Canada ex-ministers who quit Trudeau gov’t to run as independents

Two former ministers whose public clash with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could scuttle his Liberals’s re-election announced on Monday they will run as independents in the October ballot, calling on other politicians and candidates dissatisfied with the political party system to follow their lead.

Former Canadian Justice Minister and current Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks to supporters about her political future during a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia Jackie Dives/Reuters

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was Canada’s first indigenous justice minister, and Jane Philpott, who held three key posts in Trudeau’s government, said they hope to continue representing their current electoral districts in Vancouver and Markham, Ontario, respectively.«We sometimes hear that politics is a team sport, that politics is also a blood sport,» Wilson-Raybould told a press conference in Vancouver.

«I do believe in the importance of a strong team,» she said. «But I’m not sure that there has to be any blood involved. And it is far too serious a business to call it a sport. After all, it is the lives of people and our future that is at stake.»

Rather, she urged more nonpartisanship and increased cooperation in the 338-seat parliament.

«I hope others will say, ‘You know, none of these parties fit me, I can’t fit myself into these boxes but I think I can represent my community,’» echoed Philpott at a concurrent event in Markham.

«We need independent voices who will work with (others) to solve the big problems of our time,» she said.

Jane Philpott

Former Canadian Treasury Board President Jane Philpott leaves West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario File: Chris Wattie/Reuters

The two politicians resigned earlier this year amid allegationsthat senior Trudeau officials tried to pressure Wilson-Raybould to prevent a corruption trial of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau, facing the biggest crisis of his tenure, later kicked them out of the ruling Liberal caucus, citing their lack of support.

Philpott had also criticised Trudeau’s handling of the scandal.

The Liberals are now trailing the opposition Conservatives by six percentage points, according to an average of recent polls.

Wilson-Raybould and Philpott rejected overtures to join the Green Party, but said they will make climate change a centrepiece of their respective platforms, which coincidentally the Liberals will likely do as well.

The two politicians face serious challenges, however. Canadian politics is dominated by the major parties and very few legislators are elected as independents, in part because they lack resources to raise funds and campaign.

Philpott only just won her parliamentary constituency for the Liberals in the 2015 election that brought Trudeau to power and on paper the official opposition Conservatives would look to be favourites for her seat.

Wilson-Raybould pulled off a much more comfortable victory in British Columbia and looks to have the better chance.

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