Whether Stephen Harper wanted a Cabinet shuffle or not, his hand has been forced by the resignation of Bev Oda as Minister of International Cooperation.
Oda posted a note on her website on July 3 indicating that she would be stepping away from her position as MP for Durham. The note says she informed the Prime Minister of this decision two weeks before, while the House of Commons was still sitting. There was no reason given for not announcing her decision until now. Her resignation is effective July 31.
It’s not clear what finally prompted Oda to resign. In 2011 her staff was found to have altered a document that initially recommended that funding for KAIROS Canada be approved, inserting the word “not.” She managed to keep her job after a technicality prevented the Speaker from finding her in contempt of Parliament and was even re-elected by her constituents.
Luxury travel; government paid
Earlier this year, while NGOs were starting to feel the pinch of cuts from the Canadian International Development Agency, Oda was found to have upgraded her hotel while at a conference in London. After switching to a hotel that doubled her cost, she then had to pay $1000 a day for limo services to and from the original hotel where the conference was being held. It wasn’t the first time she’d been accused of having expensive tastes, but the thing that struck many Canadian voters the most: She spent $16 for a glass of orange juice.
It was a price that was clearly extravagant and it struck a chord, and Stephen Harper knew that it would. Bev Oda will be known as the orange juice minister for years to come – even as she collects her MP pension, which is estimated to start around $52,000 a year. (That’s about $7000 more than the average single mother earns in Canada).
Oda’s resignation leaves a space in Harper’s cabinet and forces a by-election. It saves the Prime Minister from having to publicly demote one of his ministers, but Oda was certainly not the only trouble spot.
Photo Credit: Simon Law