Philpott resigns from cabinet amid ongoing SNC controversy

Jane Philpott.

Minister and Treasury Board President Jane Philpott has resigned from cabinet amid a growing scandal involving allegations from Canada’s former justice minister and attorney general of efforts by the Prime Minister’s Office, and other senior public officials to interfere in the justice system.

Philpott, who was also appointed minister of the Treasury Board in a January cabinet shuffle that saw her moved out of Indigenous services, said in her resignation letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday afternoon that her decision directly related to former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Feb. 28 testimony before the House of Commons’ Justice Committee.

The Markham-Stouffville MP said she has been “considering the events that have shaken the federal government in recent weeks and after serious reflection, I have concluded that I must resign as a member of Cabinet,” Philpott wrote Monday.

“In Canada, the constitutional convention of Cabinet solidarity means, among other things, that ministers are expected to defend all Cabinet decisions. A minister must always be prepared to defend other ministers publicly, and must speak in support of the government and its policies. Given this convention and the current circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to serve as a Cabinet minister.”

Read: Statement from the Hon. Jane Philpott

Last week, Wilson-Raybould testified that between September and December 2018 she “experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”

The allegations have shaken the Trudeau government, prompting calls for an RCMP investigation, and for Trudeau and Privy Council Office Clerk Michael Wernick’s resignations.

“The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system,” Philpott says in her letter to the prime minister.

“It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases. Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.

“It grieves me to leave a portfolio where I was at work to deliver on an important mandate,” Philpott, who is widely regarded as one of the Liberals’ most liked and successful cabinet ministers, continues in her letter. “But I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities and constitutional obligations. There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.”

At an event in Ottawa Monday morning Philpott refused to answer questions about Wilson-Raybould and the former minister’s allegations.

Her attempt to deflect reporters’ questions followed a similar effort on Friday by several cabinet ministers who refused to answer questions about the scandal following an announcement on child welfare legislation in Ottawa.

Philpott said she intends to continue serving her constituents as a Liberal MP.

“I am firmly committed to our crucial platform priorities, especially: justice for Indigenous peoples; and implementing a plan to tackle the existential threat of climate change,” she says in her resignation letter.

“Canadians need the assurance that, in all matters, Members of Parliament will act in the best interests of the public. My decision has been made with that spirit and intent.”

Read: Jody Wilson-Raybould

Wilson-Raybould also said that she intends to continue to serve her constituents as a Liberal MP after resigning from Cabinet.