The Current

Inside the 'brief conversation' in which Jane Philpott was expelled from the Liberal caucus

Jane Philpott, one of the former ministers at the centre of the SNC-Lavalin affair, speaks to Anna Maria Tremonti about the scandal and her recent expulsion from the Liberal caucus.

Philpott spoke to Anna Maria Tremonti about expulsion and SNC-Lavalin scandal

Jane Philpott said that Canadians can be thankful that former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould 'did not bend' over the the SNC-Lavalin case. (Christian Patry/CBC)
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Jane Philpott said she did not speak to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau between her resignation on March 4 and when she was summoned to his office to find out she was being ejected from the Liberal caucus this week.

"It was a relatively brief conversation — he gave some reasons why he felt he had to make that decision," she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"I wish him well, and you know, I hope that this will not have negative outcomes for those who are trying to move forward on really important causes for our country."

Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould, both former senior ministers in Trudeau's cabinet, were expelled from the Liberal caucus Tuesday.

Philpott spoke with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti about why she resigned, and how she feels about her expulsion and the ongoing SNC-Lavalin scandal. Here is part of their conversation.

How did you find out you were expelled from caucus?

The prime minister invited me to his office and told me.

What was that conversation like?

It was a relatively brief conversation. He gave some reasons why he felt he had to make that decision. Obviously ... he is the leader of the party and the prime minister of our country and I respect his decisions and his authority.

I wished him well, and, you know, I hope that this will not have negative outcomes for those who are trying to move forward on really important causes for our country.

Jane Philpott suggests that the whole SNC-Lavalin affair could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had just taken ownership and apologized for trying to interfere. 1:21

But you talked to him a week before. What was the tone of that?

No, I did not talk to him the week before. I had not had a conversation with him from the time I resigned from cabinet until the day that he expelled me.

And so, just to be clear you weren't in any kind of discussion to get back into the fold, in terms of like a discussion. We know that there was a discussion with Ms. Wilson-Raybould, with certain conditions.

I don't know where you got that information from. Certainly, I can speak for myself. I would never reveal the content or even the details of conversations I had when I was a cabinet minister with the prime minister. Those are confidential conversations. So I think it would be good to talk to Ms. Wilson-Raybould to confirm her perspective on the stories that were, I gather, leaked to the CBC from some sources.

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

Do we have a justice system in Canada that is now deeply flawed? You left, you didn't get what you wanted, it doesn't change. Does that mean our justice system is flawed as it stands right now, under this Liberal government?

No, in fact I think Canadians can be very thankful that the system did work. I believe it worked because the former attorney general did not bend to the wishes of those who wanted her to interfere in the trial.

People should be examining the 'disturbing' content of conversation between Jody Wilson-Raybould and Michael Wernick, Jane Philpott tells Anna Maria Tremonti. 1:04

And you make the point that she did not bend, and so Jane Philpott, if she didn't bend, why do you have to resign? Did you not deal with it internally? Help me understand. In fact, it didn't happen right, so why would you step away?

The problem was that the decision of the government at large was to go out and the first lines that you may have heard when the story broke initially in the Globe and Mail, the first lines that very day were: the allegations are entirely false. Well, we know now that they weren't entirely false.

Philpott resigned in solidarity with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Having believed the former attorney general, I did not feel comfortable going out and saying the allegations are false. The story of the government has changed now to not necessarily denying the allegations but to saying, 'Well, it doesn't actually matter.'

I don't believe that either ... I believe it does matter .... that this attempted interference took place ... and I think Canadians deserve to know that someone takes responsibility, and apologizes for what took place. I essentially couldn't go out and, you know, to use a much-used phrase, toe the party line on this end. And as a cabinet minister, I had the obligation to do that.

I couldn't do that because I felt that our approach was wrong.

Jane Philpott says that she chose to resign from Cabinet because to her the truth is more important than anyone's political success. 1:16

And does that suggest that you think that the government will now that Jody Wilson-Raybould is not the attorney general that with a new attorney general the government will do exactly what it wanted to do under her?

I have no information as to what the plan is. As I said, a long time ago, the director of public prosecutions said that they do not qualify. I assume that the current attorney general will not allow himself to be the victim of interference in causing him to step in, unless he has some new information, but I'm not privy to those details.

I have to ask you, you have been a star cabinet minister, with big portfolios, a reputation when you got Treasury Board for being the one who gets things done. With all the priorities you championed as a senior member of the Liberal cabinet — reconciliation, climate change, health, gender equality — you chose to sacrifice your political career over in this.

I chose the truth. I chose to act on principles that are so important to the future of our country. That's more important than my political career. I got into politics to improve people's lives, to be the very best member of parliament for Markham-Stouffville that I could possibly be, to stand up for truth to represent what I heard from my constituents. If that means that — in some way — I've been taken out of opportunities that I had before, it makes me very sad. I loved the work that I was able to do, but I have to be able to speak to my children and my mother and my husband and say I did the right thing. And to my constituents and say I did the right thing.

I don't know what my political future holds at this point. I think there may be some opportunities out there for me yet. The truth is more important than any individual's political success.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Written by Padraig Moran, with files from CBC News. Produced by Julie Crysler and Idella Sturino.

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