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Treasury Board President Jane Philpot resigns over SNC Lavalin

March 4, 2019 3:05 pm


Jane Philpott, one of the most prominent members of the Trudeau cabinet, has resigned as Treasury Board President, saying she has lost confidence in the government because of the pressure exerted on former colleague Jody Wilson-Raybould to abandon the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

“I have 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 said in a resignation letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The resignation comes five days after Ms. Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s former attorney-general told the Commons Justice committee that she faced “consistent and sustained” political pressure from Trudeau and top officials, including veiled threats on the need to shelve the criminal prosecution of the Montreal construction and engineering giant.

“It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our attorney-general should be not subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases,” Ms. Philpott wrote in her resignation letter.

“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, a friend of Wilson-Raybould, said she could not fulfill her cabinet duties and defend all government when she cannot agree with the way the Prime Minister has handled the SNC-Lavalin file.

“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,” she said.

Philpott, a medical doctor, said similar concerns have been expressed to by constituents in her Ontario riding of Markham-Stouffville as well as Canadians across the country about the importance of the rule of law.

“It grieves me to leave a portfolio where I was at work to deliver on an important mandate. 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,” she said.

Philpott said she will remain in the Liberal caucus and is committed to the platform of the Liberal party, especially for justice for indigenous people.

The Prime Minister recruited Philpott and Wilson-Rabyould and gave them senior roles in cabinet after they won power in 2015.

Philpott was health minister and promoted to Indigenous services minister in the summer 2018 cabinet shuffle.

In January, she was shifted to the treasury board portfolio to replace Scott Brison who departed for a job on Bay Street.

This is the full text of Treasury Board President Jane Philpott's federal cabinet resignation letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

It is an enormous privilege to be the Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville and to have served as Minister of Health, then Minister of Indigenous Services, then President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government.

It has been an honour to play a leading role in progress that has shaped our country: bringing Syrian refugees to Canada; legislating a balanced approach to Medical Assistance in Dying; negotiating a health accord with new resources for mental health and home care; improving infrastructure for First Nations to provide clean water on reserve; and reforming child welfare to reduce the over-apprehension of Indigenous children.

However, I have 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.

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.

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.

The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system.

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. 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.

Although I must regretfully resign from Cabinet, I will continue to serve Canadians in every other way that I can. I was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville and I intend to continue in that role.

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.

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.

Sincerely,
The Honourable Jane Philpott MD PC MP
Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville


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