Jane Philpott resigns from cabinet, citing ‘lost confidence’ in how government dealt with SNC-Lavalin

Jane Philpott, one of Justin Trudeau’s most trusted ministers, announced today she has resigned from cabinet as the Liberal government’s crisis over the SNC-Lavalin affair deepens.

“I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities and constitutional obligations,” she said in a written statement.

“There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.”

Philpott, the MP for Markham-Stouffville, said she has been considering the events that have shaken the federal government in recent weeks and, after “serious reflection,” concluded she must quit.

She said the constitutional convention of cabinet solidarity means ministers are expected to defend all cabinet decisions and other ministers publicly, and must speak in support of the government and its policiesminister,” she wrote.

“Unfortunately, the evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former attorney general to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin, and the evidence as to the content of those efforts, have raised serious concerns for me. Those concerns have been augmented by the views expressed by my constituents and other Canadians.”

Philpott is a close ally of Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister and attorney general at the centre of the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Wilson-Raybould testified before a Commons committee last week that 11 officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and other offices inappropriately pressured her to override a decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin on bribery charges related to contracts in Libya.

The Quebec-based global engineering and construction firm faces a 10-year ban on federal contracts if it’s convicted.

Philpott said the principles that maintain an independent justice system are at stake in the SNC-Lavalin affair. A fundamental doctrine of the rule of law is that the attorney general not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases.

‘Lost confidence’ in government’s response

“Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised,” Philpott said in the statement.​

Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet on Feb. 12, just days after a Feb. 7 Globe and Mail report that said she was pressured as attorney general to overturn the decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin.

She remains in the Liberal caucus, and confirmed on the weekend that she intends to seek re-election under the Liberal Party banner.

Today, Trudeau said he is still considering whether to allow Wilson-Raybould to remain in the caucus.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer tweeted that Trudeau’s government “is in chaos.”

“He wouldn’t allow the former attorney general to speak freely, so we don’t know her full story. Trudeau’s story changes daily and won’t come clean with Canadians. He needs to fully cooperate with any RCMP investigations and resign,” he said.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus called Philpott’s resignation a “watershed moment.”

“It is a sad day for Canada to lose a minister with such integrity. Nobody in government has done more to push reconciliation than Ms. Philpott. I have utmost respect for her,” he tweeted.

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