Larry Bagnell in Whitehorse on July 25, 2018. Bagnell said Jane Philpott’s resignation from cabinet was “a big loss” but did not comment further, saying he wants to hear other officials testify before coming to any one conclusion. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Bagnell weighs-in on federal ministers leaving cabinet

Yukon’s MP says there needs to be discussions on whether the attorney general and justice minister should be the same person

Yukon’s MP Larry Bagnell called Jane Philpott’s resignation from the federal Liberal cabinet “a big loss” and “really unfortunate” this week.

“Jane was a very good minister,” he said.

Philpott left cabinet roughly a week after Jody Wilson-Raybould testified in front of the justice committee that she received “consistent and sustained” pressure to bend to political will in order to prevent Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin from being prosecuted.

“Unfortunately, the evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin, and the evidence as to the content of those efforts have raised serious concerns for me,” Philpott wrote in a written statement on Mar. 4. “Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”

Philpott said that she must follow her “constitutional obligations.”

“There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost in abandoning them.”

Philpott will keep her seat as an MP for Markham-Stouffville. She previously served as the health minister, then minister of Indigenous Services. Before quitting cabinet, she was the president of the Treasury Board.

Bagnell stopped short of saying more about Philpott’s resignation, noting that wants to hear other officials testify before coming to any one conclusion.

Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary, who also resigned recently, testified on Mar. 6.

CBC reported Butts as saying “I am firmly convinced that nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government.”

Wilson-Raybould’s statements in front of the justice committee on Feb. 27 sent shockwaves through the federal government, the reverberations of which continue to play out.

Her actions have been praised by pundits across the country and lawyers, including the president of the Canadian Bar Association, who last week told the News Wilson-Raybould was courageous in upholding the law.

Ray Adlington also said that the attorney general and justice minister are portfolios that should not be held by the same official.

Bagnell agrees, adding that reviewing the matter should be of “high priority.”

“It’s a bit of bizarre situation where the person who writes the laws is also involved in prosecuting them,” he said. “I thought that was a good suggestion by Jody in her testimony.

“I’d be happy to call for the justice committee to study that.”

Bagnell, who was in the House the day Wilson-Raybould testified, said he was “very happy” that she was able to express her “views,” adding that the nation’s capital has been “consumed” by the issue since then.

“Until we hear from the other witnesses, it appears that the disagreement is on what’s allowed in those conversations with the attorney general on which way of proceeding in a prosecution. …” he said.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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