Second Minister resigns from Trudeau’s Cabinet amid scandal

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Ottawa, March 5 (IANS) A second member of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet has resigned, saying she has lost confidence in the government’s handling of a corruption inquiry.

Jane Philpott announced her decision to step down as the Treasury Board President on Monday. The Cabinet Minister posted her resignation letter detailing her “serious concerns” with “evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin”, the BBC reported.

Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin is one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies. The firm and two of its subsidiaries face fraud and corruption charges in connection with about $36 million in bribes they are alleged to have offered to Libyan officials between 2001-11 to obtain contracts in the North African country.

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A conviction in the Canadian courts would automatically disqualify SNC-Lavalin from bidding on public contracts in Canada for a decade, which would result in a considerable loss of revenue for the company.

Philpott expressed unhappiness about the government’s response to allegations that officials inappropriately pressured former Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in 21018 to help the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a corruption trial.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from the Cabinet on February 2. Days later, on February 27, she accused Trudeau, some of his top advisers and other members of the government, of pressuring her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a corruption trial.

“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,” Philpott wrote in her resignation letter.

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“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 former family physician has held key portfolios in Trudeau’s Cabinet — health, indigenous services and, until this week, Treasury Board President — since being elected in 2015. She will remain on as a Liberal member of Parliament.

Trudeau has been facing calls to resign over the scandal. Despite the resignations of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, he said the disagreement was normal and healthy in a democratic system.

During a rally in Toronto on Monday night, Trudeau thanked Philpott for her years of service and said he knew that she has “felt this way for some time”.

“While I am disappointed, I understand her decision to step down. I want to thank her for her service,” he said.

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–IANS

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