Skip to comments.Stronach defects to Liberals
Posted on 05/17/2005 1:06:34 PM PDT by Clive
OTTAWA (CP) - The defeat of the Paul Martin government became less likely with the stunning defection of a high-profile Tory MP into the Liberal cabinet on Tuesday.
Martin sat beside a smiling Belinda Stronach at a surprise news conference and introduced her as his new human resources minister. The prime minister also said she will be in charge of implementing clean-government measures after the sponsorship inquiry reports.
Stronach's departure is a blow to the Tories on several levels - starting with a confidence vote Thursday in the House of Commons.
The government can now likely survive with the support of just two Independent MPs, instead of all three.
There was laughter at a news conference when the prime minister said the move wasn't about guaranteeing him victory Thursday.
"I've got to tell you, I can count," Martin said to snickers.
"The significance is that on Thursday, members of Parliament will stand and will be counted in the most-watched vote of the last 25 years."
If the Liberals were hoping to weaken their rivals on the eve of the crucial vote, they couldn't have scripted a more dramatic defection.
In one fell swoop the new Conservative party lost one of its founding figures, its trade critic, its loudest left-leaning voice, a leadership aspirant, a young, female Ontario MP with personal ties to the party's deputy leader Peter MacKay.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper sounded less than enthusiastic about his chances of toppling the Liberal government.
"Obviously, Belinda's actions today make the defeat of the government on Thursday much less likely," Harper said.
"But it doesn't in any way change the principled position that our caucus has taken on this issue."
Stronach let it be known for weeks that she was unhappy with the Tory leader's decision to seek an election.
She said the Tories should have delayed an election until the party had grown in Quebec. The separatist Bloc Quebecois is currently poised to sweep the province.
"I find myself at a crossroads forced on me by the decision of the leader of the Conservative party to try to force the defeat of this government," she said.
"I've been uncomfortable for some time with the direction the leader of the Conservative party has been taking."
Stronach voiced those disaffections last week when she met former Ontario Liberal premier David Peterson at a public event in Toronto.
Peterson promptly called Tim Murphy, a former Ontario Liberal MPP and now the No. 1 official in the Prime Minister's Office.
By Monday evening, Stronach and Martin were working out a deal over dinner at 24 Sussex Drive.
After that meeting, she called MacKay, to whom she had been romantically linked, and told him what had happened.
MacKay was gobsmacked, said one of his confidants. He picked up the phone and broke the news to Harper on Tuesday morning.
Harper said some members feel "devastated" and "betrayed," but added he is "relieved that we've at least gone through this before an election."
"There's no grand principle involved in this decision, just ambition," he said.
"I told my wife only a few days ago that I thought it had become obvious to Belinda that her leadership ambitions would not be reached in this party regardless of whether or not we won the next election."
Two weeks ago, Stronach warned that defeating the federal budget in the confidence vote might be a bad move that could backfire on the Conservatives.
She said critical portions of the budget - particularly the billions promised for municipal infrastructure - were extremely important to individuals in her riding north of Toronto and other constituencies in the area.
One of her aides hinted at the time that she might not oppose the Liberals in a confidence vote.
A sketch of Belinda Stronach, who defected Tuesday from the Conservatives to take a cabinet post with Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberals:
Age: 39; born May 5, 1966.
Family: Father is one-time Liberal candidate Frank Stronach, who founded multibillion-dollar Magna International auto parts; raised in Aurora, Ont.; twice divorced; two children from first marriage, to a Magna executive; second marriage to Norwegian Olympic speedskater; linked romantically to deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay for the past few months.
Education: One year at York University in Toronto.
Private career: Former CEO of Magna International, the auto parts giant her father founded. National Post named her most powerful businesswoman in Canada in 2001; Fortune magazine ranked her No. 2 in its 2002 list of world's most powerful women in business.
Last private-sector salary: $12 million.
Base salary as an MP: $141,000.
Politics: Helped push Tory-Alliance merger, then ran second to Stephen Harper in March 2004 Conservative leadership contest; first elected to House of Commons in June 2004 federal election in sprawling well-to-do riding north of Toronto; appointed Tory international trade critic.
Riding: Newmarket-Aurora, Ont.
Policies: Supports lower taxes, leaner government; opposed to decriminalization of marijuana; supports gay marriage.
Languages: English, German.
Profile: Attracted attention of Time Magazine and U.S.-based Fox News in 2004 election campaign. Fox sought her out for personal meeting and hers was only riding Fox visited.
Quote: "I'm my own person; I make my own decisions." - in an interview with The Canadian Press last year.
Some quotes on Tuesday's surprise defection of Tory MP Belinda Stronach to the Liberal party:
-"She believes it would be wrong for the country if the Conservative party combines with the Bloc to kill this budget and force an early election. And she's doing something about it. That's gutsy." - Prime Minister Paul Martin.
-"I regret to say that I do not believe the party leader is truly sensitive to the needs of each part of the country and just how big and complex Canada really is." - Belinda Stronach on Tory Leader Stephen Harper.
-"There's no grand principle involved in this decision, just ambition . . . I told my wife only a few days ago that I thought it had become obvious to Belinda that her leadership ambitions would not be reached in this party regardless of whether or not we won the next election." - Stephen Harper.
-"This is just another action, another moment, that breeds cynicism of electors." - New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord.
-"I believe that Belinda Stronach has done the right thing. I believe she's done the right thing for Canada." - Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert.
-"She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick, with what she's done here today. She is, at the end of the day, going to paint herself as something of a joke." - Ontario Conservative Bob Runciman.
-"I can confirm for you that I will no longer be campaigning for Miss Stronach." - John Tory, Ontario Conservative leader.
Canada's answer to McCain.
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, perhaps... considering that Daddy had all the money needed, why did she end up at York instead of Queens or a nice undergrad college at UT?
An example of where a RINO -- in this case a CINO or TINO, if I may -- does more harm through betrayal than the benefit she would ever provide as an extra vote.
Notice no mention of Clinton in the story?
Gee, what a loss.
Can her constituents recall her?
Well, if the liberals survive this vote, I know one hooker who'll be paid, big time.
Must've been the sagging man-teats that swayed her.
Somebody tell Clinton to wear a bra when he's out in public. That's gross.
She merely continues to be a political opportunist.
You called that one right. Canada's answer to John McCain.!! Squishy is the word that comes to mind. No REAL principles. Just opportunities right?
Yes they can and they should!! She wasn't elected by her riding to be a Liberal representative. She needs to get the boot.
No they can't. No recall. Some people voted for her because she was the Conservative candidate, some voted for her because of her stand on issues, some voted for her because she is Belinda Stronach. Until you spend time in Aurora, you can't realize what weight that last motive carries.
So now she's a big L and not just a small l. No self-respecting conservative would hang out with Clinton if they didn't have to. Come to think of it, no self-respecting female would go near Clinton.
Billy would be proud.
No need- we'll be having an election by the end of the year anyway. Next month is still a possibility, depending on how Kilgour votes.
I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when that deal went down. Her billionaire daddy has long been a card-carrying Liberal and he owes much of his fortune to corporate welfare, and she was just put in charge of a department that doles out lots of it and was the focus of a billion-dollar scandal a couple of years back.
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