No One Incident Led to Tootoo’s Resignation, Trudeau Tells Liberal MPs
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has privately told his caucus not to believe the swirling rumours about Hunter Tootoo’s resignation as fisheries minister, while refusing to provide any details to the public about what triggered the sudden departure.
The Liberals are trying to shut down speculation that Mr. Tootoo was forced to resign because of a particular incident, or that Mr. Trudeau was left with no choice but to ask him to leave cabinet.
“Hunter Tootoo has left the Liberal caucus and resigned from cabinet to seek treatment for addiction issues. This was his own choice after a very difficult situation. We will have nothing further to say on this matter,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday morning.
Shortly afterward, he told his caucus at a closed-door meeting that they should not believe allegations about a particular incident that would have caused Mr. Tootoo’s downfall.
“He said the speculation that was circulating was simply not true,” a Liberal source said.
Another Liberal source said Mr. Trudeau told caucus that “there are a lot of rumours swirling and people should not put any stock into one rumour or another.”
A close confidant denied Mr. Tootoo’s resignation was triggered by anything other than his personal decision to seek help to overcome an addiction to alcohol. “There is no story here. He just wanted to get himself well,” the source said. “He is a human being reaching a conclusion.”
The friend also said no one should read anything into the fact that Mr. Tootoo left the Liberal caucus, unlike Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan who remained a member when he went into rehab in January. The House of Commons was not in session with Mr. O’Regan entered a treatment centre.
“That was [Mr. Tootoo’s] choice. He just didn’t want to be a distraction. He is going to be gone and he didn’t want to feel the pressure to be around for votes,” the source added.
Mr. Tootoo resigned suddenly on Tuesday evening after informing Mr. Trudeau that he had lost control over his drinking and needed treatment.
Close friends of the newly elected MP from Nunavut say Mr. Tootoo’s family had seen a problem with his drinking escalating recently and were concerned. Mr. Tootoo, 53, had been drinking heavily at the Liberal convention in Winnipeg, but one friend said that “he was never stumbling, or anything like that.”
Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc has been appointed to also serve as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Politicians of all stripes offered their support to Mr. Tootoo on Wednesday.
“I’m shocked, but I simply wish him the best and that he gets the help that he needs,” said Arnold Chan, the Liberal MP for Scarborough-Agincourt.
Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, in Ottawa visiting Mr. Chan, quoted from philosopher Immanuel Kant: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
“Every government is made up exclusively of human beings, with all their noble strengths and their human frailties,” Mr. McGuinty said.
Liberal MP Greg Fergus, who represents the Hull-Aylmer riding in Quebec, said he’s praying for Mr. Tootoo’s success. “It’s a tough life, for MPs. We’ve seen it with other MPs who had to deal with different addiction problems. And I only wish him the very, very, very best,” Mr. Fergus said.
NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice said he is looking forward to Mr. Tootoo’s eventual return to Parliament Hill. “I have no idea what happened, but I hope he can come back to work as an MP and be able to work efficiently as soon as possible,” he said.
Government whip Andrew Leslie said his “heart goes out to Hunter, and I think he’s doing exactly the right thing in terms of stepping forward and seeking treatment.”
But when asked if Mr. Tootoo could eventually return to the Liberal caucus, Mr. Leslie said: “I have no further comment on the issue.”
Mr. Tootoo’s cousin, NHL player Jordin Tootoo, made a reference to his own experience battling addiction. “It takes blood, sweat and tears to stand up and ask for help from a real man,” he Tootoo said on Twitter, adding that “admitting is the first step.”