01/24/2014 05:55 EST | Updated 03/26/2014 05:59 EDT

Chuck Strahl steps down as spy watchdog amid lobbying questions

Former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl announced his resignation as chair of the security intelligence review committee Friday, following questions about his work as a lobbyist for pipeline giant Enbridge. 

SIRC is the body that oversees the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

"I retired from politics three years ago and do not wish to be in the centre of the political fray. Nor do I want to be a distraction from the important work SIRC does everyday in ensuring the security of Canadians," Strahl wrote in his resignation letter to  Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Strahl ran into trouble earlier this month when it was revealed that along with his SIRC duties he was lobbying on behalf of Enbridge, the company hoping to build the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline between Alberta and the British Columbia coast. CSIS has been known to keep tabs on First Nations and environmental groups opposed to the pipeline.

Forest Ethics Advocacy, an environmental group opposed to the project, issued a statement at the beginning of January calling on Strahl to resign.

In his resignation letter, Strahl said he had checked with the ethics commissioner about his activities outside of SIRC and was always found to be in compliance with the rules. He also attached a copy of the letter from the commissioner.

"[They] have affirmed that all of my post-political activities were consistently appropriate and above board. Any recent criticism in this regard is entirely spurious and unfounded," Strahl wrote.

In a recent CBC investigation, national affairs specialist Greg Weston found Strahl was not alone on SIRC when it came to ties with the oil, gas and pipeline industries. Denis Losier sits on the board of directors of Enbridge New Brunswick, and Yves Fortier was previously on the board of TransCanada Pipelines, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, which will carry Alberta crude to refineries in the southern United States when, and if, it gets the green light from the U.S. government.

Mobile users can read the documents here, here and here