Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s remaining Liberal cabinet are proclaiming their public support for him after Jane Philpott, one of his most trusted ministers, resigned Monday amid the ongoing SNC-Lavalin controversy.
Philpott’s sudden resignation comes less than a month after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould also stepped down from her cabinet posting. And last week, in a bombshell testimony, Wilson-Raybould accused the Trudeau government of a “consistent and sustained effort” to politically interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Philpott cited the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin during her resignation, saying she lost confidence in the way Liberals dealt with criminal charges against the Montreal engineering giant.
Trudeau addressed Philpott’s resignation Monday and said, “While I am disappointed, I understand her decision to step down, and I want to thank her for her service.”
Does Trudeau have to worry about more cabinet ministers following in Philpott’s footsteps — or his cabinet behind him for the time being?
Global News reached out to the remaining 33 Liberal cabinet members, and 19 said they still had “full confidence” in Trudeau. The 14 other ministers did not get back.
WATCH: Jane Philpott lets resignation letter do the talking on SNC-Lavalin controversy
The statements from the ministers ranged from one-sentence answers voicing full confidence in the prime minister, to others talking about “staying focused”, “strengthening the middle class” and “building an economy” on behalf of Canadians.
“The first concern [for Trudeau] has to be managing caucus. You cannot have more high-quality players step away because it’s hard to say there is something not wrong when arguably the best cabinet ministers steps down,” Tim Powers, strategist and vice-chair of Summa Strategies, said.
“They need to find a rallying point on this issue.”
Going into the 2019 federal election, though, Trudeau still is the greater electoral asset for the Liberal party, he said. Many MPs were elected because of Trudeau, so many “are probably not going to abandon ship yet.”
And for now, that seems to be true.
On Monday, Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said her confidence in Trudeau “remains untouched.”
“I stand by him and believe in his ability to lead a government that delivers for all Canadians. I am sorry to see one of my Cabinet colleagues step down and I wish her the best.”
Maryam Monsef, Minister for the Status of Women, also said she has “full confidence” in the prime minister and government.
“We are staying focused on what matters to Canadians, including fighting for jobs, growing the middle class, and advancing gender equality at home and abroad.”
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc Dominic LeBlanc voiced a similar statement.
“I have full confidence in the prime minister. We will continue to take action to make life easier for Canadians, and create good, middle class jobs across the country,” he said.
WATCH: Former Liberal MP who crossed the floor says Trudeau has ‘lost moral authority to govern’
Powers said he believes when Wilson-Raybould resigned, she also suggested that members of caucus have felt the concerns she shared.
“That there is a sense that caucus is not appreciated about their views not heard,” he said.
Powers added that until Trudeau has a better answer to the SNC-Lavalin controversy, “it’s going to be difficult to have a united message. The prime minister has not shown they have know a way out of this yet — if it’s at all possible.”
And the Conservatives are hammering that message home.
After Philpot’s resignation, many Conservatives took to Twitter to attack Trudeau and his handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has reportedly called for Trudeau to resign and said, “Jane Philpott’s resignation clearly demonstrates a government in total chaos, led by a disgraced prime minister consumed with scandal.”
Former Liberal cabinet minister Sheila Copps also lashed out at the Trudeau government, calling for a no-confidence vote and saying Philpot and Wilson-Yabould should leave the Liberal caucus.
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