Embattled Trudeau expels “whistleblowers” from party in SNC-Lavalin crisis

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expelled two former cabinet ministers from his governing Liberal Party yesterday amid the deepening crisis over his handling of the SNC-Lavalin bribery prosecution.

With a general election due in October, the country’s opposition leader jumped on the expulsion, characterising it as punishing whistleblowers and a "betrayal of justice".

The two former ministers, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, had both previously resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet over allegations that Trudeau had pressured Wilson-Raybould, when she was justice minister and attorney general, to help Canada’s biggest engineering firm avoid a trial in favour of an out-of-court agreement.

Trudeau has denied pressuring her on the matter.

His move yesterday follows her explosive release last week on Friday, 29 March of a secretly recorded telephone conversation held in December with Canada’s top civil servant, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

In it, Wernick says repeatedly that the prime minister wanted SNC-Lavalin to avoid prosecution. Wilson-Raybould interpreted this as pressure and interference with her prerogative as attorney general. 

Figures loyal to Trudeau condemned the release of the tape and other documents.

The increasingly embattled Trudeau announced the two women’s expulsion yesterday to federal Liberal MPs, a grouping known as the caucus.

"The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken, whether it’s taping conversations without consent, or repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence in our government or me personally as leader," he said, reports CBC News.

He added: "It’s become clear that Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott can no longer remain part of our Liberal team."

Jane Philpott, who was president of the cabinet’s Treasury Board, resigned on 4 March.

With an election now seven months away, the main opposition Conservative Party has pulled ahead in opinion polls since the scandal erupted earlier this year. 

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer jumped on yesterday’s expulsion as evidence of the Liberal government’s corruption.

In a searing Facebook post he wrote: "Canadians will view the removal of Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus for exactly what it is: A betrayal of justice. Elected officials are supposed to protect individuals who blow the whistle on government misconduct and corruption, not punish them." 

He added: "If you tell the truth, there is no room for you in the Liberal Party of Canada."

Image from the Twitter and Facebook accounts of Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer

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