US & Canada

Two ex-Liberal ministers to seek re-election as independents

Jody Wilson-Raybould (L) and Health Minister Jane Philpott (R) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jody Wilson-Raybould (L) and Health Minister Jane Philpott (R)

Two Canadian politicians who were expelled from the Liberal party over the SNC-Lavalin affair are running again as independents.

Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have both announced their intention to seek re-election later this year.

The two former cabinet ministers had cried foul over how the Trudeau government was handling the prosecution of the Quebec firm.

The next Canadian general election is scheduled for this October.

"I am confident running as an independent is the best way to transform our political culture," Ms Wilson-Raybould told reporters in Vancouver on Monday.

In a separate announcement in a Toronto suburb, Ms Philpott also announced her intention to run again without any party affiliation.

Ms Philpott and Ms Wilson-Raybould both said that Canadians need to elect more politicians empowered to represent their constituents in the House of Commons.

Earlier this year, Ms Wilson-Raybould resigned from her cabinet post and accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his inner circle of attempting to meddle in a criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin.

Not long after, Ms Philpott - one of Mr Trudeau's top ministers - quit, saying she has lost confidence in the government's handling of the affair.

What is the background?

Both former ministers were central actors in a political controversy that dogged Mr Trudeau for weeks and hammered at his popularity.

The affair began in early February, when the Globe and Mail newspaper reported allegations of political interference in the case against SNC-Lavalin.

The newspaper reported that Mr Trudeau's office had pressured Ms Wilson-Raybould - at the time serving as federal justice minister and attorney general - to push the public prosecution service to consider a deferred prosecution agreement for the firm.

An attorney general is supposed to act independently with respect of his or her prosecutorial function.

On 12 February, Ms Wilson-Raybould resigned suddenly from cabinet.

She later testified before a parliamentary committee that, as attorney general, she and her staff had faced four months of a "sustained" and "inappropriate effort" to push for a possible agreement for SNC-Lavalin.

The agreement - similar to regimes in the US and the UK - essentially suspends prosecution while allowing a firm to agree instead to alternative terms or conditions.

Ms Philpott resigned shortly after.

In April, Mr Trudeau expelled both women from the Liberal party caucus, saying that trust had been broken between the two and other Liberal MPs.

SNC-Lavalin is one of the world's largest engineering and construction companies.

The company and two of its subsidiaries face fraud and corruption charges in relation to approximately C$48m ($36m; £28m) in bribes it is alleged to have offered to Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011.

It has openly lobbied to be allowed to enter into a remediation agreement instead of going to trial, saying it has cleaned house and changed its ways.

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