Another cabinet minister resigns, Justin Trudeau considers making a display of contrition

Last week I wrote about the SNC-Lavalin scandal in Canada which has engulfed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration. If you missed that, the very brief version is that Trudeau’s former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, has accused him of leading a campaign to prevent the prosecution of an engineering company in Montreal called SNC-Lavalin. This campaign included 10 phone calls and 10 personal meetings urging the AG to intervene in the case. Many of those contacts, including the one with the PM himself, mentioned that it would be bad news for the party if SNC-Lavalin were to be prosecuted just before an election. In short, this was a campaign of judicial interference for explicitly political reasons.

Yesterday, another cabinet minister in Trudeau’s administration announced she was resigning:

The unexpected resignation, by Jane Philpott, who led the treasury board, inflames a growing political crisis that has already cost Trudeau his former justice minister and his top aide.

“I’ve been considering the events that have shaken the government in recent weeks and after serious reflection, I have concluded that I must resign as a member of Cabinet,” said Philpott, who was also a former health minister and minister of indigenous affairs…

In announcing her decision, Philpott cited accusations that Trudeau and his aides had exerted improper and excessive pressure on the justice minister and attorney general at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to seek a settlement in the criminal case against the company, SNC-Lavalin…

“There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them,” Philpott wrote in her resignation letter to Trudeau on Monday.

The first cabinet minister to resign was Jody Wilson-Raybould. She was actually demoted from Attorney General (after refusing to give in to the pressure campaign) to Veterans Affairs minister. A short time after this staffing change, she resigned. Trudeau’s top adviser Gerald Butts also resigned. He was one of the people heavily involved in lobbying Wilson-Raybould.

Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party has called on Trudeau to resign but so far Trudeau’s own party is supporting him. But the resignation of Philpott, which is said to have come as a complete surprise to the PM, seems to have made an impact. Today the CBC reports that the Prime Minister is now considering making a display of contrition over the scandal:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is holding high-level discussions today to plot next steps in the ongoing SNC Lavalin controversy — steps which may include Trudeau making some display of contrition over how officials in his office conducted themselves.

A senior government official said one of the options being discussed is for Trudeau to “show some ownership over the actions of his staff and officials” in their dealings with his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould…

Trudeau abruptly cancelled a trip to Regina to spend Tuesday afternoon with his top advisers — including chief of staff Katie Telford, executive director of communications and planning Kate Purchase, executive director of issues management Brian Clow and Canada’s Ambassador the United States David MacNaughton.

All of this was prompted by Philpott’s sudden resignation, which the source said “change(d) things once again — maybe in its biggest way so far.”

The next elections are in 7 months so Trudeau is going to have to get started on his show of contrition. A poll released yesterday (mostly carried about before the latest resignation) found that if an election were held now Trudeau would only receive 31% support. Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer would receive 40 percent support.