OTTAWA — Jane Philpott wants the prime minister to apologize for violating federal ethics rules in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The former Liberal cabinet minister said Thursday that she still thinks Canadians “deserve an apology” from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in light of a damning report from the federal ethics commissioner that found he broke a section of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Trudeau has said he won’t apologize for defending Canadian jobs, but Philpott suggested that’s not what people want to hear from the prime minister.
WATCH: Trudeau repeats non-apology for ‘standing up for jobs’ in SNC-Lavalin affair
“The immediate reaction I think many people have is, ’Well, that’s not what we wanted you to apologize for,″ she told the Canadian Press. Philpott, as well as former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould have been pressing Trudeau to apologize for months. Both women resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet in the thick of the controversy and were later booted from the Liberal caucus.
Philpott released a statement Thursday saying she is “saddened by the impact” the controversy has had on the country.
“At the same time, I trust that Canada can emerge from this stronger than ever,” she wrote. “We live in a country where elected officials can and must defend public institutions that underpin our democracy.”
Trudeau, speaking in Fredericton, did not apologize for breaking the federal law. He said he disagreed with the ethics watchdog’s conclusions, but accepted the overall report.
The prime minister repeated what he said Wednesday: “I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadians’ jobs because that’s my job.”
Wilson-Raybould told CBC’s “The Early Edition” that she didn’t and doesn’t expect to get a “personal apology” from Trudeau. “In this case, something did go seriously wrong as reflected in the commissioner’s report and I would’ve liked, as a Canadian, to have heard an apology,” she said.
Mario Dion, the House of Commons’ Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, concluded Wednesday that the prime minister used his position “directly and indirectly” to pressure Wilson-Raybould, when she was his attorney general, to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. In so doing, Trudeau was found to have attempted to further the private interests of the Quebec-based engineering giant.
SNC-Lavalin faces foreign bribery and fraud charges that, if convicted, would mean a 10-year ban on federal contracts for the company. Trudeau has long said he was concerned about job losses at the company.
Wilson-Raybould told the Commons justice committee in February that she experienced a “consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”
Such a deal, also known as a remediation agreement, would have given SNC-Lavalin the possibility of avoiding a conviction by paying a financial penalty instead.
Wilson-Raybould suggested in her February committee appearance that she was shuffled out of her position as attorney general and justice minister because she refused to override the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to not invite SNC-Lavalin to discuss a remediation agreement.
The Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to not invite SNC-Lavalin into negotiations toward a remediation agreement remains unchanged.
Philpott resigned from cabinet in March, weeks after Wilson-Raybould’s exit, saying had lost confidence in how the government handled the matter.
The Ontario family doctor cited her “ethical responsibilities” and “constitutional obligations” as reasons for her decision to quit cabinet. “There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them,” Philpott wrote at the time.
Both former star Liberal cabinet ministers are seeking re-election as Independent candidates: Philpott in Markham—Stouffville and Wilson-Raybould in Vancouver Granville.
In his report, Dion also noted roadblocks he encountered in his attempts to obtain all material necessary for his investigation. He wrote that “despite several weeks of discussions,” his office “remained at an impasse” with the Privy Council Office over access to cabinet confidences.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told CTV News that the ethics commissioner’s trouble getting full access to cabinet confidences suggests there’s more information to uncover.
“The fact that he’s gone to such great lengths to cover up this whole scandal tells me that there’s still more here that Canadians have a right to know about,” Scheer said.
Earlier, the Conservative leader hinted that he thinks the issue isn’t fading away anytime soon as parties shift their focus to the federal election campaign.
“Trudeau may never face a court of law over his role in this scandal but he will have to face the Canadian people over the next few weeks.”