OTTAWA (CUP) -- With the much-anticipated resignation of Solicitor General Andy Scott, opposition Members of Parliament are wondering what took so long -- and are renewing their calls for an independent body to replace the APEC inquiry.
After nearly two months of intense political pressure, Scott bowed to the prevailing winds in Ottawa on Monday by announcing he was resigning as Canadaıs top cop.
His exit, however, didnıt put an end to political heat over the APEC affair.
³Why did the Prime Minister not fire the Solicitor General six weeks ago when it might have meant something?² Reform Party Leader Preston Manning asked during Question Period Monday.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien replied by turning the tables on his political opponents.
³I did not fire the Solicitor General,² he said. ³Because of the constant attack from the opposition he decided that it was too difficult for him to do all his work and he decided to offer me his resignation.²
The governmentıs explanation didnıt wash with student leaders.
³People donıt resign over nothing,² said Elizabeth Carlyle, National Chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students. ³This is a de facto admission of guilt [by Scott].²
In his letter of resignation to Chretien, Scott said allegations he had prejudged the APEC inquiry had made his situation as Solicitor General³untenable.²
But Scott once again denied that he had tainted the RCMP Public Complaints Commission hearings into the actions of officers at last yearıs APEC conference held at the University of British Columbia.
³The fact is that I have never, and never would have, prejudged the outcome of the Commissionıs inquiry nor interfered with its process,² the embattled former minister said.
Calls for Scottıs resignation started last month when New Democratic Party MP Dick Proctor said he overheard him discuss the APEC inquiry with a seatmate on an October flight from Ottawa to Fredericton.
According to Proctor, Scott said a police officer named Hughie, assumed to be RCMP Staff Sgt. Hugh Stewart, would be found guilty of using excessive force against student protesters at the APEC conference.
Opposition MPs said the alleged comments proved Scott had prejudged the inquiry, a charge the government has steadfastly denied for the last month and a half.
But last week the Liberal line was weakened when New Brunswick lawyer Frederick Toole, Scottıs seatmate on the infamous flight, filed an affidavit confirming Proctorıs record of the conversation.
Conservative Party MP Peter MacKay said Scottıs resignation didnıt lift the cloud of suspicion hanging over the troubled APEC hearings.
³The [APEC] Commission itself is still being challenged by the RCMP,² MacKay said outside the House. ³Theyıre saying they donıt have confidence in the panel.²
Earlier this month allegations surfaced that inquiry chair Gerald Morin had prejudged the hearings by telling a friend the police overreacted during the meeting of 18 Pacific Rim leaders.