N.L. politician in spending scandal quits politics
'Best to move on,' Byrne says as he resigns from house
One of the politicians at the centre of a spending scandal at Newfoundland and Labrador's legislaturehas resignedfrom public life.
"If I couldn't give it my all, for whatever reasonsâ¦ it would be best to do what I'm doing today and move on," Byrne, 43, a former natural resources minister, told reporters Tuesday.
Byrne's resignation as the member for the St. John's-area district of Kilbride is effective Jan. 1.
"It really became abundantly clear to me that, you know, given the circumstances, that I was not in a position to do the job as I wanted to do it," said Byrne, who described his decision-making process as emotional and "deeply personal."
Byrne was forced out of his cabinet seat in June when auditor John Noseworthy foundtheProgressive Conservative memberwas paid about $326,000, or about 10 times what he was eligible to claim, for his constituency allowance over a two-year period.
Byrne took his seat on Nov. 20 for the start of the fall sitting of the house of assembly. He left the legislature shortly after question period that day and never returned.
Byrne said he spoke with Premier Danny Williams on the weekend, and contacted district executives Monday night.
In a statement, Williams applauded Byrne's record.
"I know that the decision taken today by Ed was a difficult one, and I'm sure that it was done after much soul searching and thoughtful consideration," Williams's statement said.
Byrne wasa memberof Williams's inner circle. Asgovernment house leader, he sat directly next to Williams in the legislature.
Byrne told CBC News earlier this month that he had made a decision about his political future months before Noseworthy's audits were released.
However, he declined at the time to indicate hisplans.
Byrne, who served as Opposition leader for three years and led the party into the 1999 election, emerged as a bright light in Tory circles at a young age.
He became active in politics as a student, and was elected president of Memorial University's students' union.
After volunteering on PC campaigns, he was first elected at 29.
Scandal spread across party lines
The legislative spending scandal crossed party lines, with Noseworthy identifying three other politicians in his subsequent reports: New Democratic MHA Randy Collins, Liberal Wally Andersen and former Liberal Jim Walsh.
Cumulatively, Noseworthy estimated, constituency allowances totalling about $1 millionwere inappropriately spent.
Noseworthy also found trinkets, lapel pins and other memorabilia accounted for about $2.6 million in spending from the legislature's accounts, although not always withevidence that the materials ever existed.
Since tendering his first reports, Noseworthy has been authorized to expand his investigation of constituency allowances back to 1989, when the current system was created.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary opened its own investigation this summer.
Meanwhile, Derek Green, chief justice of Newfoundland Supreme Court's trial division, is considering protocols for the attendance of politicians in the house as part of a thorough review of political remuneration.
Green is also reviewing the constituency allowance system, which gives politicians tax-free payments for running an office and related expenses.
Green is expected to complete his report in January.