Jody Wilson-Raybould won't run in next election, denounces 'toxic' environment in Parliament

Independent MP and former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould won't run again in the next federal election.

Wilson-Raybould kicked out of the Liberal caucus in 2018 during the SNC-Lavalin scandal

A woman in a blue sweater walks into a meeting.
Jody Wilson-Raybould says she won't be running in the next federal election. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Independent MP and former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she won't run in the next federal election.

Wilson-Raybould announced Thursday that she decided not to put her name forward for re-election, in part, because she is dismayed by the state of Canadian politics. She said that Parliament is focused on partisanship rather than achieving positive change for Canadians.

"From my seat over the last six years, I have noticed a change in Parliament, a regression," Wilson-Raybould said in a letter posted online. 

"It has become more and more toxic and ineffective while simultaneously marginalizing individuals from certain backgrounds. Federal politics is, in my view, increasingly a disgraceful triumph of harmful partisanship over substantive action."

In her letter, Wilson-Raybould said she can contribute more to progress on the issues important to her — reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, social justice and the fight against climate change — outside of the House of Commons. 

"With others, I fought for change from outside of federal politics for 25-plus years, and I fought for change within federal politics for the past six years. Both inside and outside of government, I know the fight continues," she wrote.

The SNC-Lavalin affair

A former B.C. Crown prosecutor and regional chief in B.C., Wilson-Raybould was first elected as a Liberal to represent the Vancouver Granville riding in 2015. She became Canada's first Indigenous justice minister but resigned from cabinet and was subsequently ousted from the Liberal Party during the SNC-Lavalin affair.

At the centre of the controversy were claims that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office attempted to bully Wilson-Raybould into offering a deferred prosecution agreement to the Quebec engineering firm that would have shielded it from prosecution on corruption charges. Wilson-Raybould refused to grant the agreement and was demoted to the Veterans Affairs ministry before she resigned.

The allegations of political interference prompted a parliamentary inquiry that eventually led to the departure of Wilson-Raybould and her close friend Jane Philpott from cabinet, the resignation of one of the prime minister's key aides and opposition calls for Trudeau to step down.

The ethics commissioner subsequently ruled that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence Wilson-Raybould in the matter.

LISTEN: Jody Wilson-Raybould interview on CBC Radio's The Early Edition

Following the scandal, Wilson-Raybould was re-elected as an Independent MP in the 2019 federal election. Since then, she has been outspoken about her experiences as a minister and as an MP. 

She has said she plans to publish a political memoir that will shed new light on her controversial final days in the Trudeau government. That book could come out in the middle of an election campaign widely expected to take place in September of this year.

Wilson-Raybould says Parliament needs reform

Wilson-Raybould's letter includes a blistering critique of how Parliament functions. She argues that partisanship needs to be reduced and structural changes must be made to the electoral system to allow the country to tackle major challenges, such as the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The privileges we give political parties. The out-of-date norms of our first-past-the-post electoral system. The lack of inclusiveness. The power of the prime minister and the centralization of power in the hands of those who are unelected. The erosion of governing principles and conventions to the point where there are limited or no consequences for wrongful acts undertaken for political benefit," she wrote.

"Canadians need to lead our leaders."

Independent Members of Parliament Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould speak to journalists in the Foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday April 3, 2019, one day after being removed from the Liberal caucus. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

While Wilson-Raybould hasn't said what she plans to do after leaving politics, she told CBC Radio's The Early Edition that she will continue to push for democratic reform.

"We need to be constantly vigilant and look at how we are functioning as a democracy in Canada in order to ... address the major issues that are facing us," Wilson-Raybould told host Stephen Quinn.

"That's what I'm going to continue to do and find ways to build consensus and continue to bring people together."

MPs react with sadness

News of Wilson-Raybould's decision was met by expressions of regret from other members of Parliament.

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq — who herself has decided not to run again  — said Canadians should reflect on what Wilson-Raybould went through before making this decision.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner shared a 10-minute video on Facebook in which she held up Wilson-Raybould's criticism of Parliament as proof of the dysfunction afflicting federal politics in Canada.

"I'm a little emotional because it's rare to come across someone like that in Parliament. And I really appreciate her friendship and her kinship. I really think that our Parliament will be a less vibrant place," Rempel Garner said.

Kamloops Conservative MP Cathy McLeod said she has never experienced the kind of toxicity in Parliament that Wilson-Raybould claimed.

"Parliament has always been a rough and tumble place," McLeod told Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops, on Friday.

"If you look in terms of what has happened to a number of the female Liberal MPs, you do have to question that [whether the parliament is toxic] … but I think the Conservative Party and the leadership that I've been under has been very respectful of … myself."

Tap the link below to hear Cathy McLeod's interview on Daybreak Kamloops:

Recently, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett apologized publicly to Wilson-Raybould after suggesting that her expressions of concern over what she called Trudeau's "selfish jockeying for an election" was a ploy to secure a generous MP pension.

MPs become eligible for pensions after being in office for six years, a date which lands on Oct. 19 for those MPs first elected in 2015.

An early election call, which many expect could come in mid-August, would mean Wilson-Raybould would not qualify for the pension.

With files from The Canadian Press

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