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The sponsorship scandal plaguing the Liberal government appears to be costing more than percentage points in public opinion polls.

John Bryden announced Tuesday that he is leaving the party after more than a decade in Parliament.

"I've been holding off these past number of weeks as I've watched things happen here in Ottawa, and I've been very disturbed," Mr. Bryden told a Calgary radio talk show Tuesday.

"I can't be in the Liberal caucus under the circumstances because, basically, what I've said is I've lost confidence in the prime minister and I've lost confidence in the Liberal party."

The MP for the southern Ontario riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot released a one-line statement Tuesday morning that read "Liberal MP Bryden quits party. Looks to the Conservatives."

William Stairs, a spokesman for the Conservative Party, told that Mr. Bryden has not contacted the party about joining, but he is more than welcome to do so.

"He's a big fan of opening up access to information and has been a big critic of his government," Mr. Stairs said. "All I can assume is that what he is seeing and what he is hearing in his party he doesn't like.

"I think the Liberals' chickens are starting to come home to roost."

Mr. Bryden is an associate member of the Commons public accounts committee which is reviewing the Auditor-General's report on the sponsorship scandal.

John Williams, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, told CBC Newsworld he believes the scandal is the reason Mr. Bryden is leaving.

"I knew that John was quite uncomfortable with the Liberal Party," Mr. Williams said. "He's obviously decided that enough is enough and it is time to pack his bags and get going."

"I think John may be the first of many."

Mr. Bryden has called a news conference for Tuesday afternoon to discuss his decision.

He was first elected to House of Commons in October, 1993, and re-elected in 1997 and 2000.

Mr. Bryden served on the standing committees for Citizenship and Immigration, Government Operations, Industry, Indians Affairs and Public Accounts.

Before entering politics, Mr. Bryden worked in the newspaper industry.

He was a reporter, police reporter, art critic, features writer, Burlington bureau chief, city editor at The Hamilton Spectator from 1969-1977. He also worked at both The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

With a report from Canadian Press

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