One former Liberal MP (and former fisheries minister), Hunter Tootoo, has returned from two months' treatment for alcohol addiction. But another Liberal MP, Seamus O'Reagan, has returned from 45 days of treatment for alcohol addition and is still a member of the Liberal caucus, while Mr. Tootoo is now mysteriously independent of any caucus, still representing the riding of Nunavut, but in solitude.
Something is missing in this story. Surely it is hardly conceivable in this quite politically correct government that there has been discrimination against an Inuk, in contrast to an MP of Irish descent, Mr. O'Reagan.
Mr. Tootoo still says he believes in the Trudeau government, but he will not sit with it.
Rumour has it that the Prime Minister's Office had been told that Mr. Tootoo had had an "inappropriate" relationship with a junior female staffer. Whether that means that the PMO believes that any sexual relationship between an MP or cabinet minister and a young staffer is inappropriate is unclear. Or was it that there was, or was believed to be, some extraordinary impropriety?
Unfortunately, the word "inappropriate" is a vague one, sometimes all too conveniently. It can range from moderately bad judgment to something truly scandalous or horrifying. As a result, imagination or gossip can get out of hand.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has "zero tolerance" for sexual misconduct and harassment of women. Fine. But the report of "an inappropriate relationship" does not necessarily suggest a non-consensual, compelled or even a trading of favours. The word "harassment," too, can signify quite a wide range of behaviours.
The PMO's statement, described as "blunt," said Mr. Tootoo would not be allowed back into the Liberal caucus. He was wished well in his resumption of his parliamentary work as the MP for Nunavut. Perhaps there is a faint hint of an eventual return to the good graces of the party, in the curt words "His status with regard to the Liberal caucus remains unchanged."
Mr. Tootoo's words about "deeply personal and private issues that have haunted me" are melodramatic. So far, he has successfully avoided saying anything about sexual impropriety. One suspects, however, that he still hopes for redemption from Mr. Trudeau.