Canada’s prime minister has expelled two lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Party, saying “trust has been broken” after one accused the government of pressuring her to go easy on a major company accused of wrongdoing.
Jody Wilson-Raybould has said the government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put pressure on her when she was Attorney-General, to help Montreal-based construction company SNC-Lavalin settle a criminal case and avoid prosecution.
She said in testimony to the House Justice Committee that she had faced “veiled threats” and “sustained” pressure to help SNC-Lavalin, a major employer in Canada, over allegations that it had bribed officials in Libya to secure contracts.
She resigned her government post soon after making the accusations.
The other lawmaker, Jane Philpott, who had held several portfolios in Trudeau’s cabinet before becoming Treasury Board president, resigned last month, saying she had lost confidence in the government’s handling of an inquiry into the allegations.
The controversy has caused a sharp decline in Trudeau’s popularity in opinion polls just months before a general election.
In a speech to Liberal MPs (members of Parliament) Tuesday, Trudeau said he had approached the issue with “patience and understanding” but had concluded that they could not remain in the party caucus.
“We’ve taken every effort to address their concerns, but ultimately if they can’t honestly say they have confidence in this team despite weeks of testimony, face-to-face conversations, with myself and other members of caucus… then they cannot be part of this team.”
CNN affiliate CBC reported that Liberal MPs gave Trudeau a standing ovation after his speech, and many expressed “absolute support” for him.
Expelled MP: ‘No regrets’
Wilson-Raybould announced her expulsion on Twitter before the speech, and later tweeted that she had “no regrets” for her part in bringing the alleged scandal to light.
“What I can say is that I hold my head high and 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 and values that must always transcend party,” the two-part tweet reads.
“I have no regrets. I spoke the truth as I will continue to do.” She added that she would “take the time to reflect and talk to my supporters about what happens next.”
Philpott said in a statement on Facebook it was “profoundly disheartening” to be forced out of the caucus, and asserted that she was falsely accused of disloyalty and of being politically motivated.
Last week, Wilson-Raybould released secret recordings of a conversation she had with a high-ranking government official, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. Trudeau said this action was key in deciding to remove her from the party.
“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,” Trudeau said.
“And when that cabinet minister is the Attorney General of Canada secretly recording the Clerk of the Privy Council, it’s unconscionable.”
Commenting on the upcoming election, Trudeau said his party’s “political opponents win when Liberals are divided. We can’t afford to make that mistake. Canadians are counting on us.”
Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer said Liberal MPs had “chosen to condemn colleagues who spoke truth to power and to prop up a prime minister who is drowning in scandal.
“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,” Scheer said on Twitter, predicting voters would see the move as a “betrayal of justice.”