At 7pm this evening, the Prime Minister announced that he received an offer of resignation of Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier this afternoon and accepted it. Bernier informed the Prime Minister that he had been careless in keeping classified documents secure while he was in a relationship with Julie Couillard. The Prime Minister has emphasized that the personal relationship of Mr. Bernier wasn’t the business of the state – or of the public.
Indeed, close relations of cabinet ministers including spouses, other romantic interests or family are neither cleared for such information (rated at Top Secret or even TS:SA), and they are not vetted by those that protect the government. Essentially, keeping of department and state secrets is the role of each and every minister and Bernier has admitted an inexcusable lapse in judgment regarding the security of classified information.
The Prime Minister is to board a Challenger jet within the hour for an extended multinational European trip and the settling of this business was urgent prior to his departure. Ms. Couilliard’s interview this evening with French-language network TVA would have heightened the opposition’s tone to fever pitch and it’s no secret that all three opposition parties were to focus on asking for Mr. Bernier’s resignation over the next week and up until Parliament rises for the summer break. In resolving this matter, the government gets somewhat of a reprieve from a scandal-obsessed opposition, still hungry despite recent setbacks in their narrative as the RCMP cited no evidence in the Cadman affair and the recent absolution of the Prime Minister’s outgoing chief Ian Brodie in the NAFTA-related leak which now seems to be refocused on the Canadian embassy and consulates in the US rather than upon PMO. By clearing the deck of the Bernier issue, the Prime Minister’s office will construct a narrative of promptly dealing with issues of substance and holding the line on fabrications from the opposition.
The opposition gets a trophy today in Bernier’s resignation. The context of failed fishing trips by the Liberals will be sadly neglected by the Press Gallery; the vicious mood among a number of scribes in this town is not that Cadman and Brodie were simply fish tales, but rather the ones that got away.
Today was a bad day for Conservatives, but it represents an opportunity for the government move forward on its agenda without this distraction.
UPDATE: Here is Maxime Bernier’s letter of resignation.
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Room 313-S, Centre Block
This is to inform you that I am resigning my post as Minister of Foreign Affairs, effective immediately.
I informed you late this afternoon that last night I became aware that I had left behind classified government documents at a private residence.
Prime Minister, the security breach that occurred was my fault and my fault alone and I take full responsibility for my actions.
I have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to conduct a thorough review of the situation.
Thank you for the trust you have shown in me. I will do everything I can to serve the government well in my capacity as Member of Parliament.