Vancouver Liberals want Emerson to repay $97,000

David Emerson's riding association is asking him to repay close to $97,000 in campaign donations after he left the Liberals for the Conservatives.

The Liberal riding association in Vancouver Kingsway wants David Emerson, who left the Liberals for a Conservative cabinet job two weeks after the federal election, to repay almost $97,000 in campaign donations.

Within days of winning the riding for the Liberals in the Jan. 23 vote, Emerson defected to the Conservatives and was offered a cabinet post in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government.

The new international trade minister, who reacted angrily to the request in a newspaper interview Tuesday night, maintains he ran his constituency office on a non-partisan basis and that he moved to the Tories to serve his constituents better.

In a letter to Emerson, the president of his local Liberal riding association says people who donated to the campaign wanted to elect a Liberal, not a Conservative.

Ivan Curman is also demanding that the MP resign and run in a byelection in Vancouver Kingsway.

In an interview with the Vancouver Province, Emerson said his two children, age 12 and 14, were being treated with hostility at school because of his defection.

He said he had raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Liberals while he was an MP, and that he felt like a "cash cow" for the party. Liberal attacks on his defection are a sign of "deep sickness," he told the paper.

Emerson easily won the riding by a margin of 4,592 votes, garnering about 44 per cent of the total ballots cast. The NDP candidate came in second, followed by the Conservative candidate.

Harper defended the appointment of the former Liberal industry minister, saying that he had long admired his work and that Emerson is committed to public service.