Second minister quits over Justin Trudeau and bribery case

Minnie Murray
March 7, 2019

"I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities and constitutional obligations", she said in her resignation letter.

The House of Commons justice committee is set to hear from Gerald Butts at 10 a.m. Wednesday, a week after former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould tore into the Trudeau government with her accusations of repeated, sustained pressure by the Prime Minister's Office and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick not to prosecute the Quebec engineering giant.

Feminism has been a key element of the Liberal party's appeal to voters since the 2015 election campaign but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's handling of the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin affair shows that he's a hypocrite, opposition parties say. Wilson-Raybould suggested she was demoted as retaliation for not succumbing to the pressure to merely fine the company rather than going to trial.

She also recalled an instance in which Trudeau expressed his concern to her about the potential for job layoffs if the company is found guilty of wrongdoing and asked if she could "help out".

Justin Trudeau groping allegations, woman confirms the incident.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister in charge of relations with the aboriginal population, said in a statement that "I have absolute confidence in our government, and our Prime Minister".

Ken Coates, a political historian at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, said Philpott's resignation was the most significant act of Cabinet revolt in about 50 years.

Canada's first indigenous attorney general, she was shuffled to veterans affairs in January, and a month later resigned from cabinet.

SNC-Lavalin, the company in question, is a major Canadian business headquartered in Quebec, though it should be noted that only about 15% of its business is actually still in Canada.

March 1 - Trudeau makes longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister as part of a minor cabinet shuffle.

She resigned from cabinet several days later, and then was finally able to tell her side of the story to the Commons justice committee last week.

As the prime minister's RCMP detail moved in to calm things down, Trudeau hit some talking points about the lack of any climate plan from his opponents, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer's Conservatives.

Either the PM has a woman problem, or women are simply the bravest and most principled members of his caucus, or the way politics is practised specifically under Trudeau et al. and/or generally in the modern Canada leaves some of the women who ran for him profoundly disillusioned and sad.

New Brunswick Liberal MP Wayne Long reiterated his call for a "full and transparent investigation" into the SNC-Lavalin affair. The controversy hinges on whether Trudeau and his officials pushed her too hard to do so.

Philpott was friends with Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was at the centre of the scandal and Trudeau says he wasn't surprised by her resignation.

But what ripple effects will the former justice minister's testimony have?

"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", he told reporters in Toronto.

September 17 - Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould discuss the SNC-Lavalin file.

Philpott is the Liberals Member of Parliament for the Ontario constituency of Markham-Stouffville.

The PM didn't repeat his consistent stance Monday night and never said his government didn't put pressure on Wilson-Raybould to help SNC avoid criminal prosecution.

Why are they remaining in the Liberal tent?

Also on the speakers list: Former deputy finance minister David Dodge, Mulroney's former foreign affairs minister Barbara McDougall, former Canadian ambassador to the United States Derek Burney, former Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May - who, as the advisory notes, served as a policy advisor to Mulroney's environment minister - and Mulroney's former executive assistant Bill Pristanski, who is now listed as a registered lobbyist for SNC-Lavalin.

She is the second cabinet member to quit over the scandal.

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