Canada government pressured as MP quits, defense minister grumbles

Thu Jun 6, 2013 9:52am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, June 6 (Reuters) - A legislator from Canada's ruling Conservatives has quit unexpectedly and accused the government of being secretive and overly controlling, boosting pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper as he tries to contain a scandal over expenses.

And Defense Minister Peter MacKay, who is potentially one of Harper's biggest rivals, suggested he also might quit if the party adopted new rules for electing a leader that would crush his chances of taking over one day.

The Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons and the next election is not scheduled until October 2015. But a growing number of legislators are unhappy with both the scandal and what they see as excessive control from Harper's office.

Harper has been on the defensive since last month, when news broke that his chief of staff had given a large check to help a member of the Senate repay expenses he had improperly claimed.

Brent Rathgeber, a member of Parliament from the Conservatives' western stronghold of Alberta, resigned from the caucus late on Wednesday night.

"My decision to resign from the (Conservative) caucus is because of the government's lack of commitment to transparency and open government," Rathgeber said on Twitter.

His accusations were a clear swipe at Harper, who took power in 2006 on a promise to boost accountability after a series of scandals helped bring down the previous Liberal government.

Rathgeber's departure from the caucus cuts the Conservatives' majority in the House of Commons to eight. Another six or seven legislators are known to be unhappy with Harper, who could be in danger if the rebels abstained from key votes.   Continued...