Ottawa: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ousted from his Liberal Party on Tuesday two former ministers whose accusations of political meddling in a prosecution jeopardized his re-election bid.
The announcement came at the end of an emergency caucus meeting to consider expelling former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould after her release of a secret recording last week that reignited the simmering scandal.
Former budget minister Jane Philpott, who had quit in protest over Trudeau’s handling of the controversy, was also removed.
“Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will no longer be members of the Liberal caucus,” Trudeau said.
“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken,” he said.
“Whether it’s taping conversations without consent or repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence in our government and in me personally as leader, it’s become clear that (both) can no longer remain part of our Liberal team.”
Since February, Trudeau’s government has been rocked by accusations that his inner circle sought to shield engineering giant SNC-Lavalin from a corruption trial.
The Montreal-based firm was charged in 2015 for allegedly paying bribes to secure contracts in Libya.
Wilson-Raybould refused to ask prosecutors to settle the case, and the trial is set to proceed.
After resigning, she testified to lawmakers that she’d experienced “consistent and sustained” political pressure to interfere in the case, including “veiled threats.”
Trudeau has steadfastly denied the claims, which also led to the resignations of two other senior officials, and plunged his Liberals behind the opposition Tories in opinion polls just months before elections.
On Friday, the House of Commons justice committee looking into the allegations released messages and a secret recording by Wilson-Raybould of a call with Canada’s top bureaucrat, Chief of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, to back her claims.
“If a politician secretly records a conversation with anyone,” Trudeau said, “it’s wrong.”
He labeled as “unconscionable” the one-time attorney general’s secret recording of the clerk of the Privy Council.
The prime minister said the scandal has sidelined his government’s progressive agenda and created divisions within the party.
“Our political opponents win when the Liberals are divided,” he said. “We can’t afford to make that mistake, Canadians are counting on us.”
Earlier in the day, Wilson-Raybould had expressed her desire to remain in the party and run as a Liberal in the October election.