Well this is not exactly a surprise but it is a significant moment: "RCMP boss to step down." William Elliott, Harper's hand-picked civilian choice to run the RCMP has announced he is stepping down in "the summer of 2011." This has been a tenure marked with turbulence and you can read that in any of the reporting coming out this afternoon.
No wonder then that the resignation announcement came on a day like today, simultaneous to the Harper visit to the U.S. and meant to be overshadowed by that event, no doubt. It's been a long time in coming though. It's been at least a good six months now that the urgency of dealing with turmoil at the RCMP has been apparent.
It's a time when most rational observers agree that this institution needs reform, that too has been apparent for quite a while now. It's something Jim Travers has been beating the drum about for years. Elliott's time has been a missed opportunity in that regard. Now would be the time to appoint someone equipped to reform the RCMP and bring to it new mechanisms of oversight, including strong civilian oversight. The public's trust in the RCMP is an issue (Dziekanski, G20, Kelowna and so on).
We'll see if the Prime Minister actually does follow through with the promise to genuinely solicit input from the Public Safety committee members on "selection criteria." After his Elliott experiment, his judgment in appointing a replacement is in question.
Update (7:30 p.m.): "MPs call for wide consultation on successor to RCMP boss William Elliott."