Natural Resources minister staying despite nuclear file slip

Wed Jun 3, 2009 4:58pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused the resignation of Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt on Wednesday after a binder containing confidential nuclear documents was left in a television studio.

The documents were left in a CTV studio after a visit by Raitt and at least one other official. CTV said it had kept the documents for six days to see if anybody would try to retrieve them, and no one did.

"This is a serious matter. Clear procedures were not followed in this case. Corrective action has been taken," Raitt told Parliament in a question period dominated by the issue.

"I offered to resign if the prime minister felt it necessary. He did not accept it. The person responsible for handling the documents offered their resignation, and I did accept it."

Government officials would not name the political attache who had accompanied Raitt to the television studio.

The opposition said the incident showed incompetence on the part of the minority Conservative government, already under fire for its handling of the economic crisis.

"The issue here is an issue of competence, and not just competence in relation to this minister but competence in relation to the whole government," said Michael Ignatieff, leader of the main opposition Liberal Party.

A Liberal colleague was heard muttering, during the exchange between Ignatieff and Raitt, that the government was making a scapegoat of the political aide.

Ignatieff said on Tuesday he would likely decide next week whether to try to bring down the government. The Conservatives won the October election a strengthened minority, but still need the support of at least one of the three opposition parties to stay in power.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt leaves a news conference in Ottawa May 28, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>