In a move that may come to be as significant as Jody Wilson-Raybould’s departure from Prime Minister Trudeau’s cabinet, Markham-Stouffville MP Jane Philpott has also resigned from his cabinet.
“Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised,” says a letter posted to her social media accounts.
With talk of divisions within the Liberal caucus already consuming Ottawa political watchers, the move by Philpott will, no doubt, be cast as a severe body blow for Trudeau’s leadership as she is considered one of the top performers in cabinet over the last three and a half years. She has succeeded in roles where others have become mired in the issues of their posts.
While Philpott, a well-regarded local physician, met with success in the health portfolio, her role as Indigenous services minister seemed to bring her into positive focus for many, including leaders in Canadian Indigenous communities. That role aligned with her humanitarian instincts that she followed to Africa before politics, but it was clear she saw the same opportunities to do similarly important work here at home. In personal conversation, she was as convincing as in public. There seemed to be a genuine passion for the job, and many people in Indigenous communities who work with her were openly disappointed when she was shuffled out and inexperienced Trudeau friend, Seamus O’Regan, was shuffled in.
Much was made of Raybould’s displeasure with her new role, but Philpott did not, at that time, say much of anything publicly about what her preference was. Her time as head of the treasury board was largely seen by political observers as a way to steady an already-rocking Liberal ship in time for the upcoming election. Now with a cabinet shuffle just finished this past week to fill the Wilson-Raybould hole, Trudeau is under a whole new mess of pressure to fill the gap Philpott leaves. It won’t be easy.
Locally, residents of Markham-Stouffville want to know what this means for them, if anything. Philpott did clearly outline in her announcement that she intends to stay on as local MP and suggests she will do so again under the Liberal banner. Philpott was recently confirmed as the nominated candidate for the upcoming election in October.
When reached, Philpott’s office declined to offer further comment but suggested she will have more to say in the upcoming days.
Still, what Philpott has already said is significant. She hints at how her announcement will be received saying, “There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.”
The shine of “sunny ways” has dimmed and whatever consequences are doled out in Ottawa, Philpott is banking, like Raybould, that her local constituents will have her back.
Photo: Jane Philpott with former Prime Minister Paul Martin at Philpott’s election nomination event in Stouffville.