After much speculation about the future of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal caucus, both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott were booted out of the caucus on Tuesday evening.
“I have just been informed by the Prime Minister of Canada that I am removed from the Liberal caucus and as the confirmed Vancouver Granville candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election,” Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister and attorney general, tweeted on Tuesday following the decision.
In an emergency address in Ottawa shortly after, Trudeau told caucus that Wilson-Raybould and former health minister Philpott were both kicked out because “the trust that previously existed has been broken.”
The move follows nearly two months of scandal stemming from Wilson-Raybould’s time as justice minister, where she says she raised concerns over political interference in the criminal prosecution of the Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. The controversy has already resulted in several prominent political figures stepping down from cabinet, including Wilson-Raybould and Philpott. Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick also resigned.
Wilson-Raybould testified at the justice committee in February about calls, meetings, emails and texts sent to her from several government officials allegedly pressuring her to “find a solution” in the form of a deferred prosecution agreement for the Montreal-based company, which is facing corruption charges. She testified the pressure continued even after the decision to proceed with the prosecution was made. Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer called for Trudeau’s resignation following her explosive account, while NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called for a public inquiry into the matter.
Trudeau has said his office has always acted professionally and appropriately, and that if Wilson-Raybould experienced anything improper, it was up to her to raise that issue with Trudeau. Last week Wilson-Raybould responded by releasing a conversation she had with Michael Wernick on December 19 that she recorded without informing him. The recording supported her testimony about “relentless” pressure.
Trudeau cited the recording as reason for his decision to kick her out of caucus during his address Tuesday. “Whether it's taping conversations without consent or repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence in our government or me personally, it’s become clear that Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott can no longer part of our Liberal team,” he said.
Philpott responded to Trudeau’s address with a statement on her Facebook page. “It appears that the caucus is intent on staying the current course, regardless of its short-term and long-term consequences to the party and to the country, and it has been decided that there is no place for me in the caucus,” she wrote.
“I regret that relationships have been so fractured. I have nothing but good wishes for my former Liberal colleagues and all those who commit themselves to public service."
Earlier today, Wilson-Raybould sent a letter to the Liberals’ national caucus expressing her wish to stay in caucus.
“Ultimately the choice that is before you is about what kind of party you want to be a part of, what values it will uphold, the vision that animates it, and indeed the type of people it will attract and make it up,” she wrote.
“If indeed our caucus is to be a microcosm of the country it is about whether we are a caucus of inclusion or exclusion; of dialogue and searching for understanding or shutting out challenging views and perspectives; and ultimately of the old ways of doing business, or new ones that look to the future.”
Trudeau’s majority Liberal government will be tested in a federal election later this year.
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