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Another Minister Quits Trudeau Cabinet Over SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Justin Trudeau lost another cabinet minister over the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. controversy, which has dented his party in the polls ahead of a Canadian election this year.

In a letter posted online Monday, Jane Philpott resigned as president of the Treasury Board and said she has lost confidence with how the government has handled the Quebec construction firm’s push to settle corruption charges out of court.

Philpott said she could no longer defend all cabinet decisions. Her exit adds fuel to the controversy over whether Trudeau and his staff pressured their former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to intervene in the case.

“The evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin and the evidence as to the content of those efforts have raised serious concerns for me,” Philpott said in her letter. “Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”

The path forward now for Trudeau is unclear. Both former ministers say they intend to stay in the Liberal Party caucus, though Trudeau indicated last week he was contemplating whether to force Wilson-Raybould out. An election is scheduled for October and polls show his party falling as the saga develops.

Read more: Why Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin Headache Just Got a Lot Worse

Philpott was among Trudeau’s most trusted cabinet ministers. Wilson-Raybould was moved to a different cabinet post in January, and resigned last month.

The former Treasury Board chief, who previously served as health minister, was among a handful of Liberal lawmakers who voiced support for Wilson-Raybould after her exit. Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts has also quit, and is due to testify before the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday.

“The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system,” Philpott said. “It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases.”

She added: “There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.”

The prime minister said Monday his government both respected judicial independence and pushed to defend jobs, reiterating that he contemplated helping the firm avoid a trial on economic grounds. “We are always going to stand up for good jobs, create good jobs and defend Canadians’ interests,” Trudeau told reporters in Prince Edward Island.

Trudeau’s Liberals sit at 33.9 percent in national polls — still competitive in Canada’s multi-party system, but trailing the Conservative Party at 35.8 percent, according to a poll aggregator run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. It projects the parties would win essentially the same number of seats were an election held today. DM

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