Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 31, 2016 - 7:52 pm

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo leaves cabinet, Liberal caucus

PM Trudeau says Tootoo “will be taking time to seek treatment for addiction issues"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Carried to victory by the Liberal red wave across Canada, Liberal Hunter Tootoo celebrates with supporters on election night, Oct. 21, 2015, at gathering in the Iqaluit Elk's Lodge. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Carried to victory by the Liberal red wave across Canada, Liberal Hunter Tootoo celebrates with supporters on election night, Oct. 21, 2015, at gathering in the Iqaluit Elk's Lodge. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
As federal minister for Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo, shown here in the Nunatsiaq News'  Iqaluit office in March, oversaw a budget last year of $1.9 billion, 10,000 employees and 350 office locations across the country. Tootoo was in charge of many files, from approving marine harvesting quotas to supporting overseas trade in fish products and funding for Coast Guard infrastructure. (FILE PHOTO)
As federal minister for Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo, shown here in the Nunatsiaq News' Iqaluit office in March, oversaw a budget last year of $1.9 billion, 10,000 employees and 350 office locations across the country. Tootoo was in charge of many files, from approving marine harvesting quotas to supporting overseas trade in fish products and funding for Coast Guard infrastructure. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated, June 1 10:45 a.m.)

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo is no longer the minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and will seek addictions treatment, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said May 31 in a terse statement.

“Effective immediately, the Honourable Hunter Tootoo has resigned from his position as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard,” Trudeau’s statement said.

Trudeau said Tootoo, 52, will also leave the Liberal caucus.

Trudeau said Tootoo, who was elected as MP for Nunavut in October 2015 with 47.2 per cent of votes cast, will take “time to seek treatment for addiction issues.”

In an Ottawa briefing to reporters June 1 before the weekly Liberal caucus meeting, Trudeau said that “this is his [Tootoo’s] own choice after a very difficult situation, we will have nothing further to say on this matter.”

The Liberal Government House Leader, Dominic Leblanc, takes over Tootoo’s job as minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard later this evening, Trudeau’s statement said.

Tootoo, a former Nunavut MLA for Iqaluit Centre, Speaker of the Nunavut legislature, and Nunavut cabinet minister,  in a statement asked for privacy and said he is stepping down as a Liberal caucus member “in order to not distract from the important work of my colleagues.”

Stepping down as a Liberal caucus member means that Tootoo would sit as an independent MP unless he is readmitted to the Liberal caucus.

Generally, MPs who leave their party caucus do voluntarily to cross the floor to join another party, although earlier this year, Trudeau asked two Liberal MPs to leave the caucus over alleged personal misconduct.

In 2012, Romeo Saganash, the New Democratic Party MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, said he wanted to take time off to deal with what he described as an alcohol-dependence problem.

Reaction to news about Tootoo’s resignation started to surface from politicians and Nunavut residents online late May 31. In a tweet, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said “My heart goes out to @HunterTootoo. Get well soon and come back. Stepping back was the brave thing to do.”

An Iqaluit resident said in a Facebook posting that “admitting you have a problem is hard, admitting it to the whole country must be extremely difficult. All the best to our MP on this healing journey.”

(More to follow)

With files from Jim Bell and Jane George

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