Canadian PM forces out minister, calls in police

Fri Apr 9, 2010 2:45pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper forced junior minister Helena Guergis out of his government on Friday and called in the police to investigate what he said were serious allegations against her.

Harper did not give further details. Guergis was already in trouble for losing her temper in an airport and had been pressured over the antics of her husband, a former legislator who alleged he had access to the top levels of government.

In a move unprecedented in recent Canadian politics, Harper referred the case to the police and Parliament's conflict of interest and ethics commissioner. He also booted her out of the ruling Conservative party's parliamentary caucus.

Although Guergis offered her resignation, Harper made it clear she had effectively been removed.

"Obviously, given the circumstances, a resignation was inevitable," he told a hastily arranged news conference.

"I'm very disappointed, it's a very sad day."

Guergis had become an increasing embarrassment to the minority Conservative government, which needs the support of other parties to pass legislation and remain in power.

The main opposition Liberal Party, noting that Harper had defended Guergis less than 24 hours previously, said the matter cast doubt on his judgment.

"I call on the prime minister to tell the truth about this affair," Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters.

Guergis is married to former Conservative member of Parliament Rahim Jaffer, who was charged with drunk driving and possession of cocaine last year. The case was then downgraded to a charge of dangerous driving, prompting critics to ask about possible political interference.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces the resignation of the Minister of State for the Status of Women Helena Guergis on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 9, 2010. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>