Dion's foreign policy concerned Khan
|Liberal no more: Tory MP Wajid Khan.
[PoliticsWatch updated 1:15 p.m. January 5, 2007]
OTTAWA — Stephane Dion's surprise Liberal convention victory last month appeared to excite Liberals and unite the party.
But PoliticsWatch has learned that Dion's victory troubled
Wajid Khan, the former Liberal MP who jumped ship and appeared at a press conference with Prime Minister
Stephen Harper to announce his floor-crossing on Friday morning.
The Toronto-area MP, who was a fighter pilot in the Pakistani air force before coming to Canada, had spent the last few months working on the side as a special advisor to Harper on the Mideast and Afghanistan. A
role many Liberals and Dion were not comfortable with.
Liberal insiders tell PoliticsWatch that in the days following Dion's convention upset, Khan expressed concern to other MPs about Dion's knowledge -- or lack
thereof -- on foreign affairs and was particularly concerned about his position on Afghanistan.
Dion voted against extending the mission earlier this year.
However, even though he had been working with the PM on the Mideast for nearly four months, Khan tried his best to keep his concerns within the party and influence Dion on foreign policy and the findings of the report he worked on for the PMO.
Sources say Khan lobbied other Liberal MPs to speak to Dion and wanted Liberal MP
Michael Ignatieff, who voted in favour of extending the Afghanistan mission, to
intervene and make his concerns known to the new Liberal leader.
At the same time Khan was talking to his colleagues, the British
foreign secretary was in Ottawa ridiculing Dion's call for Canada to
withdraw from Afghanistan "with honour," suggesting Dion
should "get real" about terrorism.
Coincidentally, Khan used similar language when he read a statement
about his decision with Harper standing by his side in the Foyer of
the House of Commons Friday morning. Khan said the Tory government's
"assertive, realistic approach to foreign policy" was one
of the factors in his decision.
Both Khan and the prime minister put a positive spin on the
defection, with the PM emphasizing it illustrated the party's
ability to reach out to all Canadians and Khan explaining his
admiration for Harper's leadership abilities.
But Khan appeared somewhat less positive when PoliticsWatch asked
him what he thought about Dion's foreign policy, in particular
"Could you tell me a little bit more about Mr. Dion's foreign policy because I haven't heard anything from him?"
Khan said in response.
"All I know is that he did say that he will not support the Bloc Québécois's stance on Afghanistan and at the same time, I was disappointed that he has gone public on the issue of not letting me do exactly the patriotic thing that I was planning on doing in Afghanistan."
Khan, who until he started working for Harper was the associate
defence critic for the Liberals, also revealed that he offered to
help Dion on the Afghanistan file "and I never got a call back."
On Friday, Khan returned the favour by cancelling a meeting
scheduled later in the afternoon with Dion where the two men were to
discuss his role with the PMO among other things.
Khan said the meeting became pointless after Dion issued a very
public ultimatum to the MP during a news conference on Thursday
before speaking privately with him on the issue.
"He said, 'The ride is over, either you choose between a special advisor or come back to the Liberal
Party' and I think our commitments overseas are of far greater importance to me and therefore I wasn't left any choice."
Dion issued a statement on Friday repeating his discomfort with
Khan's role with the PMO.
"As leader of the party, I felt it imperative that he decide to which party he would ultimately be
loyal," Dion stated. "Mr. Khan has now made that decision."
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