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The fallout from the SNC-Lavalin affair spread even farther on Monday with another shocking resignation by a senior federal cabinet minister.
Treasury Board President Jane Philpott is the latest to leave, saying she didn’t feel she could defend the government’s conduct over the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Her resignation amps up the pressure tremendously on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The scandal threatens to overwhelm the Liberal party’s agenda for the months leading up to this year’s election and raises questions about his leadership. “Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised,” Philpott said in a statement.
Philpott had just replaced Nova Scotia’s Scott Brison at treasury board after he retired from politics.
Trudeau, meanwhile, was storm-stayed in Atlantic Canada, as a new political one developed in Ottawa. Clearly, even the old trick of getting out of town didn’t work for very long.
It didn’t really help to flee Ottawa to rally the political troops in St. John’s, N.L. and re-announce funding for a university science building, or to make yet another highway funding proclamation in Nova Scotia.
Nor did it change the channel to take a side trip to P.E.I. involving a meeting with the premier, a closed-door session with National Defence employees and an early-afternoon announcement at a business.
Eventually, the Liberals will have to stop playing “Where’s Justin?” and start dealing with the side of politics that isn’t about glad-handing and making announcements.
Eventually, the Liberals will have to stop playing “Where’s Justin?” and start dealing with the side of politics that isn’t about glad-handing and making announcements. Supposedly, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Not out of town, either.
Even before Philpott’s stunner, Trudeau was facing tough questions about what he and his office were asking of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould — in particular, whether they were interfering with the criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering and project management giant SNC-Lavalin over alleged bribery offences in relation to work in Libya. (When Wilson-Raybould spoke to the parliamentary justice committee, Trudeau was on the road again; he responded to her testimony from a Liberal party event in Montreal.)
With the uproar in Ottawa, Trudeau won’t even get any respite from the Commons calendar. Parliament has tottered into a two-week recess, so no question period is scheduled until March 18, but there is nowhere to hide.
Polls are compounding the pressure. They are showing that Trudeau’s trustworthiness rating is declining sharply.
The problem is that the scandal has that most relatable of issues at its core: the idea that a government would try to get a special deal on criminal charges for a big company, and that it would bend the rules in a way it would not for others. It’s time for better answers from the government.
With the SaltWire Network.