OTTAWA (Reuters) – In a blow to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a second member of his government resigned on Monday, claiming to have lost faith in how the government had faced an escalation of political scandals.
PHOTO FILE: New President of the Treasury Board Jane Philpott poses for a photo with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Trudeau's cabinet shuffle, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 14, 2019. REUTERS / Patrick Doyle / File Photo
The departure of the newly appointed president of the Treasury Board, Jane Philpott, who was head of public spending, deprives Trudeau of another powerful woman cabinet member a few months before an election polls show she could to lose.
Philpott expressed unhappiness about the government's response to allegations that officials inappropriately exiled former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould last year to help the big construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a process for corruption.
"Unfortunately, I lost confidence in how the government addressed the issue and how it responded to the issues raised," Philpott said in a statement. "I have concluded that I must resign as a member of the cabinet."
Philpott is a close friend of Wilson-Raybould, who resigned on February 12th after being suddenly lowered in January. Wilson-Raybould said last week that she was convinced that her refusal to help SNC-Lavalin was behind relegation.
Andrew Scheer, head of the conservative party of the official opposition, repeated the appeals for Trudeau to resign in the midst of an "ethical rottenness" that, according to him, was undermining the rule of law.
"The resignation from the government of Jane Philpott clearly demonstrates a government in total chaos led by a disgraced prime minister, consumed by the scandal and focused only on his political survival," he told reporters in Toronto.
Trudeau has accepted his resignation and will address the matter later, a spokesman said.
The departure of Philpott, who was named on January 14, is another arrest for a prime minister who came to power in November 2015 promising "sunny ways", more responsibility in politics and a greater number of women ministers.
"What should worry about Trudeau's liberals is that the two cabinet resignations have been on issues of principle and ethics," said Nanos Research pollster Nik Nanos.
"The second resignation raises the question: what happened and there could be more resignations," he said by email.
Other members of the Trudeau government, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau, said they would remain in the government.
Philpott said evidence of efforts by politicians and officials to pressure Wilson-Raybould raised serious concerns. Wilson-Raybould tweeted on Philpott that "you are a leader of vision and strength and I can not wait to continue working alongside you".
Philpott, 58, was considered one of the best ministers in the Trudeau government. He had previously worked as a health minister and a minister of indigenous services.
Most Liberal MPs have supported Trudeau so far, but there are signs of tension.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes, a liberal lawmaker who is not seeking re-election, tweeted that "when you add women, please do not expect the status quo, expect us to make correct decisions, defend what is right and go out when values are compromised. "
Gerald Butts, who left Trudeau's principal secretary last month for the SNC-Lavalin affair, will test the House of Commons justice committee from 10:00 am ET (1500 GMT) to noon ET (1700 GMT) of Wednesday.
In his testimony to the committee last week, Wilson-Raybould identified Butts as an official who tried in particular to change his mind. Under interrogation he said he did not consider that the officials had broken the laws.
Reporting by Julie Gordon and David Ljunggren; editing by Phil Berlowitz and James Dalgleish