – otherwise there's a feeling of deception."