These are excerpts from an interview that The Honourable Jane Philpott, a former Minister of Health, Minister of Indigenous Services and President of the Treasury Board, gave to Paul Wells of MacLean’s magazine:
- “I resigned because I could not maintain solidarity with cabinet on the specific issue of the management of the SNC-Lavalin issue. I felt that there was evidence of an attempt to politically interfere with the justice system in its work on the criminal trial that has been described by some as the most important and serious prosecution of corporate corruption in modern Canadian history;
- I believe the former attorney general has further points to make. I believe that I have further issues of concern that I’m not free to share. There was a reference by Gerry Butts in his testimony of the fact that I spoke to the Prime Minister on January the 6th about SNC-Lavalin’s desire to have a DPA [deferred prosecution agreement]. This was more than a month before the story became public. And I ordinarily would have not been allowed to share that information. But of course it’s already on the public record from the Justice Committee. I think Canadians might want to know why I would have raised that with the Prime Minister a month before the public knew about it. Why would I have felt that there was a reason why former Minister Wilson-Raybould should not be shuffled?
- My sense is that Canadians would like to know the whole story. I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth. They need to have confidence in the very basic constitutional principle of the independence of the justice system;
- My only way of living with myself on that is that this is not my fault. I did not start this. And a very wise person said two things to me that helped me over that. This is someone who has been around politics for a long time. They said that politicians in general, and perhaps Liberals in particular, make mistakes when they assume that the best interests of Canadians and their own future political success are synonymous … [and, she added, in response to the same question] …Of course I want a Liberal government in federal politics. I do not want to see Prime Minister Andrew Scheer, for a whole bunch of really important reasons. But the Liberal Party needs to be the best version of the Liberal Party. And I had to do the right thing and trust that the details would work out for the best interests of Canadians. And I think that was the second thing that this person said to me: that you have to make the decision that you can live with, based on your own convictions and principles, and you are not responsible for the fallout from it; and
I do, in a sense, have two parallel messages. One is that I’m not happy with how the SNC-Lavalin issue has been dealt with, and I’m not prepared to support how it’s being managed. But at the same time, I really strongly support the Liberal Party and believe that we have the best overall policy suite for the good of Canadians. So I was really hesitant to talk to you because it will be perceived by my colleagues as some kind of attack. I have not yet figured out how I can reconcile the fact that it is wrong for me to stay silent on this, but somehow I have to hope that people, my colleagues in particular, can believe what is probably hard for them to believe: that I’m not trying to damage our party or our government.”
Paul Wells asked, in one of his questions: “Do you have leadership ambitions?” Dr Philpott replied, simply, “No.” But, Paul Wells said, “The reason I ask is because the Liberal Party has historically been fairly kind to people who established a clear divergence from the leader and then later sought to rally fellow Liberals around them in a leadership bid. That’s not the plan?” Dr Philpott relied: “There’s nothing in the decisions that I’ve made in the last few weeks that is any kind of power play. I ran to be a good Member of Parliament. I did not ever run to be in cabinet. I was obviously thrilled to have the privilege of being in cabinet. I saw it as an amazing opportunity to be able to do good things for the country and try to support people that might otherwise not have someone at the cabinet table advocating on their behalf. I am happy to be a good Member of Parliament. I don’t think my time in federal politics is done. I know there are people that are putting out rumours that the reason I quit is because I want to run for the [Ontario Liberal Party’s] provincial leadership. That is not true.“
I believe her.
I believe she did resign on principle and not as any part of a “power play,” but I also believe that a great many good, honest, sincere Canadians, people who, like Dr Philpott, “really strongly support the Liberal Party and believe that we have the best overall policy suite for the good of Canadians,” will want to cleanse the party, to remove the stink of political corruption that clings to Prime Minister Trudeau and his inner circle, and some of them maybe after reading Paul Wells interview will want Jane Philpott to lead the party into the next election.
I am not sure, but her French may be a bit weak … but, perhaps, good enough, if we can accept that the standard for an English Canadian’s French ought to be about the same as we all accepted for Jean Chrétien’s English.
I think her comment, in the second bullet point, when she says “I think Canadians might want to know why I would have raised [the issue of SNC-Lavalin’s desire to have a remediation agreement] with the Prime Minister a month before the public knew about it. Why would I have felt that there was a reason why former Minister Wilson-Raybould should not be shuffled?” is a direct challenge to the prime minister, to the House of Commons and to the media and Canadians, in general. She is saying that both she and Ms Wilson-Raybould have more to say and, as the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson keeps saying, “the truth comes out. Always.” It seems pretty clear that Team Trudeau wants to delay the inevitable for as long as possible … hoping that time and the budget and “events, dear boy, events” as Harold Macmillan might have said, and the fog of war that inevitably surrounds an election campaign will make Canadians less interested. But I suspect that Dr Philpott is frighteningly (for Justin Trudeau) serious when she says that the Liberal Party in which she serves “needs to be the best version of the Liberal Party … [and, therefore, she] … had to do the right thing and trust that the details would work out for the best interests of Canadians.” If that’s her principled position then I believe that it may well doom the Justin Trudeau Liberals to being a one term government that was sunk by its own corrupt practices and self-evident hypocrisy.
She is one of those honest, sincere, principled Liberals about whom I write so often, sometimes, I suspect, to the annoyance of some of my Conservative friends, … I sincerely believe that Canada needs a strong, honest, prudent Liberal party, but that’s something that has not existed since April of 1968. The Liberal Party has massive, but, very sadly, also massively popular Augean stables to clean … there is a half century of social, economic, strategic and political malfeasance, mismanagement, ineptitude and real corruption to be swept away in order to restore the proud Liberal legacy of St Laurent and Pearson …