Quebec Liberal MP Jean Lapierre will quit by month's end

Quebec Liberal MP Jean Lapierre announced Thursday he will resign from the federal caucus by the end of the month, reducing the party's seats in Parliament to 100.

Quebec Liberal MP Jean Lapierre said Thursday hewill resign from the federal caucus by the end of the month, reducing the party's seats in Parliament to 100.

The MP for the Montreal riding of Outremont had previously said he would not run again in the next election in orderto join the TVA television network, where he will co-host a weekly show on politics with reporter Paul Larocque.

His departure, announced days after Toronto-area MP Wajid Khan defected from the Liberals to the Conservative party, will give the Tories a two-seat cushion if they can strike a deal with the NDP to pass legislation.

"It's over," Lapierretold the Canadian Press. "I had promised Paul Martin to come back and work with him, but now I'm done."

In 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin persuaded Lapierre, 50, to return to politics after he had been back in private life for more than a decade.

ButLapierre said the sponsorship inquiry, headed by Justice John Gomery, had a huge impact on the Liberal party that made it difficult to be a LiberalMP.

"Paul Martin became prime minister and then got hit by a big truck called Gomery. After that, it was very difficult. People didn't trust any more politicians in general and Liberals in particular. In those murky waters, it was difficult for anyone to swim and stay afloat."

Dion expected Lapierre's exit

In Edmonton, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion paid tribute to Lapierre and said the announcement was not unexpected.

"I wish him best of luck in his next career," Diontoldreportersfollowing a round table discussion on energy and environmental sustainability.

"He announced this months ago, that he wanted to go back to his profession."

With Lapierre's exit, the 308-seat House of Commons will have 125 Conservatives, 100 Liberals, 51 Bloc Québécois, 29 NDP, two Independents and one vacancy.

Speaker Peter Milliken is a Liberal and votes only in the event of a tie.

It's been rumoured that Justin Trudeau, son of former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau, could run for the Liberals in the Outremont riding.

"Mr. Trudeau is certainly a great person of interest," Dion said, but added he was"very impressed by the qualities" ofall candidates who have expressed interest in running.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking Thursday during a stop at a Toronto children's hospital, said he didn't want to comment on the departure but wished Lapierre well.

"I watch the exits from the Liberal party with interest," he said. "Beyond that I don’t have much comment."

'A place for everyone'

Later on Thursday, however, Harper announced that Liberal party insider Mark Persaud has defected to the Conservative party. Persaud, former chair of the Liberal standing committee on multiculturalism, has indicated he wants to work with Tories. He was chair until 2005.

"We are pleased to welcome all of you on board," Harper said. "There is a place for everyone in the new Conservative Party of Canada."

Persaud, a lawyer, is president of the Canadian International Peace Project, an organizationthat works onlocal and international projectsthat promotepeace and security.

Harper spoke at a news conference in Mississauga, Ont.,where he officially welcomed Khan into the Conservative party. Khan represents the riding of Mississauga-Streetsville.

Khan, who crossed the floor last week, said his decision was made easier by Dion.

"He has no coherent foreign policy, no interest in family values, no interest in helping new Canadians," he said.

Dion said the charges were "too ridiculous"to give a reponse.

"I don't feel that I lost a Liberal," he said.

Harper said Khanwill travel to central Asia on his next assignment as special adviser to the prime minister on the Middle East. He is expected to meet with diplomats and aid workers.