Former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott have been kicked out of the Liberal Party of Canada caucus.
"I am here to announce that Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott are not longer members of the liberal caucus," Trudeau said to a sombre-looking gathering of his caucus. "The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken."
Moments before he began speaking, Wilson-Raybould shared the news herself, getting ahead of the prime minister before he began the televised address.
"I have just been informed by the prime minister of Canada that I am removed from the Liberal caucus and as the confirmed Vancouver Granville candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election," Wilson-Raybould tweeted with Liberal MPs gathered on Parliament Hill to decide her fate.
Wilson-Raybould, who wrote to her fellow Liberals earlier Tuesday in hopes of convincing them to let her stay, stepped down from Trudeau's cabinet in February after he shuffled her out of the coveted justice portfolio, following a bombshell media report in the Globe and Mail that revealed she had been pressured to intervene in the criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin over corruption and fraud charges.
The issue has evolved into a full-blown political crisis for Trudeau ever since, also triggering the resignations of his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, Philpott, and Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council Office.
I have just been informed by the Prime Minister of Canada that I am removed from the Liberal caucus and as the confirmed Vancouver Granville candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election. More to come...— Jody Wilson-Raybould (@Puglaas) April 2, 2019
The caucus ejections come on the heels of a fresh uproar over a key phone conversation between the ex-minister and Wernick, the country's top bureaucrat — a conversation Wilson-Raybould secretly recorded.
That recording was released Friday as part of her evidence of what Wilson-Raybould calls an intense pressure campaign to persuade her to override a decision to deny SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement, which would allow the engineering giant to avoid criminal proceedings on corruption and fraud charges.
Trudeau said it was "unconscionable" for an attorney general to have covertly recorded a conversation in this fashion.
"Civil wars in parties are incredibly damaging because it signals to Canadians that we care more about ourselves than Canadians. That's why I made the very difficult decision to remove Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott," he said.
"If a politician secretly records a conversations with anyone, it's wrong. When that politician is a cabinet minister who secretly records a conversation with a civil servant, it's wrong. And when that cabinet minister is the attorney general secretly recording a call with the clerk of the Privy Council, it's unconscionable."
Trudeau also attempted to portray the issue as a civil war, alluding to previous battles within the Liberal Party such as the rivalry between former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.
"Our political opponents win when Liberals are divided," Trudeau said. "We can't afford that when Canadians are counting on us."
Wilson-Raybould later responded to the prime minister saying she would reflect on what Trudeau "has done."
"I will take the time to reflect & talk to my supporters about what happens next," she wrote in a subsequent tweet. "What I can say is that I hold my head high & that I can look myself in the mirror knowing I did what I was required to do and what needed to be done based on principles & values that must always transcend party. I have no regrets. I spoke the truth as I will continue to do so."
Following Trudeau's remarks, several Liberals expressed their support, saying that the decision was inevitable.
"The fact that there was a tape recording... of the Privy Council clerk is really really damaging of the trust that we can (show) to our public service," said Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly. "The question whether Jane Philpott, who I really respect, knew about this, is an open question. The reality is we didn't know about this. We had no idea... It's really damaging to record people without their knowing."
International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said that the ejection of the two politicians was based on a "sad reality" of a loss of trust and loyalty.
"I don't know what (Philpott) did or didn't do," Carr said. "She made clear that she lost confidence in the government and it's hard to lose confidence in the government and (stay on the team)."
What I can say is that I hold my head high & that I can look myself in the mirror knowing I did what I was required to do and what needed to be done based on principles & values that must always transcend party. I have no regrets. I spoke the truth as I will continue to do. (2/2)— Jody Wilson-Raybould (@Puglaas) April 2, 2019
Philpott responded to the news with a statement saying that she found the situation "profoundly disheartening" and that she expected the people in her riding would be disappointed.
"I did not initiate the crisis now facing the party or the prime minister. Nor did Jody Wilson-Raybould," Philpott wrote in the message posted on her Facebook page.
