The House

Midweek podcast: Trust and loyalty in a political party

Today on the midweek podcast, we ask a former chief of staff to Jean Chrétien and now-Senator Percy Downe about how trust and loyalty factor into a cabinet and caucus in the wake of two former cabinet ministers being kicked out of the party over the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott were kicked out of the Liberal Party this week.
Listen to the full episode28:04

You can disagree with some things your party does, but expressing a loss of confidence in the prime minister shows unforgivable disloyalty, according to one former Liberal Party insider.

Sen. Percy Downe, who once served as the chief of staff to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, said it's important to stand up for your values and constituents — but there's a clear line you can't cross.

The minute an MP starts disagreeing with the leader, or with major parts of the platform, fellow members of the caucus should be concerned, he told Chris Hall on The House.

Trudeau announced late Tuesday he had ejected Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from caucus, saying that trust had been broken with the former top cabinet ministers.

Both had quit cabinet several weeks ago over the SNC-Lavalin affair, after former attorney general Wilson-Raybould said she was pressured by senior government figures to secure a special legal deal that would allow the Quebec company to avoid a criminal trial on bribery charges.

Many of their fellow Liberal MPs said it was no longer possible for the two women to remain in caucus after such a breakdown in trust.

Downe said it's a difficult balance for any party leader to strike, because too much loyalty can be a bad thing.

"The blind obedience is always a bit of a red flag, because you have to be careful if somebody is prepared to do anything that the party wants to do."

Within a governing party, Downe said, there are also varying degrees of loyalty required in caucus and cabinet. 

"Cabinet solidarity is a clear principle, that when cabinet makes a decision everybody supports it."