Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns from cabinet
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Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns from cabinet

Last Updated Feb 12, 2019 at 2:45 pm MST

Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Wilson-Raybould is at the centre of one of the biggest storms the Trudeau government has been hit with to date: allegations he or his aides tried to pressure her to help Quebec-corporate giant SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from the federal cabinet Tuesday – one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested her continuing presence in cabinet was proof she didn’t think she’d been improperly pressured to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

In a letter to Trudeau published on her website Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould said she is resigning “with a heavy heart” but did not explain why.

However, she said she’s aware that “many Canadians wish for me speak (sic) on matters that have been in the media over the last week” – referring to the furor that erupted after a news report last Thursday alleged she was demoted to veterans-affairs minister in January from the prestigious justice and attorney general portfolio because she had refused to give in to pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office on the SNC-Lavalin case.

As the former attorney general, Wilson-Raybould has refused to comment on the allegation, citing solicitor-client privilege.

In her letter Tuesday, she said she has hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on “the topics that I am legally permitted to discuss in this matter.”

Wilson-Raybould said she intends to continuing serving as the MP for the riding of Vancouver-Granville. For the time being at least, she remains a member of the Liberal caucus.

Her exit came less than 24 hours after Trudeau said he had “full confidence” in her and suggested she would have resigned from cabinet on principle if she had felt anyone had tried to improperly pressure her.

“In our system of government, of course, her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself,” he said following an event in Vancouver – one that Wilson-Raybould didn’t attend, unlike a handful of fellow Liberals from the city.

Trudeau’s office issued a terse statement that made no attempt to put any gloss on Wilson-Raybould’s departure from cabinet or to thank her for her service.

Wilson-Raybould informed the prime minister on Monday night of her intention to resign, the statement said. Trudeau informed the rest of his cabinet Tuesday morning about her decision and named Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to take over responsibility for the veterans-affairs portfolio.

Trudeau was scheduled to take questions from the media later Tuesday after an event in Winnipeg.

In Fredericton, N.B., Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Wilson-Raybould’s resignation proves there’s more to the SNC-Lavalin story than Trudeau has been letting on.

“Yesterday, he said that her presence (in cabinet) speaks for itself. Well, today, her resignation speaks for itself,” Scheer said. “Clearly, there is something more than he has been forthcoming with.”

Trudeau has denied Wilson-Raybould was pressured to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin rather than pursue a criminal trial on charges of corruption and bribery related to the company’s efforts to secure government contracts in Libya. On Monday, after meeting with Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau said she confirmed to him that he had specifically told her it was entirely up to her whether to prosecute the Montreal-based engineering giant.

Scheer called on Trudeau to waive solicitor-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak freely on the matter.

“The longer he refuses to do this, the more guilty he appears to Canadians.”

Scheer also wrote to Trudeau, calling on him to ensure that all documents – including “memos, letters, emails, PINs, SMS messages and handwritten notes” – pertaining to the case are preserved.

Both Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on the Liberals to support an opposition motion to have the House of Commons justice committee investigate the allegation that Wilson-Raybould was pressured. The committee is scheduled to consider the motion on Wednesday.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative that the Liberal government support the work of the justice committee that will be looking into whether there was illegal interference with the independent exercise of the former attorney general’s responsibilities,” Singh said in a statement.

“If Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government shut the justice committee’s work down, it would send a dangerous signal to Canadians about the state of our democracy.”

In her letter, Wilson-Raybould said her resignation “is in no way a reflection” on veterans, their families or their service. “I only wish that I could have served you longer.”

“When I sought federal elected office, it was with the goal of implementing a positive and progressive vision of change on behalf of all Canadians and a different way of doing politics,” she wrote. “My resignation as a minister of the Crown in no way changes my commitment to seeing that fundamental change achieved. This work must and will carry on.”

She thanked her staff, officials and Canadians who supported her while in cabinet and concluded: “Regardless of background, geography, or party affiliation, we must stand together for the values that Canada is built on, and which are the foundation for our future.”


Related stories:

PM asserts full confidence in Wilson-Raybould amid ethics investigation

Trudeau denies report his office pressured attorney general to help SNC Lavalin

Scheer demands PM let Wilson-Raybould talk about SNC-Lavalin discussions

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