If convicted, SNC-Lavalin would be banned from receiving any federal government business for a decade. The company is a major employer in Quebec, with about 3,400 employees in the province, 9,000 employees in Canada and more than 50,000 worldwide.
Wilson-Raybould testified that Trudeau, who represents part of Quebec, had expressed concerns about those jobs being lost.
Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s closest adviser and a longtime friend, also resigned last week. He denied that he or anyone in the Trudeau’s office pressured Wilson-Raybould and is due to provide a rebuttal to her testimony at a parliamentary justice committee Wednesday.
Lori Turnbull, the director of the School of Public Administration at Canada’s Dalhousie University, wrote in The Globe and Mail that Philpott’s resignation from the Cabinet was “nothing short of catastrophic for the government.”
“Philpott did not mince words,” Turnbull wrote. “She does not want to resign but she has to, given the moral space between her and the government.”
Why is the latest resignation so damaging?
Philpott, 58, was widely regarded as one of the most respected and competent ministers in Trudeau’s government.
A physician by trade, she previously served as minister of health and minister of indigenous services.
Philpott said the alleged efforts by politicians and officials to pressure Wilson-Raybould had raised serious concerns and she quit in solidarity with her.
Lori Williams, an associate professor in the Department of Economics, Justice and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said Philpott’s “principled resignation” was a “significant blow” for Trudeau.
“She was one of the government’s most effective advocates, and she resigned because she no longer felt she could defend all her government has done,” Williams said.
Daniel Beland, a political science professor and director of McGill Institute for the Study of Canada in Montreal, said Philpott’s decision hit Trudeau “especially hard” because her resignation letter was a “strong rebuttal of the prime minister.”
Trudeau, the self-proclaimed feminist, had promised accountability in politics and a gender-balanced Cabinet when he took power in 2015.
“Two influential and well-regarded women have now left the Cabinet in the name of broad principles such as the rule of law,” Beland added. “This doesn’t look good for Trudeau.”
“It turns out women really aren’t just like men, and aren’t necessarily afraid to stand by their beliefs,” National Post columnist Kelly McParland wrote on Tuesday.
How are other politicians reacting?
Multiple Canadian media outlets reported Tuesday that all of Trudeau’s 33 remaining Cabinet ministers said they still have confidence in the prime minister, but there are signs of discord.
Wayne Long, a lawmaker in Trudeau’s Liberal Party, said he was “deeply troubled” by Philpott’s departure and called for a “full and transparent” investigation into the matter.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes, a Liberal lawmaker who is not seeking re-election in October, tweeted: “When you add women, please do not expect the status quo. Expect us to make correct decisions, stand for what is right and exit when values are compromised.”
Andrew Scheer, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party, has called for Trudeau to resign and said Philpott’s resignation demonstrates “a government in total chaos.” He also wants police to look into what happened.
Could Trudeau be ousted?
Beland, the professor, doesn’t think Trudeau’s Liberals will try to depose him.
“Changing the prime minister is quite unlikely unless new and powerful evidence surfaces about the SNC-Lavalin file,” Beland said.
“The next federal elections are coming fast and there’s no obvious heir apparent within the Liberal Cabinet. Right now, most Liberals probably think Trudeau remains their best bet to win the next federal election.”
What will Trudeau do?
Analysts believe Trudeau will try to ride out the storm.
“There is absolutely no chance Trudeau will resign,” said Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. “The Liberals will rally around him.”
Williams, the Mount Royal University academic, said Trudeau could potentially argue that “his motive was legitimate — protecting Canadian jobs.”
But Beland said Trudeau had mishandled the affair, damaged his family’s brand and had provided plenty of ammunition for opponents.
“The man who said in 2015 he wanted to change politics is increasingly seen as a politician like any other,” he said. “He might still find a way to remain prime minister after the October election, but his public image is forever tarnished.”