Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has resigned his high-profile post after he left secret cabinet documents at the home of his girlfriend, a woman with past links to organized crime.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who for weeks denied that Bernier’s love life was a security risk, last night announced he had accepted Bernier’s resignation.
Still, Harper told a Parliament Hill news conference that Bernier’s relationship with Julie Couillard — and her ties to biker gangs — were not a factor in his exit from cabinet.
“This is not to do with the minister’s private life or the life of a private citizen.”
But Bernier’s departure came just a few hours before Couillard was about to go to air on the French-language television station TVA to say that her former lover was careless with classified documents.
Bernier, who attracted the moniker “Mad Max” in government circles, himself said he “became aware” Sunday night that he had left 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,” Bernier, 45, said in his resignation letter.
Couillard’s lawyer notified the Foreign Affairs department about the documents on the weekend, and the material was returned.
But opposition MPs last night were demanding an investigation into the extent of security breaches committed by Bernier, calls that will continue in question period today.
“What are the details of this security breach?” Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale said. “What was involved? Was Canada put at risk? I think we need to know the details of exactly what transpired here.”
Harper, whose government was sent reeling over “NAFTA-gate” earlier this year — the leaks of sensitive diplomatic information that upset the U.S. presidential election — last night made clear his unhappiness at this latest security breach.
“This is about one thing and that is a failure to uphold expected standards on government documents,” Harper said in the Commons’ foyer, shortly before leaving Ottawa on a European trip.
“It is a very serious mistake — regardless of who the minister is, regardless of personal life,” Harper told reporters.