OTTAWA—Jane Philpott’s parliamentary privileges were not violated when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau booted her and fellow former Cabinet Minister Jody Wilson−Raybould out of the Liberal caucus last week, the speaker of the House of Commons ruled on April 11.
Geoff Regan said he has no role in deciding how caucuses should conduct themselves.
Moreover, he said the Parliament of Canada Act expressly bars the courts from intervening in such matters.
“This leaves caucuses alone with the authority to govern their internal operations,” Regan told the Commons.
“With the full authority given to caucuses themselves in such unequivocal terms, it is clear that the chair has no role in the interpretation or enforcement of the statute, even when members feel rudderless without what they feel would be clearly stated and understood rules,” he continued.
Philpott argued Tuesday, April 9, that Trudeau did not follow reforms made to the Parliament of Canada Act in 2015 that were supposed to give MPs more power over caucus decisions—including whether to expel members—rather than leave them entirely up to party leaders.
The reforms required each party caucus to hold recorded votes at their first meeting following an election on whether to adopt the new rules.
The Liberals never had such a vote, deciding in 2015 to defer the matter to a party convention instead. But they ultimately informed the speaker that they had implicitly chosen not to use the new rules.
Trudeau has said he made the decision to turf Philpott and Wilson−Raybould only after extensive consultations showed overwhelming caucus support for kicking the pair out of the Liberal fold.
The two former ministers have been at the centre of a political storm that has engulfed the Trudeau government for more than two months.
Wilson−Raybould alleges she was improperly pressured last fall by the Prime Minister’s Office and others to intervene and stop the criminal prosecution of SNC−Lavalin. She believes she was moved out of the prestigious justice portfolio to Veterans Affairs in a mid-January Cabinet shuffle as punishment for refusing to override the director of public prosecutions, who had decided not to invite the Montreal engineering giant to negotiate a remediation agreement, a kind of plea bargain in corporate corruption cases.
Wilson−Raybould resigned from Cabinet in mid-February. Philpott followed suit a few weeks later, saying she had lost confidence in the government’s handling of the SNC−Lavalin case.
The last straw for Liberal MPs was the revelation that Wilson−Raybould surreptitiously recorded a December phone conversation with Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, to bolster her claim of improper pressure. Many said they no longer felt they could trust the former ministers.
The pair now sit as independents in the Commons and will not be allowed to run as Liberals in this fall’s election.