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Billing for orange juice was a mistake, Bev Oda concedes

Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda pauses as she responds to a question during Question Period in the House Commons on Feb. 14, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Embattled former cabinet minister Bev Oda offered no explanation Tuesday for her decision to resign from the Harper government as she said her final farewells to political Ottawa.

Ms. Oda announced in a news release July 3 that she would step down, effective at the end of the month, but didn't reveal at the time what sparked the decision.

During her tenure as international co-operation minister, when she was responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA, Ms. Oda made headlines for lavish spending while travelling on government business.

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She was forced to repay taxpayers for $1,000 a day in limousine expenses, a pricey stay at London's Savoy Hotel in 2011 and for a $16 glass of orange juice.

In an interview Tuesday with CBC's Power and Politics, Ms. Oda said she had no regrets about ordering the juice, although she acknowledged that she should not have billed taxpayers for it.

"I arrived in London, it was very late, I was working on a speech I was to give the next morning," she said.

"But you know, that cost of the orange juice was not maybe the appropriate expense for the government to pay. I have repaid that cost and I have apologized for it."

Ms. Oda was also forced to apologize after a CIDA funding document was altered with the word "not" scrawled in handwriting, ultimately denying funding to an aid agency.

Ms. Oda issued an open letter to her constituents Monday, thanking them for backing her.

"My sincere appreciation for your support over the past eight years and special thanks to my volunteers, riding association and staff," Ms. Oda said in the letter.

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"I have had the outstanding privilege and opportunity to serve my constituents and Canada."

The letter also offered best wishes for whomever is elected to replace her. A by-election in the Southern Ontario riding of Durham has yet to be called and may not happen for another six months.

She also recalled the pride and pleasure she took from being involved in everything from international affairs to local events.

"Every year at our agricultural fairs, I saw our strong rural roots flourish. And you demonstrated your compassion for others through tremendous efforts to support local, national and international institutions, organizations and charities," Ms. Oda wrote.

Since her first election victory in 2004, Ms. Oda served as heritage critic while in opposition, and then as heritage minister and most recently as the minister for international co-operation.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has calculated that the 67-year-old former politician now qualifies for a parliamentary pension of $52,183 a year.

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She stands to collect nearly $700,000 in benefits by age 80 despite contributing only about $130,000 to her pension, the CTF estimated.

Toronto-area MP Julian Fantino, formerly associate defence minister responsible for military procurement, has taken on the international development portfolio in Ms. Oda's place.

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