Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott kicked out of Liberal Party caucus
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a press conference Tuesday that the pair had been expelled as the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin scandal continues.
Trudeau’s presser came minutes after Liberal MPs gathered on Parliament Hill for an emergency meeting to determine the future of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott in the party.
“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken,” Trudeau said. “Earlier today, I met with caucus executive and leadership to hear the will of caucus. I met with Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott to inform them of my decision.
“This has been a difficult few weeks for our government and for our Liberal team,” he continued.
“Amid the confusing and the competing narratives, Canadians rightly have had questions, and we wrestled with those questions too.”
WATCH: Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould secret recording is ‘unconscionable’
Trudeau said Wilson-Raybould’s decision to secretly record a phone conversation with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick was “unconscionable.”
“We’ve taken every effort to address their concerns, and ultimately, if they can’t honestly say that they have confidence in this team … then they cannot be part of this team,” Trudeau said.
“If a politician secretly records a conversation with anyone, it’s wrong. When that politician is a cabinet minister secretly recording a public servant, it’s wrong. And when that cabinet minister is the attorney general of Canada, secretly recording the clerk of the Privy Council, it’s unconscionable.”
He said the decision to remove Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from caucus was necessary because the Liberal Party couldn’t afford infighting ahead of the federal election.
“The old Liberal Party was notorious for infighting,” said Trudeau. “My leadership was a commitment to change that.
“Civil wars within parties are incredibly damaging because they signal to Canadians that we care more about us than them. That’s why I made the difficult decision to remove Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott from caucus.”
Trudeau’s remarks were followed by loud applause and a standing ovation from caucus.
WATCH: Liberals react to ouster of Wilson-Raybould, Philpott from caucus
Wilson-Raybould tweeted that she was informed of the decision just prior to Trudeau’s press conference.
“What I can say is that I hold my head high & that I can look myself in the mirror knowing I did what I was required to do and what needed to be done based on principles & values that must always transcend party,” she said.
“I have no regrets. I spoke the truth as I will continue to do so.”
Philpott said in a statement that it was “disheartening” that she was expelled without being given a chance to speak to caucus.
WATCH: Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould, Philpott no longer members of Liberal caucus
“I was accused publicly by people in caucus of not being loyal, of trying to bring down the prime minister, of being politically motivated, and of being motivated by my friendship with Jody Wilson-Raybould. These accusations were coupled with public suggestions that I should be forced out of caucus,” Philpott said.
“These attacks were based on inaccuracies and falsehoods. I did not initiate the crisis now facing the party or the prime minister. Nor did Jody Wilson-Raybould.”
Philpott insisted that there was clear political interference into Wilson-Raybould’s work, and said her constitutional obligations compelled her to resign as president of the treasury board.
“This isn’t about a lack of loyalty. On the contrary, I recommended that the government acknowledge what happened in order to move forward. This was an expression of loyalty, not disloyalty — in the same way that Jody Wilson-Raybould attempted to protect the Prime Minister from the obvious short-term and long-term consequences of attempts to interfere with prosecutorial independence — but to no avail.
“This also isn’t about political advantage or strategy. It is frankly absurd to suggest that I would leave one of the most senior portfolios in government for personal advancement or merely out of friendship with Jody Wilson-Raybould.”
WATCH: Jane Philpott on whether she’d like to stay caucus
The Conservative Party slammed Trudeau’s decision to expel Wilson-Raybould and Philpott as a “betrayal of justice.”
“Today, Liberal MPs have let Canadians know where they stand. They have chosen to condemn colleagues who spoke truth to power and to prop up a prime minister who is drowning in scandal,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement.
“The message they have sent today is clear: If you tell the truth, there is no room for you in the Liberal Party of Canada.
WATCH: Conservatives say Trudeau should have known about Wilson-Raybould-Wernick conversation
“Canadians will view the removal of Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus for exactly what it is: A betrayal of justice.
“Elected officials are supposed to protect individuals who blow the whistle on government misconduct and corruption, not punish them. However, in expelling Ms. Philpott and Ms. Wilson-Raybould from their caucus, they have done exactly that.”
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel criticized Trudeau for using women as “photo ops” before discarding them when they spoke out against him.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wilson-Raybould deserved better.
“Ms. Wilson-Raybould wanted to do politics differently — putting integrity & what’s right for Canadians over what helps the Liberals,” Singh said in a tweet.
“Today PM Trudeau & the Liberal gov’t showed us exactly what they think about integrity. Thank you Jody for being loyal to [Canadians]. You deserve better.”
WATCH: NDP’s Jenny Kwan reacts to news of Wilson-Raybould, Philpott exits
Earlier Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould sent caucus members a letter in which she defended her actions in the SNC-Lavalin affair and made a case for why she should be allowed to remain in caucus.
“Now I know many of you are angry, hurt and frustrated. And frankly so am I, and I can only speak for myself. I am angry hurt, and frustrated because I feel and believe I was upholding the values that we all committed to,” the letter read.
“In giving the advice I did and taking the steps I did, I was trying to help protect the prime minister and the government from a horrible mess. I am not the one who tried to interfere in sensitive proceedings, I am not the one who made it public and I am not the one who publicly denied what happened.”
Wilson-Raybould and Philpott both resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet over alleged political interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
The ensuing scandal has led to multiple resignations and damaged the party for eight weeks, with Trudeau’s approval rating dropping to record lows.
Wilson-Raybould testified before the House of Commons justice committee on Feb. 27, outlining in four explosive hours the details of what she described as a “consistent and sustained effort” to pressure her into intervening in the case by Trudeau and top political staffers.
But she was not invited back to address challenges to her testimony made during an appearance by Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to Trudeau, or in secondary appearances by Wernick or Deputy Attorney General Nathalie Drouin.
Instead, she submitted a package of material including a secretly recorded Dec. 19 phone call with Wernick that she said corroborated her testimony.
Wilson-Raybould faced criticism from her own party over her decision to secretly record her conversation with Wernick.
WATCH: Liberals openly muse about dumping Wilson-Raybould, Philpott
In the call, Wernick repeatedly asks Wilson-Raybould why she was not using all the tools at her disposal on the SNC-Lavalin case. She pushes back, saying she would not override the decision of the director of public prosecutions to pursue a criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin for bribery and fraud related to its activities in Libya.
Wernick told her Trudeau was “quite determined” on the matter and would likely “find a way to get it done one way or another.”
WATCH: Constituents react to Jane Philpott removal from Liberal caucus
In a written submission that accompanied the audio, Wilson-Raybould acknowledged recording the conversation was an “extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step,” but said she felt it necessary to have an exact record of what was discussed.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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