Freeland ‘very sad’ about Philpott resignation over SNC-Lavalin affair, defends Trudeau as ‘feminist’

Click to play video: 'Freeland ‘very sad’ about Philpott, ‘very proud’ of feminist agenda'
Freeland ‘very sad’ about Philpott, ‘very proud’ of feminist agenda
WATCH: Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday that she is "very sad" to see Jane Philpott leave her cabinet post but remains very proud of the Liberal government's feminist agenda – Mar 5, 2019

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland defended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “feminist” on Tuesday amid the escalating controversy over allegations that he and his officials tried to politically interfere in the court case of SNC-Lavalin.

It’s been a month since the Globe and Mail first published its report saying that officials had pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the decision of public prosecutors not to offer a deal that could save the Montreal engineering firm from a criminal trial and potential conviction. In that time, Trudeau and the Liberals have been falling in the polls amid political and public demands for answers about what happened.

READ MORE: Most Canadians side with Wilson-Raybould, believe Trudeau has lost moral authority to govern: Ipsos poll

Trudeau has also faced heavy criticism after officials from his government last month began anonymously telling media that Wilson-Raybould was difficult to work with and only in politics for herself, which quickly prompted accusations of sexism and racism.

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“I work in very close co-operation with the prime minister,” said Freeland, speaking in French to reporters.

“I am absolutely convinced that the prime minister is a feminist and I have found him to be a very good boss for women.”

WATCH: Trudeau ‘absolutely has my confidence’ says MP Freeland

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Trudeau ‘absolutely has my confidence’ says MP Freeland

Freeland also reiterated that Trudeau “absolutely has my confidence” in the wake of the second resignation of a cabinet colleague on Monday.

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Treasury Board President Jane Philpott resigned, saying in her resignation letter that she has “lost confidence” in the prime minister’s ability to handle the SNC-Lavalin affair and that her ethics demand she take a stand.

“I very much consider her to be a friend. I have enjoyed working with her in cabinet,” Freeland said of Philpott. “She has been a great colleague, and I’m very sad that she has chosen to leave the cabinet. In terms of our government’s feminist agenda, let me say, speaking for myself, this is one of the things of which I am most proud.”

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READ MORE: ‘I have lost confidence’ — Jane Philpott resigns from cabinet over Trudeau’s handling of SNC-Lavalin affair

Freeland also noted that she had experienced the support of her cabinet colleagues during difficult NAFTA negotiations last year.

“NAFTA may have been the most difficult issue that I’ve had to work on as minister, and the most important element of our approach to NAFTA was that we were going to work as a team,” she said.

“I have always had the support of my cabinet, my colleagues and my prime minister and I believe that it’s very important for a government to have that in order to succeed. You have to work as a team, and I absolutely believe that and we will continue to do that.”

WATCH: Freeland says ‘feminist’ PM ‘something I’ve personally appreciated’

Click to play video: 'Freeland says ‘feminist’ PM ‘something I’ve personally appreciated’'
Freeland says ‘feminist’ PM ‘something I’ve personally appreciated’

Philpott’s resignation came after Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet on Feb. 12, one month after she was shuffled to the lower-profile position of minister for veterans affairs in what was widely viewed as a demotion.

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Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee studying the SNC-Lavalin affair that she believes that was a direct result of her not agreeing to intervene in order to secure the company a deal to avoid a trial and potential conviction.

SNC-Lavalin is facing allegations of corruption and fraud and, if convicted, would face a 10-year ban on bidding for lucrative federal contracts.

Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s former principal secretary, is set to testify on the matter at the same committee Wednesday morning.

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