Politics

Timeline: Turmoil in the Trudeau cabinet

Jane Philpott has vacated her seat at the Liberal cabinet table, saying she's lost confidence in the way the Trudeau government has handled the growing SNC-Lavalin scandal. Here's a chronology of the events leading up to her resignation.

Three Liberal ministers have resigned since the beginning of 2019

Jane Philpott stepped down from her post as Treasury Board president, saying in a statement that she had "lost confidence" in how the government has dealt with the SNC-Lavalin controversy. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Jane Philpott has vacated her seat at the Liberal cabinet table, saying she's lost confidence in the way the Trudeau government has handled the growing SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Her stunning resignation makes her the third minister to step down since January.

Here's a chronology of events that led up to her resignation:

Jan. 14, 2019 — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffles his cabinet after Treasury Board President Scott Brison says he's leaving politics. Jody Wilson-Raybould is moved from Justice to Veterans Affairs, a move widely seen as a demotion. David Lametti, a Montreal MP and former law professor, becomes justice minister. Philpott, who previously served as both Health and Indigenous Services minister, is shuffled to Treasury Board.

That same day, Wilson-Raybould posts an eyebrow-raising letter outlining her record as justice minister and noting a great deal of work remains to be done toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Feb. 7 — The Globe and Mail newspaper runs a story, citing unnamed sources, that says Trudeau's aides attempted to press Wilson-Raybould, while attorney general, to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, and that frustration with her lack of co-operation was one reason for shuffling her out of the justice portfolio.

Trudeau denies doing anything wrong. Citing solicitor-client privilege, Wilson-Raybould refuses to speak about dealings she had on the case when she was attorney general.

Feb. 11 — Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion says he's beginning an investigation. At a public appearance in Vancouver, Trudeau says he's spoken to Wilson-Raybould and confirmed with her that he said any decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was entirely hers. Her continued presence in his cabinet speaks for itself, he says.

Feb. 12 — Wilson-Raybould resigns as Veterans Affairs minister and says she's hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on the limits of solicitor-client privilege.

Trudeau says he's surprised and disappointed that Wilson-Raybould has quit, and that if she felt undue pressure in her role as attorney general, she had a duty to report it to him.

Feb. 13 — The House of Commons justice committee debates whether it should start its own review into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Feb. 15 — Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould asked him in September whether he would direct her one way or another on the SNC-Lavalin question. He says he told her he would not.

Feb. 18 — Gerry Butts resigns as Trudeau's principal secretary. He denies any impropriety but says his continued presence in the Prime Minister's Office has become a distraction.

Feb. 19 — Wilson-Raybould stuns observers by attending a meeting of the very cabinet from which she resigned a week earlier. Plans are made for her to testify before the justice committee.

Feb. 21 — Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti tells the justice committee he has never faced inappropriate pressure from the prime minister or anyone in the PMO, and would take action if any official tried to direct his actions improperly.

That afternoon, Michael Wernick, Canada's top civil servant, appears in front of the committee. The Privy Council clerk insists there was no inappropriate pressure on Wilson-Raybould to override a decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin, but says he warned her about the dire economic "consequences" of criminal proceedings.

Feb. 25 — The Trudeau government issues an order-in-council waiver allowing Wilson-Raybould to tell the Commons justice committee details of her conversations with government officials about the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Feb. 26 — Wilson-Raybould writes to Quebec Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, chair of the Commons justice committee, to say that while she will agree to give testimony before MPs, she will not be able to speak freely because the limits of the PMO's waiver won't allow it.

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould arrives to give her testimony about the SNC-Lavalin affair before a justice committee hearing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019. (Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images)

Feb. 27 — In a highly anticipated appearance in front of the justice committee, Wilson-Raybould says she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats related to the SNC-Lavalin file, and was warned directly by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the negative consequences if the company faced prosecution.

She says she was contacted by 11 officials in the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office and Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office while she was justice minister and attorney general about SNC-Lavalin and a possible deferred prosecution agreement.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calls on Trudeau to resign over his role in undermining the administration of justice and trying to overturn an independent decision by the attorney general. He says the prime minister has lost his moral authority to govern.

Feb. 28 — Trudeau says he is considering whether Wilson-Raybould can remain in the Liberal caucus.

Butts writes to Housefather asking to testify. He says that after watching Wilson-Raybould's appearance, he believes his evidence could help the committee as it considers the alleged interference.

Scheer writes to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki asking for a formal investigation

March 1 - Trudeau shuffles his cabinet, again. 

Lawrence MacAulay, formerly minister of agriculture and agri-food, takes over Veterans Affairs in Wilson-Raybould's absence. Marie-Claude Bibeau, who until recently was minister of international development, is given the agriculture file. Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef takes on international development as part of her duties.

March 2 — Ontario Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, a champion of both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, announces she won't be seeking re-election this year. However, she stressed her choice wasn't related to the ongoing SNC-Lavalin affair.

March 3 —  Wilson-Raybould says she'll be running under the Liberal banner in October's general election.

March 4 —  Philpott, one of Justin Trudeau's most trusted ministers, announces her resignation from cabinet. In her letter to the prime minister, the MP for Markham-Stouffville says she has been considering the events that have shaken the federal government in recent weeks and, after "serious reflection," has concluded she must quit.

"I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities and constitutional obligations," she writes.

March 6 — Butts, Wernick and Nathalie Drouin, deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Canada,  testify in front of the justice committee.

March 7 — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tells reporters at a press conference in Ottawa that he recognizes there was "an erosion of trust" between Wilson-Raybould and his office, and that he as prime minister should have known this was happening. Trudeau says his government will review the issues raised by the SNC-Lavalin affair, including the dual role of the justice minister and attorney general, but he stops short of apologizing.

With files from the Canadian Press

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