Junior minister Helena Guergis, one half of Stephen Harper's Tory problem couple, is leaving her post under a cloud.
The Prime Minister announced at a rushed press conference that he has called in the RCMP to investigate new allegations leveled against Ms. Guergis and that she has stepped down. She will remain as an MP but has been suspended from the Conservative caucus.
Mr. Harper said he became aware of new allegations against Ms. Guergis last night. She offered her resignation, but the Prime Minister indicated she would have been forced out anyway. "Of course, under the circumstances, a resignation was necessary."
He added that Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose will pick up Ms. Guergis's duties as secretary of state for status of women. Ms. Ambrose is happy to take on the challenge and will work to promote the place of women in politics, among other things, her spokesman said.
The latest troubles for Ms. Guergis were sparked by controversy surrounding her husband, Rahim Jaffer. The former Tory MP faces new allegations that he promised he could open doors to government funding for questionable business associates.
"Any suggestion that Mr. Jaffer has had an open door to my office is false," Mr. Harper told reporters today.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister confirmed Mr. Harper is acting on "new information," which suggests the allegations against the former minister go beyond what has already been reported in the media. And an RCMP spokeswoman said the police force "acknowledges that it has received the referral of this matter from the Prime Minister's Office."
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the Prime Minister needs to be clearer as to what this new information is. And he dismissed the government's claims that Mr. Jaffer is merely a private citizen, given that Mr. Guergis's husband was using the Conservative Party logo on his personal website until he was ordered to remove it on Thursday.
Mr. Ignatieff also focused on the fact that Mr. Harper was publicly standing by Ms. Guergis just 24 hours ago. "It raises questions about the Prime Minister's judgment."
In her resignation letter, Ms. Guergis admitted she has made mistakes but said she needed to step down so controversy did not distract from governing. "It has become apparent through baseless allegations and unfounded assertions made about my family that I need to step aside to allow for the good work of our government to continue serving Canadians," she wrote.
Ms. Guergis and her husband have been the source of repeated headaches for Conservative politicians.
Mr. Jaffer was arrested last September and charged with drunk driving and cocaine possession, but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge a month ago, and paid a $500 fine.
Ms. Guergis has also faced her own series of embarrassments. She was forced to apologize for berating airline employees when she was late for a plane in Prince Edward Island.
And it was revealed that her aide had written a number of letters lauding her boss to local papers in Ms. Guergis's riding - without revealing that she worked for the junior minister.
Mr. Jaffer, once a young star in the Conservative caucus, lost his Edmonton seat in the 2008 election. He married Ms. Guergis the next day.
With reports from Gloria Galloway, Bill Curry and Daniel LeblancReport Typo/Error