"Rather than acknowledge the obvious — that a range of individuals had inappropriately attempted to pressure the former attorney general in relation to a prosecutorial decision — and apologize for what occurred, a decision was made to attempt to deny the obvious — to attack Jody Wilson-Raybould’s credibility and attempt to blame her. That approach now appears to be focused on whether Jody Wilson-Raybould should have audiotaped the Clerk instead of the circumstances that prompted Jody Wilson-Raybould to feel compelled to do so."
She added that her position wasn't about a lack of loyalty, but that she was trying to encourage the government to handle the situation differently as an expression of loyalty.
She added that she did not want to use her parliamentary privilege to share other details about events that occurred after the January shuffle in which Wilson-Raybould was moved from the justice portfolio.
"Parliamentary privilege is not designed as a licence for breaching your constitutional and ethical obligations," Philpott said.
She also said that she felt Canadians wanted more information and the "truth" about everything that had happened on the file.
"That being said, it appears that the caucus is intent on staying the current course, regardless of its short-term and long-term consequences to the party and to the country, and it has been decided that there is no place for me in the caucus," she added. "I regret that relationships have been so fractured. I have nothing but good wishes for my former Liberal colleagues and all those who commit themselves to public service.
"I ran to be a member of Parliament for the purpose of improving people’s lives. Nothing will stop me from continuing in that pursuit. I will continue to proudly represent the people of Markham-Stouffville for the remainder of this term."
'A betrayal of justice'
Opposition Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer condemned the Liberals, saying they were punishing colleagues for speaking the truth.
"Canadians will view the removal of Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus for exactly what it is: A betrayal of justice," Scheer said in a statement. "Elected officials are supposed to protect individuals who blow the whistle on government misconduct and corruption, not punish them. However, in expelling Ms. Philpott and Ms. Wilson-Raybould from their caucus, they have done exactly that."
At a news conference, NDP MP Jenny Kwan said that the governing Liberals were to blame for causing the breakdown in trust.
“I would argue that the people who inappropriately interfered… broke her trust,” said Kwan, who represents a Vancouver riding in province.
In the weeks following Wilson-Raybould's resignation, caucus had grown divided over the question of whether she and Philpott should be allowed to remain in caucus. Trudeau himself had initially suggested he would be willing to let them stay.
But Friday's release of her 17-minute phone conversation with Wernick — and the fact she recorded it — appeared to tip the scales.
"I know many of you are angry, hurt, and frustrated. And frankly so am I, and I can only speak for myself," Wilson-Raybould wrote in her letter to caucus members.
"I am angry, hurt, and frustrated because I feel and believe I was upholding the values that we all committed to. 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.
"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. But I am not going to go over all of the details here again. Enough has been said."
Toronto MP John McKay, who was unmoved by Wilson-Raybould's letter, said he's dismayed by her behaviour and believes she and Philpott are "joined at the hip." Fellow MP Judy Sgro agreed the letter is "too little, too late."
Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne criticized Wilson-Raybould's ethics, saying he had never recorded any conversations he had while working as a lawyer. Tourism Minister Melanie Joly called it "fundamentally wrong."
In the call, Wernick repeatedly asks Wilson-Raybould why she was not using all the tools at her disposal on the SNC-Lavalin case. She pushes back, saying she would not override the decision of the director of public prosecutions to pursue a criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin for bribery and fraud related to its activities in Libya.
Wernick told her Trudeau was "quite determined" on the matter and would likely "find a way to get it done one way or another."
In a written submission that accompanied the audio, Wilson-Raybould acknowledged recording the conversation was an "extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step," but said she felt it necessary to have an exact record of what was discussed.
Wilson-Raybould has said she believes she was moved out of Justice to Veterans Affairs as punishment for refusing to succumb to relentless pressure last fall from Trudeau, his senior staff, Wernick and others to intervene on SNC's behalf. She resigned from cabinet a month later.
Former Treasury Board president Philpott followed suit in early March, citing a loss in confidence in the government's handling of the matter.
with files from The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This article was updated several times on April 2 to add additional quotes and reaction.