By DARREN YOURK
Globe and Mail Update
Federal Transport Minister Tony Valeri spoke out on his dispute with Sheila Copps Thursday, insisting that he is not pushing the former deputy prime minister and Liberal cabinet member out of the Hamilton East she has held for almost two decades.
A recent riding redistribution, under which a chunk of Mr. Valeri's his old Stoney Creek riding has been added to Ms. Copps's former Hamilton East riding, has set the stage for the two Liberals to square off in a party nomination contest.
"I don't get up in the morning and relish the fact that I'm in a nomination race," Mr. Valeri told reporters Thursday. "I would much prefer it not happen, but it has happened as a result of redistribution. I can't deny the reality of that."
Despite regretting how the situation has played out, Mr. Valeri said he has no intention of stepping aside for Ms. Copps. He says the constituents will ultimately decide who they want to represent them in Parliament.
"There's no issue of entitlement here. I'm not 'entitled' to run in that riding, and neither is anyone else," he said. "...I am merely going out and asking people whether they think I should continue to represent them. If they decide to support someone else I'll accept that. I have no problem accepting that."
Ms. Copps has refused to rule out a jump to the New Democratic party, an idea that gained some momentum after NDP leader Jack Layton phoned Ms. Copps Wednesday night to talk about the riding dispute.
"I want to leave all my options open," Ms. Copps told CBC Newsworld on Thursday. "I never thought I'd see the day that I'd say this ... my heart is with my party ... but if my party can't run a fair and open process, then I will look at other options."
Mr. Layton also managed to wedge himself further into the Liberal dispute Thursday.
At a morning press conference he continued his push to entice disgruntled politicians of all stripes to join his New Democratic Party on Thursday, saying conservative forces in the Liberal government have embarked on a power grab that will crush anyone who gets in its way.
"I want to throw the doors of the NDP wide open to progressives all over Canada; people who believe that Paul Martin's conservative choices are taking the Liberal party and Canada in the wrong direction,” the NDP Leader said. “It's a corporate drift away from Canadian values."
Mr. Layton suggested that Mr. Martin should have asked Mr. Valeri not to run against a long-standing member. The Prime Minister has steered clear of such a move, calling the battle a "local matter."
"She's being pushed out of her seat by the Paul Martin forces," Mr. Layton said. "I just thought it was disgusting, and I just wanted to call and commiserate with her."
While a formal offer to join the NDP was not made, Mr. Layton said he wants to stay in touch with Ms. Copps.
"I did say that I thought Liberals like Sheila belonged with us in these times where Paul Martin has made the Liberal party the new conservative party," Mr. Layton said. "They've been abandoned. This is not the same Liberal Party. There has been a takeover."
Mr. Layton has also tried to woo veteran Toronto Liberal MP Charles Caccia, who is likely to lose his nomination battle.
But Mr. Caccia, who backed Ms. Copps during the leadership race, turned down the NDP offer and has said he will consider running as an independent.
With reports from Kim Lunman and Campbell Clark
Originally posted by KickIT
If Layton is going after all these Liberals, then is he not trying to bring the NDP further right to take up the centrist position?