Bernier's back, three years after document scandal
Maxime Bernier is sworn is as minister of state during a ceremony to announce the new federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, May 18, 2011 5:02PM EDT
OTTAWA- Three years after a federal review found Maxime Bernier's carelessness with government documents tarnished Canada's "good reputation within NATO circles," the Quebec Tory MP is back in cabinet.
Bernier resigned as foreign affairs minister in 2008 after he acknowledged leaving classified documents at the Montreal home of Julie Couillard, his former girlfriend, for more than a month.
Couillard became the centre of a political furor when her past ties to outlaw bikers surfaced.
Bernier, 48, remains highly popular in his riding of Beauce. As one of just five Conservatives elected in Quebec, he seemed a relative shoo-in to finally return to a ministerial position.
As the new junior minister for tourism and small business, Bernier won't be entrusted with matters of grave national confidentiality, said Chris Mathers, a former RCMP officer who now works as a crime and risk consultant.
"There's not too many secrets that the junior minister of tourism's going to have that would be of interest to any foreign government or criminals or even the opposition for that matter," Mathers said.
"His parents have let him back in the house but he doesn't have his own key, basically. He's going to have to earn that."
At the time the Bernier scandal erupted, security screening applied only to the potential cabinet member, not his or her partner, relatives or friends.
The Privy Council Office had no immediate information on whether ministerial security checks have become more rigorous -- particularly for the six MPs newly appointed to cabinet Wednesday.
"Bernier's basically the poster child for proper due diligence," Mathers said.
"So is he a risk? Well, I think he's probably learned his lesson. But the question is, have the rest of them? These new ministers, these baby ministers, they're going to do stupid things, like everyone does.
"And if you are in a relationship with somebody -- gay, straight, whatever it is -- the guy or the girl's got to be checked out."