Former cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott say they did the right thing by standing up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the SNC-Lavalin affair, even though it might mean the ends of their political careers.
In their first live statements since Trudeau ejected them from the Liberal caucus, Wilson-Raybould and Philpott – standing side by side before the microphones on Parliament Hill – expressed the disappointment that was already etched on their faces.
“It’s very unfortunate that it’s come to this, but we have to make difficult choices in politics and we aren’t always in control of the things that will happen and happen to yourself when you’re in politics,” Philpott said.
“But you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and hold your head high at the end of the day.”
Added Wilson-Raybould: “If you stand up for what you believe is right and you hold strong to your principles, the truth and principles must always come first – and that’s what I did, and that’s what I will continue to do.”
Regardless of whether Trudeau or any of his aides did anything illegal in pressuring Wilson-Raybould, then the attorney general, to head off a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, his behaviour was unacceptable, they agreed.
“To say that it’s good enough if something hasn’t broken a law is a very, very low bar to hold, and I would hope that all politicians would say that it’s important that we not cross ethical boundaries,” Philpott said.
Both said they haven’t decided whether to run again in this fall’s election. Trudeau made it clear Tuesday that if they do, it won’t be as Liberals.
“It has been a huge privilege to be a member of Parliament. I would like to think that there could be steps that I could continue in a political role somehow but it’s too early to say,” Philpott said. Wilson-Raybould said she needs to think, consult her family, and talk to her Vancouver constituents.
The SNC controversy has engulfed the government for nearly two months, beginning with a news story that Wilson-Raybould believed she’d been shuffled out of the high-profile justice portfolio because she wouldn’t acquiesce to pressure to help SNC-Lavalin. First Wilson-Raybould resigned from her new portfolio as veterans-affairs minister, and then Philpott followed her by quitting as Treasury Board president.
Trudeau finally expelled the two from the Liberal caucus for what he described as breaking the bonds of trust with their fellow MPs.
Before they spoke, Trudeau acknowledged the internal strife, telling a group of young women that politics is often about reconciling opposite perspectives and differences of opinion.
But about 48 of the young would-be MPs taking part in the Daughters of the Vote event on the floor of the House of Commons didn’t want to hear it, turning their backs on the prime minister as he spoke.
Trudeau was addressing 338 young women who are taking part in the program, which encourages young women to get involved in politics – some of whom have already used their social media feeds to register their displeasure with the prime minister.