OTTAWA - A Liberal party researcher has been fired for tweeting salacious information about Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to protest the government's online surveillance bill.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae told a stunned House of Commons that one of his staffers was responsible for creating the Twitter account that circulated alleged details of Toews' divorce.
Rae said the offending staffer had resigned, and the leader extended a full apology to Toews.
"I discussed the matter with that individual this morning. He offered his resignation and I've accepted his resignation," Rae told the Commons.
"And I want to offer to the minister my personal apology to him for the conduct of the member of my staff."
Rae said one of the things that makes public life difficult is when "political attacks become personal."
Two weeks ago, Toews was pilloried on the web over his sponsorship of the Internet surveillance bill.
The legislation has alarmed civil libertarians because it would allow authorities access to Internet subscriber information - including name, address, telephone number and email address - without a warrant.
An effort to track the source of the Vikileaks30 Twitter account suggested the creator worked within the Parliament Buildings.
Rae said the Twitter user was a member of the Liberal research office. The staffer has not been publicly identified.
Toews sat in his seat impassively during Rae's admission and apology, staring straight ahead through most of it.
Rae then took the long walk down the centre aisle carpet from his corner seat in the House, near the exit, to Toews' seat on the Conservative front bench near the Speaker. He offered his hand and a few brief words of further apology.
Toews accepted it and the two men quickly parted.
The revelation came shortly after Toews rose to complain that the apparent use of a Commons computer to create the Twitter account was "a contempt of the House."
"I take no issue with an open attack on the floor of this House in which the source of the attack may be seen by all. I take strong issue with the idea that House resources would be used to attack secretly a member of the House."
Toews also complained about a series of Internet videos posted by the group Anonymous about the online surveillance bill.
The minister said the threatening videos also constituted a contempt because they were aimed at intimidating him.
Toews also took issue with his office being inundated with calls, emails and faxes about the bill, saying they were preventing his staff from serving constituents.