Politics

Former Liberal minister Hunter Tootoo finishes addiction treatment

Former Liberal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo has completed his treatment for alcohol addiction some two months after stepping back from federal politics.

Nunavut MP left cabinet, Liberal caucus after problems with alcohol and 'a very difficult situation'

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo has completed his alcohol addictions treatment and is planning to return to work on Parliament Hill. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Former Liberal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo has completed his treatment for alcohol addiction some two months after stepping back from the political fray and is now ready to return to Parliament Hill.

The Inuk MP has invited his constituents to an open house on Wednesday at his constituency office in Iqaluit.

"I will be available to address their concerns as I resume my duties as their Member of Parliament," Tootoo said in a statement. 

It is unclear if the Nunavut MP, who now sits as an Independent after leaving caucus, will be returning to the Liberal caucus now that he has completed treatment. 

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on May 31 saying that Tootoo was leaving the Liberal caucus to seek treatment for addiction, Trudeau said the decision was Tootoo's alone and occurred after "a very difficult situation."

The departure was different than when Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan said on Twitter last January that he had entered a "wellness program" with the aim of adopting an "alcohol-free lifestyle." 

Back then, Trudeau responded on the social media network saying O'Regan was a "friend & colleague" who had the prime minister's "full support" — statements and a supporting tone that did not accompany Tootoo's departure. 

The other marked difference is that when O'Regan sought treatment, he did not leave the Liberal caucus. 

Asked whether Tootoo would be returning to the Liberal caucus or the cabinet, Cameron Ahmad, a press secretary with the Prime Minister's Office, said the PMO had no comment at this time.

In the meantime, Tootoo tweeted it was "good to be home" and that he would be back in the House of Commons soon. 

Tootoo was appointed minister for fisheries and oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in November, but the post was then handed off to fellow cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc after his struggles with alcoholism came to light.

Meanwhile, Liberals remained tight-lipped about Tootoo's reason for leaving Ottawa and his imminent return. 

Quebec Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who was in Ottawa chairing the democratic reform committee, said he'd heard nothing about Tootoo's return and did not want to comment. 

Quebec Liberal MP Sherry Romanado welcomed Tootoo's return, saying "every Member of Parliament should be represented" in the House.

B.C. Liberal MP John Aldag said that he too had not heard of the former fisheries minister's return to Parliament but said it was great news Tootoo had finished addiction treatment.

"I don't know what the reasons are behind his departure," Aldag said. "I enjoyed working with him, I welcome his return to the House and we'll see where it goes from there."

with files from Aaron Wherry

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