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OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have been ejected from the Liberal Party caucus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday evening, saying “The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken.”
Wilson-Raybould had announced the news on Twitter Tuesday evening just as a national caucus meeting was about to begin to discuss her future in the party. She said she had also been removed as the party’s candidate in Vancouver-Granville for the 2019 election.
There was also no immediate word on whether former Philpott, the former Treasury Board president who resigned from cabinet over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair, had also been removed as a candidate for the upcoming election.
I have just been informed by the Prime Minister of Canada that I am removed from the Liberal caucus and as the confirmed Vancouver Granville candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election. More to come...— Jody Wilson-Raybould (@Puglaas) April 2, 2019
Wilson-Raybould’s ejection comes on the same day she wrote a scathing letter to her Liberal caucus colleagues that said their choice on whether to remove her would reveal the values of the party.
“Now I know many of you are angry, hurt, and frustrated,” says her letter, dated Apr. 2. “And frankly so am I, and I can only speak for myself. I am angry, hurt and frustrated because I feel and believe I was upholding the values that we all committed to.”
Wilson-Raybould says she acted as she did on the SNC-Lavalin file because she was trying to “protect the Prime Minister and the government from a horrible mess.”
She has given evidence to the Commons justice committee that there was a sustained campaign by senior government officials during the fall of 2018 to pressure her into ordering a deferred prosecution for SNC-Lavalin — pressure that she resisted, warning it violated the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.
“I am not the one who tried to interfere in sensitive proceedings, I am not the one who made it public, and I am not the one who publicly denied what happened,” her letter to caucus says.
In one section of her letter, Wilson-Raybould appears to be addressing recent comments from some Liberal MPs that have attacked her motives. Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, for example, has suggested she was trying to “entrap” Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick when she recorded their phone conversation.
“Growing up as an Indigenous person in this country, I learned long ago the lesson that people believing what they wish about you does not, and cannot ever, make it the truth — rather than letting authority be the truth, let the truth be the authority,” the letter says. “Indeed, if I had succumbed to interpreting the beliefs of other to be the truth, I never would have been able to push forward in the face of racism and misogyny that far too many Indigenous women, and others, still experience every day.”
Wilson-Raybould says she still intends to stand as the Liberal candidate in the 2019 election. But in acknowledgement of the movement to eject her, she lays out a challenge.
“Ultimately the choice that is before you is about what kind of party you want to be a part of, what values it will uphold, the vision that animates it, and indeed the type of people it will attract and make it up,” her letter says.
“If indeed our caucus is to be a microcosm of the country it is about whether we are a caucus of inclusion or exclusion; of dialogue and searching for understanding or shutting out challenging views and perspectives; and ultimately of the old ways of doing business, or new ones that look to the future.”
Tuesday also saw the release of additional evidence tabled at the Commons justice committee consisting of text messages between Wilson-Raybould and Gerald Butts, the former top aide to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Butts resigned over the controversy on Feb. 18.
Among the messages are exchanges between Wilson-Raybould and Butts after she was told on Jan. 7 she would be removed as justice minister and attorney general. The texts show an argument that evolved and grew increasingly hostile as the announcement of the cabinet shuffle drew near.
At first, Wilson-Raybould — who was on vacation in Bali at the time — protested the move over what it signalled for Indigenous Canadians.
“Timing of ‘pushing’ me out (which will be the perception — whether true or not) is terrible,” she wrote on Jan 8. “It will be confounding and perplexing to people. This is not about me — believe me when I say this — but this is about an approach to Indigenous Peoples…This situation is only going to deepen and I am very worried about it. I am getting texts/emails from indig leaders and B.C. etc.”
Nobody is ‘pushing you out,'” Butts responded. “In fact, the PM has taken the extraordinary (in my experience unique) step of offering an alternative cabinet post to you.” The reference is to Wilson-Raybould turning down Trudeau’s first offer of the Indigenous services portfolio, saying she couldn’t take it given she’d spent her life opposing the Indian Act. She was made veterans affairs minister instead.
By Jan. 12, Wilson-Raybould was strongly implying she was being moved because of the SNC-Lavalin issue, though the texts don’t explicitly say so.
“For what it is worth, I feel compelled to say — one last time — that what is being proposed is a mistake — irrespective of where I am going. There is no way to fully explain this…My eyes are wide open on this shift,” she texted.
“What I know — as you must — is that there is a robust and proud record of what our government has done — through my work and that of the (Department of Justice)…I stand behind this hard work and all of my decisions and legal advice.”
Butts again defended the move. “I know this is tough but we have very good ideas to make it all work from a comms perspective,” he texted. “There’s an opportunity here for you to show people a side of yourself and your talent that you did not get as (minister of justice and attorney general).”
But Wilson-Raybould was unmoved, and accused Butts of wanting to staff the justice minister’s office with PMO aides Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques — both of whom had been pushing Wilson-Raybould’s office to give SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution. (Both Bouchard and Marques have remained in the PMO.)
“As to the ‘very good ideas’ you guys might want to consider sharing them with me,” she said. “But know I will be prepared for tomorrow. And I know why this is happening.”
The cabinet shuffle was announced on Jan. 14.
- Read the letter Jody Wilson-Raybould sent Liberal MPs as they consider whether to kick her out of caucus
- ANDREW COHEN: Canada's SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis
- HOWARD LEVITT: The law is on Wilson-Raybould's side when it comes to recording phone calls, but employees beware
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019