POLITICS
04/02/2019 13:18 EDT | Updated 04/03/2019 09:24 EDT

Jane Philpott Confirmed Support For PM Hours Before He Kicked Her Out Of Caucus

Trudeau said she and Jody Wilson-Raybould 'cannot be part of this team.'

Jane Philpott has been removed from the Liberal caucus, hours after confirming her support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau announced his decision to expel Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould from his team at an emergency caucus meeting Tuesday evening, called after weeks of strife over the SNC-Lavalin affair. Though both MPs quit Trudeau's cabinet in the thick of the controversy, they intended to run again under the Liberal banner this fall.

"If they can't honestly say that they have confidence in this team ... then they cannot be part of this team," Trudeau said of the pair.

Yet Philpott told reporters earlier in the day that she still had confidence in Trudeau, but not in his handling of the controversy that spurred her exit from his inner circle.

"I support the prime minister," Philpott told CPAC Tuesday morning. "There is one specific issue on which I did not have confidence and do not have confidence and that's associated with the management of the SNC-Lavalin issue.

"Apart from that, of course, I support the policies and platform and the government and the prime minister."

Philpott delivered much the same message when pressed earlier by a journalist from TVA.

Philpott quit as Treasury Board president last month, citing "lost confidence" in how the government has responded to allegations of political interference raised by Wilson-Raybould.

The former attorney general testified before the House of Commons justice committee that she faced months of sustained, inappropriate pressure from Trudeau and other officials to halt the criminal prosecution of Quebec-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin through a remediation agreement.

During her testimony, Wilson-Raybould would not answer multiple questions asking if she had confidence in the prime minister.

Philpott said the constitutional convention of cabinet solidarity, which demands ministers publicly defend all decisions reached around the table, made it "untenable" for her to stay on as a minister.

Weeks later, Philpott told Maclean's magazine there is "much more" to the controversy that Canadians deserve to know, despite "an attempt to shut down the story."

On Friday, the justice committee released a 17-minute audio clip Wilson-Raybould recorded of a key conversation with Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick in December on the SNC-Lavalin issue.

Several Liberal MPs, including veteran Wayne Easter, publicly called for Wilson-Raybould to be booted from caucus in light of the recording. The issue was debated by Ontario Liberal MPs Tuesday and was expected to dominate a wider caucus meeting set for Wednesday.

Philpott told CPAC that she is "sorry if people are angry," and expressed hope that she could still work collaboratively with colleagues.

Asked about the opinion expressed by some Liberal MPs that they couldn't trust her or Wilson-Raybould, Philpott said she hoped her colleagues recognize how hard she has worked to benefit Canadians on a range of issues.

Philpott previously served as minister of health and minister of Indigenous services before she was shuffled to Treasury Board in January. She was widely seen as among Trudeau's most effective ministers.

"And I hope that work speaks for itself," she said. "I'm here to make sure that we improve the lives of Canadians and that's what I'll continue to do."

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In a scrum with Parliament Hill reporters this week, Wilson-Raybould said she did not believe she should be "removed from caucus for doing my job and doing what I believe is right."

On Tuesday morning, Wilson-Raybould suggested to CBC News that she was prepared for any outcome.

Ahead of the meeting, Wilson-Raybould also wrote a letter to Liberal MPs explaining her side of the SNC-Lavalin issue and why she wanted to stay part of caucus.

"In giving the advice I did, and taking the steps I did, I was trying to help protect the Prime Minister and the government from a horrible mess," Wilson-Raybould wrote. "I am not the one who tried to interfere in sensitive proceedings, I am not the one who made it public, and I am not the one who publicly denied what happened.

With files from The Canadian Press