Canadians know enough about SNC-Lavalin affair to judge what happened: Philpott
Published Thursday, April 4, 2019 6:56PM EDT
Former cabinet minister turned Independent MP Jane Philpott says she won't be pushing for a waiver or study to make more information on the SNC-Lavalin affair public, because Canadians already know enough to judge the Trudeau government's actions.
"There is more that I am aware of, conversations that I had for example, that are relevant to the case," she told host Don Martin on Thursday's episode of CTV Power Play. "I don't have the freedom to share those things. They are matters of cabinet confidence. I'm not going to make an issue of trying to find a way to share those details because I think there's enough information on the public record for Canadians to see what happened and judge for themselves."
Philpott was booted from Liberal caucus, along with former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, on Tuesday. Both ministers said they were "disappointed" with the decision.
"I must say, I was surprised to be expelled on caucus on Tuesday," she said. "I thought that one could continue in caucus and say, 'This is an area where I’d like to continue to see an alternate path.' I didn’t have an opportunity even to say that in front of my national caucus colleagues."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he made the call after trust was broken on the Liberal bench as a result of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Trudeau cited Wilson-Raybould's decision to record a conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick as one of the deadly sins resulting in the ministers' expulsion from the Liberal caucus. The audio contained what Wilson-Raybould alleged was evidence of the government’s attempted "political interference" as the clerk spoke with her about pursuing a deferred prosecution agreement in the corruption case against Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
The firm had been charged with corruption over its dealings with the Libyan government but, citing the importance of saving jobs, the government had been exploring the possibility of striking a deal. Wilson-Raybould was opposed to the deal, but current Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti has not ruled out the possibility of pursing a DPA in the case.
Wilson-Raybould's recording has sparked debate about whether it was the ethical thing to do, but Philpott said those discussions miss the point.
"What concerns me about this is that people have focused so much on the fact that that tape exists, without thinking about what is that tape saying, and what was taking place during that time, and what did it then confirm about what had taken place in the months leading up to that," she said.
However, she acknowledged Wilson-Raybould's decision to record was unorthodox.
"In any ordinary circumstances…that would not necessarily be the appropriate thing to do. But these are not ordinary circumstances," Philpott said.
For Philpott, the extraordinary circumstances are ones she wished had never happened.
"I so wish that we could turn back the clock several months and that people would have made different choices."
She also said the entire situation "was completely preventable if, in the first, place politicians and staff members and officials hadn’t as the evidence reveals attempted to interfere in this criminal trial."
Philpott added that there were multiple opportunities for the government to mitigate the damage over the months that the controversy unfolded. For example, she said Trudeau's team could have apologized, figured out the problem and promised not to let it happen again.
If the initial shuffle that saw Wilson-Raybould moved from the justice file to veterans' affairs hadn’t taken place, Philpott also said, "things might have continued as they were."
Despite describing the whole situation as "regrettable," Philpott is happy with her handling of it.
"I have no regrets about any of the decisions that I have made in this process," she said.
"I think there needs to be more discussion about what the role of team loyalty is versus making sure, above all, we respect the truth…that's where I, on this particular issue, felt like we were not being as frank as Canadians would like us to be as to what took place."
Overall, however, Philpott was optimistic about the impact it's having on Canadians.
"This has raised some really important conversations," she said. "I think any time that Canadians are engaged and understanding the importance of our democracy is a good time."
As for herself, Philpott says she doesn't know what her political future holds – but she hopes there is one.
"I think there are options out there…as soon as I have any news, I'll let you know," she said.