Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s “surprised and disappointed” by Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould’s decision to resign from cabinet amid allegations that Trudeau’s office pressured her to avoid prosecuting Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin during her stint as attorney-general.
Wilson-Raybould stepped down from cabinet Tuesday, less than a month after she was named minister of veterans affairs in a cabinet shuffle.
“Frankly, I am both surprised and disappointed by her decision to step down,” Trudeau told reporters in Winnipeg.
“This resignation is not consistent with conversations I had with Jody a few weeks ago when I asked her to serve as Canada’s minister of veterans affairs… nor is it consistent with the conversations we’ve had lately.”
Trudeau also denied any irregularities in the government’s involvement in the SNC-Lavalin case, and said Wilson-Raybould should’ve spoken up if she had concerns.
“The Government of Canada did its job and to the clear public standards expected of it,” he said. “If anyone felt differently, they had an obligation to raise that with me. No one — including Jody — did that.”
WATCH: Scheer slams Trudeau over Wilson-Raybould’s resignation, asks Trudeau to preserve SNC-Lavalin documents
Wilson-Raybould has announced that she has retained legal counsel to determine what she can and cannot say about the SNC-Lavalin affair, given the considerations of solicitor-client privilege.
But Trudeau said concerns over solicitor-client privilege should have had no bearings on Wilson-Raybould’s willingness to raise any concerns with the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Our government did its job properly and according to all the rules,” he said. “If someone felt that we did not — someone within the government, a minister or particularly the attorney-general — then it was her responsibility to come directly to me and highlight that. And that is not an issue that involves attorney-client privilege.
“She of course should be coming to me and explaining that, and she did not.”
WATCH: Trudeau says he is committed to indigenous issues, says he is ‘puzzled’ be Wilson-Raybould’s resignation
Wilson-Raybould’s resignation came following a bombshell report by the Globe and Mail last week which alleged senior officials with the PMO pressured her to urge prosecutors to cut a deal to protect SNC-Lavalin from going to trial over corruption and fraud charges.
It also came less than 24 hours after Trudeau expressed “full confidence” in her and suggested she would have resigned from cabinet on principle if she felt anyone had tried to improperly pressure her.
Trudeau declined to say whether he would be willing to testify before the House of Commons justice committee if it launches a probe into whether his office tried to influence Wilson-Raybould.
Anthony Housefather, the Liberal chair of the committee, said Tuesday that he is open to a probe. Liberals hold a majority on the committee and have the power to decide whether the probe gets the green light.
“It is a well-established principle in our democracy that committees of parliament are independent in the decisions they make, and I look forward to the deliberations that parliamentarians will make about how to proceed on this,” Trudeau said.
Asked what Wilson-Raybould’s resignation meant for Indigenous representation on his cabinet, Trudeau said that his government’s commitment to Indigenous reconciliation “is larger than any one person.”
Wilson-Raybould had been Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and the face of Trudeau’s commitment to make reconciliation his top priority.
— With files from the Canadian Press