John Duncan’s surprise resignation as minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development brings some answers — and questions.
The prime minister issued a terse press release Friday, saying Duncan had quit his cabinet post, would remain as Vancouver Island North MP and would be replaced as minister on an interim basis by James Moore.
Duncan admitted he quit because he wrote an inappropriate letter to the Tax Court on behalf of a constituent. He violated the principle that separates elected officials from the judiciary.
Duncan wrote the letter two years ago, but the federal cabinet apparently discovered it was improper only recently during an internal review that arose from rulings last month by Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson.
At least that’s the Conservatives’ story, and they’re sticking to it.
Intriguingly, Duncan is only the seventh federal cabinet minister to resign in the seven years Stephen Harper – notoriously reluctant to admit a mistake – has been PM.
Duncan holds one of only two Tory seats on Vancouver Island, another reason why his resignation came as a surprise.
He has had heart trouble in recent years, and underwent surgery two years ago, although it’s believed his health has improved lately.
That would be a good thing because the aboriginal affairs file has been stressful.
As minister, Duncan has had to promote a Harper government agenda guaranteed to rile Canada’s native people.
No matter what you think of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence or how native bands spend government funding, Duncan’s confrontation with her was a public relations black eye for him.
She became a focal point for the Idle No More movement that just won’t go away.
Duncan did the honourable thing, but his poor communication skills counted against him under the unblinking glare of national media attention.
An honourable, proud man, he can refocus on constituent work in one of the largest, farthest-flung ridings in Canada.