Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ousted from his Liberal Party on Tuesday two former ministers whose accusations of political meddling in a prosecution jeopardized his re-election bid.
The announcement came at the end of an emergency caucus meeting to consider expelling former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould after her release of a secret recording last week that reignited the simmering scandal.
Former budget minister Jane Philpott, who had quit in protest over Trudeau’s handling of the controversy, was also removed.
“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken,” Trudeau said.
“Whether it’s taping conversations without consent or repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence in our government and in me personally as leader, it’s become clear that (both) can no longer remain part of our Liberal team.”
Since February, Trudeau’s government has been rocked by accusations that his inner circle sought to shield engineering giant SNC-Lavalin from a corruption trial.
The Montreal-based firm was charged in 2015 for allegedly paying bribes to secure contracts in Libya.
Wilson-Raybould refused to ask prosecutors to settle the case, and the trial is set to proceed.
After resigning, she testified to lawmakers that she’d experienced “consistent and sustained” political pressure to interfere in the case, including “veiled threats.”
On Friday, the House of Commons justice committee looking into the allegations released messages and a secret recording by Wilson-Raybould of a call with Canada’s top bureaucrat, Chief of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, to back her claims.
“If a politician secretly records a conversation with anyone,” Trudeau said, “it’s wrong.”
He labeled as “unconscionable” the one-time attorney general’s secret recording of the clerk of the Privy Council.
The scandal, Trudeau added, has sidelined his government’s progressive agenda and created divisions within the party.
“Civil wars within parties are incredibly damaging because they signal to Canadians that we care more about ourselves than we do about them,” he said.
“Our political opponents win when the Liberals are divided.”
Opposition Tory leader Andrew Scheer blasted Trudeau’s actions, saying: “Elected officials are supposed to protect individuals who blow the whistle on government misconduct and corruption, not punish them.”
In a statement, Philpott protested that neither she nor Wilson-Raybould “initiated the crisis now facing the party or the prime minister.”
“Rather than acknowledge the obvious – that a range of individuals had inappropriately attempted to pressure the former attorney general in relation to a prosecutorial decision – and apologize for what occurred, a decision was made to attempt to deny the obvious – to attack Jody Wilson-Raybould’s credibility and attempt to blame her,” Philpott said.
She later tweeted, “I can look myself in the mirror knowing I did what I was required to do and what needed to be done based on principles and values that must always transcend party.”
“I have no regrets,” she added. “I spoke the truth as I will continue to do.”
The Telegraph | April 3, 2019