Politics

Wilson-Raybould, Philpott to seek re-election as Independent MPs

Former cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will seek re-election as Independent candidates in the fall election campaign.

Green Party Elizabeth May disappointed they won't be running under her party's banner

Former Liberal cabinet ministers Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould both announced on May 27 that they would run as independents in the next federal election. (Chris Glover, Ben Nelms/CBC)

Former cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will seek re-election as Independent candidates in the fall election campaign, having rejected an offer to join the Green Party after weeks of talks with leader Elizabeth May.

The MPs made their announcements at separate, back-to-back news conferences in their ridings, nearly two months after being expelled from the Liberal caucus.

In her Vancouver-Granville riding this morning, Wilson-Raybould said a non-partisan approach is the best way to change the way politics is done in Canada.

She said she decided to seek re-election after hearing encouragement from people in the riding.

"With your support, I am confident that running as an independent is the best way to go about it at this time, and the best way to transform our political culture," she said.

Wilson-Raybould said she will work with like-minded parties on issues like the environment. She said she believes the best way to tackle the big issues confronting Canada is through collective efforts.

"In this reality, there is less room for overt partisanship in our evolving democracy," she said. "Rising to these challenges requires Ottawa to operate more openly and transparently in the spirit of non-partisanship with increased co-operation."

Philpott told a gathering of supporters in her own Ontario riding of Markham-Stouffville this morning that she was urged by her constituents to stay in federal politics, and that stepping back from the federal fray now would have sent the wrong message to young women.

She said people are growing tired of hyper-partisan politics and the fighting and dysfunction in the federal system, and instead want politicians to treat each other with respect and look for real solutions.

"We need political will and who better to build political will than independent voices who aren't afraid of anybody?" she said.

'They weren't interested'

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said today she was disappointed Wilson-Raybould and Philpott decided not to join her party after weeks of discussions.

She said she would have happily welcomed them as potential future leadership candidates, but it was a moot point because both politicians told her they had no aspirations to lead the Green Party.

"I was interested in making sure everything was on the table. They weren't interested," she said. "I just wanted to discuss with them what was open, what's possible."

(Turget Yeter/CBC )

May said that she has no immediate plan to step aside as leader and her eventual successor will be chosen by the grassroots members. She said she plans to stay on as an MP after a successor is chosen and, for that reason, she has a vested interest in backing a candidate with whom she could work well.

May said she couldn't say why the two ultimately decided not to join the Greens, but speculated they had feelings of "deep unhappiness" lingering from their involvement in the Liberal Party and felt reluctant to join another.

Wilson-Raybould and Philpott both praised May and the Green Party's commitment to fighting climate change, and promised to be allies on environmental issues.

Philpott said confronting issues like climate change, electoral reform and reconciliation with Indigenous people requires political collaboration.

'Cry for co-operation'

"These are all the big challenges that we can't solve if we're constantly fighting with one another," she said. "This is a cry for co-operation. Let's co-operate. Let's collaborate. It's the only way we're going to solve these hard problems."

Philpott said she hopes other people who don't fit into a partisan "box" will put their names on the ballot as independent candidates.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the two MPs statements today serve as a "clear reminder" that there's no room in the Liberal Party for those who stand up to Justin Trudeau.

"While it is unfortunate that the Liberal leader kicked Ms. Jody Wilson Raybould and Dr. Jane Philpott out of caucus for simply telling the truth in the face of his scandals, it is heartening to hear that they have decided to continue standing up for what they believe in," he said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from the Liberal caucus on April 2, saying trust with the two former cabinet ministers had been irreparably broken as the government worked to beat back allegations that officials inappropriately pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin criminal case.

Soured relations with the two MPs came to a head when Wilson-Raybould released a secretly taped audio recording of a conversation she had with Michael Wernick, who has since retired as clerk of the Privy Council.

Trudeau delivered news of the expulsions to the national Liberal caucus during an open, televised meeting, saying the two could not stay on because they could not express confidence in the caucus.

Jody Wilson-Raybould will seek re-election as an Independent candidate in the fall election. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"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 at the time.

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

Inappropriate political pressure

The political saga has been unfolding since Feb. 7, when the Globe and Mail first reported that Wilson-Raybould felt she had faced inappropriate political pressure on the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution decision.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction company had been seeking a remediation agreement to avoid a trial, but Wilson-Raybould had decided not to overturn the public prosecutor's decision to proceed with prosecution.

During an inquiry by the Commons justice committee, Wilson-Raybould testified she faced "veiled threats" and inappropriate pressure by the Prime Minister's Office and other government officials to change her mind.

After her expulsion, Wilson-Raybould said she had no regrets and "spoke the truth."

'Profoundly disheartening'

"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," she said on Twitter.

Philpott, who was considered one of the most respected and competent members in Trudeau's cabinet, said the development was "profoundly disheartening."

"Rather than acknowledge the obvious — that a range of individuals had inappropriately attempted to pressure the former attorney general in relation to a prosecutorial decision — and apologize for what occurred, a decision was made to attempt to deny the obvious — to attack Jody Wilson-Raybould's credibility and attempt to blame her," she wrote in a Facebook post after she was kicked out of the Liberal caucus.

The Liberal Party said there will be a nomination process in the coming weeks to select a candidate for Markham-Stouffville.

"The Liberal Party of Canada is continuing to be approached by a variety of talented community leaders interested in becoming the Team Trudeau candidate in Markham-Stouffville," a statement from the party reads.


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