Treasury Board president Jane Philpott resigned Monday from the federal cabinet, saying she’s lost confidence in the way the Trudeau government has dealt with the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Her resignation came just less than a month after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet amid allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office improperly pressured her to stop a criminal prosecution of the Montreal engineering giant.
“A minister must always be prepared to defend other ministers publicly, and must speak in support of the government and its policies,” Philpott said in a resignation letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Given this convention and the current circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to serve as a cabinet minister.”
Trudeau issued a terse statement accepting Philpott’s resignation and thanking her “for her years of service to Canadians and her dedication.” He named Carla Qualtrough, the minister of public services and procurement, as the acting president of the Treasury Board. He was expected to comment at more length at an event in Toronto on Monday evening.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Philpott’s resignation proves he was correct when he asserted last week that Trudeau has “lost the moral authority to govern.”
“Today, a senior member of his inner circle has come to the same conclusion,” said Scheer, repeating his call for Trudeau to resign and for the RCMP to investigate. “Jane Philpott’s resignation from cabinet clearly demonstrates a government in total chaos, led by a disgraced prime minister consumed with scandal and focused only on his political survival.”
Scheer called on other cabinet ministers to follow Philpott’s example or be seen to be part of the “ethical rot that infects this government.”
New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated his call for a public inquiry into the affair.
Like Wilson-Raybould, Philpott said she intends to remain a Liberal MP — for Markham-Stouffville outside Toronto, in her case. But unlike Wilson-Raybould, she did not say whether she intends to run for re-election as a Liberal this fall, although she has already been nominated. There has been some speculation in Liberal circles that Philpott might run for leader of the Ontario Liberal party.
Philpott’s resignation was not entirely unexpected among Liberals, who knew she and Wilson-Raybould are close friends. Indeed, when Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet, Philpott tweeted a picture of the pair with their arms around each other.
In a tweet praising Philpott’s “constant and unassailable commitment to always doing what is right and best for Canadians,” Wilson-Raybould told her friend: “You are a leader of vision & strength & I look forward to continuing to work alongside you.”
Wilson-Raybould last week delivered bombshell testimony at the House of Commons justice committee, accusing officials of relentlessly pressuring her and even issuing veiled threats to co-operate in helping SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution. The company is a pillar of Montreal’s business community and a major player in infrastructure projects both inside and outside Canada.
Trudeau and his officials allegedly leaned on Wilson-Raybould to reverse a decision by the director of public prosecutions to proceed with a criminal trial of SNC-Lavalin on charges of bribery and corruption related to contracts in Libya. Instead, they wanted her to order negotiation of a remediation agreement with the company that would have levied stiff financial penalties but removed the prospect of a criminal conviction that could cripple the company financially and hurt innocent employees, pensioners and suppliers.
The Canadian Press