This is all Ignatieff needs. Of course as some Liberals suggest this may just be the Harper dept. of dirty tricks hard at work trying to create problems for Ignatieff. With the polls showing that the Liberals are going nowhere but down there could be more rumblings and knives quietly being unsheathed!
Liberal trio looking to defect, Tories say
Liberal trio looking to defect, Tories say
October 06, 2009
OTTAWA–A Conservative government official said Monday there have been discussions with three Liberal MPs interested in crossing the floor to the Tory side over the past month.
Liberals immediately dismissed the talk as Conservative "mischief" and said it is the government that is on a raiding mission.
There has been speculation in the past few days that Ruby Dhalla, Liberal MP for Brampton-Springdale, has considered defecting to the Conservatives because her own party has refused to back her private member's bill to increase old-age benefits to immigrant seniors.
Conservatives would not name the trio – even suggesting Dhalla might not be "a good fit" in the caucus – but such talk will create more headaches for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, already falling in the polls and trying to put out a party fire in Quebec caused by the resignation of Denis Coderre, his lieutenant in the province.
Judy Sgro (York West), the Liberals' critic for seniors and pensions and probably Dhalla's closest ally in caucus, issued a news release Monday saying she would be voting against her friend's legislation because it went against the views of the Liberal leader and caucus on government spending.
Dhalla wasn't talking on Monday about the defection speculation or the party's refusal to back her private member's bill.
In a brief email, the Brampton-Springdale MP said only that "the rumour mill is in overdrive again. ... These people need to find a topic of discussion that doesn't include the name Ruby Dhalla."
An adviser in Ignatieff's office said the talk of Dhalla's disgruntlement is being overblown by Conservatives who would like to see her cause trouble for her leader.
And indeed, Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sent out a mass-distributed email yesterday drawing attention to the Liberals' rebuff of Dhalla's bill. "They are voting against the (private member's bill) of MP Ruby Dhalla! Their own bill!" Soudas's email said.
Conservatives wouldn't disclose the names of the three Liberal MPs they say are considering defection, but said Dhalla was not likely to be among them. They suggested Dhalla was circulating the defection rumours to send a message to her own party about its rejection of her private member's bill.
Sgro said she didn't believe Dhalla would leave the party and "throw away her future."
The Conservatives hold 143 seats in the 308-seat Commons and would need an additional 12 MPs to form a majority. While three or four Liberal MPs would only put them a little closer to that goal, it would be another blow to Ignatieff, who last week lost his Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, in a spat over nomination fights.
The Liberal leader joked on Sunday, while at the party's Quebec-wing convention, that his life these days is "a constant joy."
Jill Fairbrother, Ignatieff's communications chief, dismissed the talk of defections on Monday.
"No Liberal MP is going to work for the Stephen Harper we saw on that videotape, the one who wants to abolish the gun registry and says our courts are stacked with left-wing ideologues," said Fairbrother, a reference to a speech Harper made in September in Sault Ste. Marie at a closed-door reception with Conservative partisans.
Dhalla was one of the most staunch caucus supporters of Ignatieff's leadership, all the way back to the 2006 campaign. Bright, articulate and television-friendly, she's been seen as a rising caucus star, with aspirations of leadership herself. She ran into controversy earlier this year, however, when the Star uncovered allegations of mistreatment by two caregivers who worked for the Dhalla family.
Dhalla, who has vehemently denied that any caregivers working at her family home were mistreated, resigned her post as multiculturalism critic during the furor and waited for the dust to settle before introducing a private member's bill to increase immigrant seniors' pensions in June.
The bill proposes to reduce the 10-year residence requirement for seniors immigrating to Canada from China, India and parts of South America and Africa. Dhalla argued it was unfair for these seniors to face a 10-year rule, while others could claim benefits after three years.
But her party balked at the cost of the legislation.
"To become law, Bill C-428 will require a Royal Recommendation as it would prompt the expenditure of between $300 (million) and $700 million," Sgro said in her release. "Given the potential costs of Bill C-428, the systemic and financial implications of the measure must be evaluated in a larger context."