The resignation of Treasury Board President Jane Philpott was a grenade tossed into the PMO.
The Prime Minister tried to make light of it at a speech in Toronto by making out like he’d been having discussions with the Minister in the lead-up to her resignation letter. But somehow I doubt it.
The language in her resignation letter is telling, not only for what she did say, but also for what she didn’t include in it.
After saying she had lost confidence in the way the government handled the SNC-Lavalin emerging scandal that has already caused the resignations of former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau’s Principal Private Secretary Gerald Butts. She then said this:
“Unfortunately, the evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin, and the evidence as to the content of those efforts have raised serious concerns for me.”
That’s a broadside.
But what she didn’t say is also telling.
She did not thank the Prime Minister for the opportunity to serve in Cabinet. I can’t remember ever seeing a resignation letter from a member of Cabinet without some variation of those words.
The Prime Minister, for his part, did thank Philpott for her service in a climate action speech given at some sort of community hall or theatre in the Danforth area of Toronto. In some ways it was the perfect venue for the Trudeau event given what is going on with his government. An older venue with the paint peeling from the walls in the entranceway right where his handlers brought in the PM.
This was supposed to be a staged event. The venue was packed with the usual diverse group of folks, adults and kids from varying racial backgrounds behind Trudeau all dutifully holding pre-produced signs extolling the virtues of Trudeau or his climate policies.
The event got underway nearly two hours late. We are left to surmise why that was. Was it poor organization? Or was the Prime Minister huddled at length with his handlers backstage working on the messaging to try and explain Philpott’s resignation?
And all this just two days before Gerald Butts and the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, were to testify before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
To add to the comedy of errors at the event, multiple hecklers or protestors piped up during Trudeau’s speech and had to be hustled out.
The interesting thing to me as I watched was they were taken out by members of the Prime Minister’s Protection Detail of the RCMP not by event security. This is not protocol for the PMPD.
Their responsibility is their principal, in this case the Prime Minister who was on stage in the middle of a crowd. To take four or five members responsible for his protection away to escort out a protestor weakens the principal’s protection perimeter.
If there was event security then why did PMPD members get involved in something that should not have been their concern?
Was there event security? I’m not sure.
But what I do know is that this day was a dumpster fire for the PMO and the Prime Minister. At every level.