Former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl has resigned as chair of Canada's spy agency watchdog after drawing criticism over his work as a lobbyist for Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project.
On December 6, Strahl registered to lobby the B.C. government on behalf of Northern Gateway Pipelines LP. His filing said he planned to arrange a meeting between the company and Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman.
In his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Strahl maintained that any claims that his lobbying activities were inappropriate are "entirely spurious and unfounded".
"Despite the fact that my compliance with all relevant rules and regulations has been clearly demonstrated, I retired from politics three years ago and do not wish to be in the centre of the political fray," Strahl said.
In a statement today (January 24), Harper said former Conservative MP and current Security Intelligence Review Committee member Deborah Grey would act as chair of the watchdog until a permanent replacement is appointed.
"I would like to extend my personal best wishes to Chuck in all of his future endeavours," Harper said.
Strahl joined the SIRC in 2012 after serving as an MP from 1993 to 2011.
The SIRC reviews the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and reports to Parliament.
In response to Strahl's resignation, an open Internet activist called for a "total overhaul of our spy agency oversight mechanisms".
"Today’s news is welcome, because all of us can agree that publicly funded government watchdogs should not be employed by those connected to the agencies they are overseeing. In this case, there was a clear conflict of interest given that CSIS has been asked to aid the oil industry in monitoring environmentalists," OpenMedia.ca executive director Steve Anderson said in a news release.