Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo will not seek re-election in the upcoming Canadian federal election.
“I appreciate very much the encouragement and support I have received from Nunavummiut all across the territory over the past months. But after much consideration, I have made the decision to leave public life,” Tootoo, an Independent MP, said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
“I want to thank my family, friends and Parliamentary colleagues who helped me through a difficult period in my life. With their support I have grown and healed, and I believe I am a better person for it.”
Elected as a Liberal, Tootoo served as minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard before resigning from cabinet and caucus in May of 2016. He said at the time he was taking time to seek addictions treatment.
Later that summer, Tootoo made a public apology after allegations arose that he had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.
“I made a mistake and regrettably engaged in a consensual but inappropriate relationship, and that is why I resigned,” he told the CBC in August 2016. “I am ashamed, and I apologize to all involved, especially the people of Nunavut. I am deeply sorry.”
Despite subsequent calls for him to step down as Nunavut’s sole MP, Tootoo told CBC on Tuesday that he believes he’s done a good job over the last four years.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “How you deal with it, what you learn from it and how you move forward — that’s what defines a person.”
Tootoo said he has been able to better serve Nunavut as an Independent MP.
“There’s no one telling me what I can or can’t say,” he said.
Unconstrained by a caucus, Tootoo said he is free to ask questions about issues that are important to the people of Nunavut.
“When you get into the partisan stuff, what’s best for everybody isn’t really the interest. It’s, ‘How do we take the other guys down?'” he said.
After his term in Ottawa is up, Tootoo plans on returning to Nunavut.
“I’ve had a family member approach me for some help and I’m going to be helping a family member out in the private sector moving forward,” he said.
Tootoo was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015. Before that, he served as a member of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly from 1999 to 2013.
In his statement Tuesday, Tootoo affirmed his commitment to helping Nunavut prosper.
“To all Nunavummiut, I think you know how much I love our territory. My commitment to Nunavut will never waver,” he said.
“Wherever the next path in my life leads I will continue to work for a sustainable economy that will secure a prosperous future for Nunavut.”
With files from Jackie McKay
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