Maverick MP Garth Turner, who was booted from Conservative party ranks last fall, has found a new political home with the Liberal party.

"As an Independent, I found a freedom that did not exist with the Conservative party," Turner told a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.

However, he said he found that being an Independent had its drawbacks. For example, he couldn't sit on parliamentary committees or issue tax receipts for donors.

Turner went on to describe himself as a "Progressive Conservative my entire life," dedicated to being fiscally conservative and socially progressive.

"Today, the Liberal party is as close to my PC roots as I'm going to get," he said, explaining why he joined the Liberals.

Turner admitted he had talked with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Stephane Dion, the Liberals' new leader, praised Turner as being dedicated to both fiscal discipline and environmental issues.

"Mr. Dion is welcoming me even knowing that I was a pain," Turner joked. "Even worse, that I was a journalist."

However, he said Dion would allow him to be his own person. "So I'm thankful that a Progressive Conservative refugee like myself has found a home in this country."

The floor-crossing won't materially change the balance of power in the minority Parliament.

Turner's decision gives the Liberals 101 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives now have 125 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 51 and the New Democrats 29. There is one Independent and one vacancy.


Turner was a Conservative MP under Brian Mulroney from 1988 to 1993 and served as revenue minister in Kim Campbell's short-lived government in 1993.

In November, Turner announced that he was resigning from the Conservative party after being told he would not be permitted to seek a Tory nomination again.

The MP for Halton, Ont. has sat as an Independent since he was indefinitely suspended from the Tory caucus in October, accused of breaching party confidentiality on his blog.

Dion said Turner would be expected to uphold caucus confidentiality.

Turner had been a public dissident. Those criticisms began exactly a year ago, when Turner publicly blasted former Liberal David Emerson's defection to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first cabinet.

At the time, Turner argued on his weblog that MPs who defect to another party should have to run for re-election under their new party in a byelection.

"If you want to be a Liberal, be elected as a Liberal. All those things have honour but the honour is bestowed by the people, not by the individual."

At his news conference, Turner said, "I did not leave my party; my party left me."

A general election would likely happen in the next few months, and voters in Halton riding could pass judgment at that time, he said.

Turner also challenged Harper by saying if the prime minister called byelections for the ridings of Vancouver-Kingsway and Mississauga Streetsville -- where MPs David Emerson and Wajid Khan had been elected as Liberals before crossing to the Conservatives -- that he would happily run in one in Halton.

Turner's announcement came exactly one year after the Harper government was sworn into office after defeating the Liberals in the Jan. 23, 2006 federal election. Emerson shocked everyone when he turned up to be sworn in as a Conservative cabinet minister after being re-elected as a Liberal.

Political reaction

Peter Van Loan, an Ontario Tory MP and the government's House leader, noted on CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live that Turner had mainly voted with the government and not the Liberals while sitting as an Independent.
"I'm not sure how comfortable a home he will find," he said.

"I think he made clear his reasons for joining the Liberal Party: He wanted to raise money to fight and election, and he wanted to sit on a committee. I think those reasons speak for themselves as a motivation."

NDP MP Libby Davies, her party's house leader, said she didn't know anyone who thought of Turner as a red Tory.

"I just feel that this will feed into the cynicism that voters have about elected representatives making very opportunistic decisions for their own benefit," she said.

Turner appeared on Mike Duffy Live Tuesday with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, noting that he campaigned for her in last fall's London-North Centre byelection.

Prior to Tuesday's announcement, there had been rumours that he might even join the Greens, becoming its first MP in Parliament.

"She still loves me," he said jokingly. May described Turner as a good friend.