Kory Teneycke, a former spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper whose attempt to create a new television news network sparked controversy, has announced he's resigning immediately from Quebecor Media.
In a statement to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday, Teneycke said he hopes his resignation will "hit the reset button" on the future of Sun TV News after the furor over the proposed channel had "gotten out of hand" during the summer.
"It has morphed from one of market differentiation to something more vicious and vitriolic and yes, at times, I have contributed to the debasing of that debate myself," he said.
Teneycke added it was a problem when more than 80,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to stop what they labelled "Fox News North" and its attempts to "propagate hate."
"As the saying goes, perception can be reality," Teneycke said. "While most of these criticisms are not based in fact, it becomes increasingly clear my involvement only serves to inflame."
He said he still believes the channel will win approval from the CRTC, but added his past political involvement has made him a "central figure" in accusations of political interference and "nefarious plots" with foreign media organizations.
Teneycke's resignation comes after the group behind the petition, avaaz.org, formally requested the Ottawa Police and the RCMP to begin a criminal investigation to determine who posted "fraudulent" signatures to the petition from an Ottawa internet protocol, or IP address.
Teneycke did not answer questions on whether his departure was linked to the group's request for a police investigation, but quietly thanked his former Quebecor colleagues for their work as he left the stage, the CBC's Kady O'Malley reported.
Resignation a 'battle won': petition group
In a statement on Wednesday, Ricken Patel, avaaz.org's executive director and co-founder, called Teneycke's resignation "a battle won in a longer fight against crony-media in Canada."
"This isn't over," Patel wrote. "Canadians are not just concerned about a prime minister's former spin doctor, they're concerned about a channel that backs the prime minister's political agenda, asking for special government favours to fund its launch."
Teneycke and Quebecor have denied any political interference in their attempts to get the CRTC to approve a broadcast licence application for Sun TV News.
'Full steam ahead': new Sun TV chief
Sun TV News, a joint initiative of Quebecor's subsidiaries, including TVA Group and Sun Media, has billed itself as a channel for "hard news and straight talk" and aspires to be an alternative to existing networks.
Shortly after Teneycke announced his resignation, Quebecor said Luc Lavoie, former spokesman to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, would be responsible for "continuing development efforts related to the Sun TV News file."
During a press conference later in the day in Winnipeg, Lavoie said Teneycke's resignation will not affect Sun TV's operations.
"It's full steam ahead," he said after introducing conservative talk-radio host Charles Adler as Sun TV's latest hire.
Quebecor has asked the federal broadcast regulator to oblige cable and satellite networks to make its proposed all-news channel available to subscribers if the channel is approved. The CRTC has said it would review the licence application at a Nov. 19 hearing.