Justin Trudeau says he is 'disappointed' after top minister resigns as Canada PM plunged into fresh crisis

Canadian prime minister under increasing pressure over handling of an investigation into whether alleged bribes were paid by a multinational engineering company 

Tuesday 05 March 2019 13:01 GMT
Justin Trudeau is under increasing pressure over the bribery scandal
Justin Trudeau is under increasing pressure over the bribery scandal (REUTERS)

Justin Trudeau has said that he is disappointed after a top minister resigned from his cabinet as the Canadian prime minister plunged deeper into crisis.

Canada's leader is under increasing pressure after allegations emerged that he pressured the government to drop an investigation into alleged bribes paid by multinational engineering company SNC-Lavalin to Libya.

Treasury Board president Jane Philpott resigned on Monday – the second minister to step down over a scandal that has shaken the government.

In her resignation letter she said it was "untenable" for her to continue because she had lost confidence and could not defend the government and its handling of the investigation.

Mr Trudeau thanked Ms Philpott for her service in a short statement that said he "understands" the resignation but is "disappointed" by it.

"Concerns of this nature must be taken seriously and I can ensure you that I am," he added.

SNC-Lavalin is accused of having paid $47.7m Canadian dollars in bribes to Libyan officials in order to gain contracts there, and ultimately defrauded the Libyan government out of $129.8m Canadian dollars.

Ms Philpott's friend, former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, testified last week that Mr Trudeau and senior members of his government inappropriately and tried to pressure her to avoid prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Mr Trudeau’s and others have been accused of pressuring Ms Wilson-Raybould to drop the investigation because pressing forward with the enquiry could have potentially cost Canada thousands of jobs.

The then justice minister refused to drop the investigation, and was later removed from her post and reassigned to a lesser position in the Canadian cabinet.

Ms Wilson-Raybould resigned from the cabinet last month.

The scandal has rocked Mr Trudeau's government. Gerald Butts, his closet adviser, also resigned last month and is scheduled to testify on 6 March before a parliament justice committee in Mr Trudeau's defence.

Mr Trudeau has denied any political meddling even as pressure has mounted, and members of the opposition party have called for his resignation.

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The leader of the opposition, Andrew Scheer, said the "government [was] in total chaos", called for Mr Trudeau to resign and for a police investigation of the affair.

If convicted criminally, SNC-Lavalin would be banned from receiving any federal government business for a decade.

The Montreal-based company is an economic force in Canada, with 9,000 employees in the country and about 50,000 worldwide.

Additional reporting from agencies

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