PMO's explanation about Tootoo "pretty lame": former Nunavut politician | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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PMO's explanation about Tootoo "pretty lame": former Nunavut politician

FILE - NDP Leader Tom Mulcair chats with candidate Jack Anawak, left, during a trail ride at the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park during a campaign stop in Iqaluit, Nunavut in a Sept. 29, 2015, file photo. The former Nunavut MP says the Liberals need to own up and explain why Hunter Tootoo is no longer a member of cabinet or caucus.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan, File
July 29, 2016 - 9:00 PM

OTTAWA - The Liberals need to own up and explain why Hunter Tootoo — billed as star candidate in the last election — is no longer a member of cabinet or caucus, a former Nunavut politician said Friday.

Jack Anawak, a former Liberal MP and the federal NDP's nominee in Nunavut in the last election, said the party lauded Tootoo during the campaign and it now has a duty to explain circumstances of his departure.

"The explanation that he decided to leave on his own is pretty lame," Anawak told The Canadian Press.

"When you're at that level, a minister in the government and not just a junior minister but a minister of a major department like Fisheries and Oceans ... you don't resign by yourself."

The Prime Minister's Office and Tootoo himself remained silent on Thursday after the Globe and Mail published a report saying sex allegations involving the former fisheries minister prompted his dismissal.

Tootoo maintains he decided to take a two-month leave of absence due to alcohol addiction and acknowledged earlier this week there are "all kinds of rumours" circulating about him.

"That's politics," Tootoo said Wednesday. "I know what I'm dealing with … I needed to seek help and that's exactly what I did."

Anawak, who represented the federal riding of Nunatsiaq for two terms beginning in 1988, said Tootoo also has to be more upfront with his constituents.

The people of Nunavut need to know why they now have an Independent MP as the territory's sole representative in the House of Commons, he said, noting he personally understands what it is like to struggle with addiction.

"Once you become an elected representative, whether it is federal, territorial or local, you're like public property and I think the people of Nunavut deserve to understand."

Anawak received rehab treatment in Toronto in 2012 after being charged with impaired driving.

"When you get into that position and you are seeking assistance, you open up and own up to whatever you may have done."

Tootoo should seriously consider if he will be a help or a hindrance to the territory, Anawak added.

Concerns have also been raised by Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern.

On Thursday, Redfern said she has been hearing "more and more" calls for Tootoo to resign. "It puts him — and it puts us — in an extremely difficult position," she said in an interview.

It is quite simple to deny allegations if they are false, she added. "What we have not heard is an absolute clear denial or him refuting the allegations."

The office of Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna declined Friday to address Tootoo's departure, but it said the territorial government maintains a good working relationship with Ottawa.

"Our access to various ministers has not changed."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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