A leading minister in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet has resigned, becoming the second female minister to step down over a scandal that has shaken the Government in an election year.
- Jane Philpott is the second female minister to resign over a the Government’s handling of a corruption scandal
- Justin Trudeau allegedly tried to pressure the country’s former attorney-general to avoid prosecution of engineering company SNC-Lavalin
- Mr Trudeau’s popularity has been slipping in the lead-up to an expected October election
Treasury board president Jane Philpott, considered a star minister, said in a resignation letter that it was “untenable” for her to continue in the cabinet because she lost confidence and could not defend the Government.
Dr Philpott’s friend, former attorney-general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, testified last week that Mr Trudeau and senior members of his Government inappropriately tried to pressure her to avoid prosecution of major Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin.
The case involves allegations of corruption in Libya.
Ms Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last month after being demoted to veterans’ affairs minister the month before.
The scandal has rocked Mr Trudeau’s Government.
Gerald Butts, Mr Trudeau’s closet adviser and best friend, also resigned last month and is scheduled to testify this week before a Parliament justice committee in Mr Trudeau’s defence.
Mr Trudeau has acknowledged raising the issue with Ms Wilson-Raybould, but has said that was appropriate.
“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,” Ms Philpott wrote.
“Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the Government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”
Dr Philpott, a physician, is a former minister of health and minister of indigenous services and was widely viewed as of one of Mr Trudeau’s most competent cabinet ministers.
“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 wrote.
The leader of the Opposition Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, said at a news conference that Ms Philpott’s resignation demonstrated “a government in total chaos”, and called again for Mr Trudeau to resign and for a police investigation of the affair.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes, an MP in Mr Trudeau’s party who announced last week that she would not seek re-election, tweeted her support for Ms Philpott and thanked her.
“When you add women, please do not expect the status quo. Expect us to make correct decisions, stand for what is right and exit when values are compromised,” she tweeted.
Mr Trudeau promoted himself as a feminist when he became Prime Minister in 2015.