In a serious blow to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a second member of his Cabinet resigned on Monday, saying she had lost confidence in how the government had dealt with an escalating political scandal.
Jane Philpott, the treasury secretary, announced her resignation on Monday, days after former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould testified that government officials inappropriately pressured her to help a Canadian engineering company avoid a corruption trial. "There can be a cost to acting on one's principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them", she wrote. She told parliamentary hearings last week that she no longer had confidence to sit around the cabinet table.
"What should be worrisome for the Trudeau Liberals is that the two cabinet resignations have been on issues of principle and ethics", said Nanos Research pollster Nik Nanos.
Ms Wilson-Raybould said she resisted that pressure and believed she was shuffled out of the justice portfolio as a outcome. A free press is one of the essential lines of defence against election fraud; without it, national polls can turn very nasty, very quickly as we have seen recently in the Congo.
But Philpott also mentioned "the constitutional convention of cabinet solidarity", which means "that ministers are expected to defend all cabinet decisions ... must always be prepared to defend other ministers publicly and must speak in support of the government and its policies".
The two Liberal backbenchers who broke ranks to support an NDP motion for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair are suggesting a full hearing into the matter is needed now more than ever.
After Wednesday's testimony, a spokesman for the prime minister said Trudeau and his team will reflect on "next steps".
The leader of the Opposition Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, said at a news conference that Ms Philpott's resignation demonstrates "a government in total chaos" and called again for Mr Trudeau to resign and for a police investigation of the affair.
But with his government thrown into turmoil and the prime minister implicated in the scandal, gender imbalance in the cabinet could be the least of Trudeau's worries. Wilson-Raybould, the country's first Indigenous justice minister, also embodied Trudeau's vow to make reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples his top priority.
March 1 - Trudeau makes longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister as part of a minor cabinet shuffle. Wilson-Raybould testified under oath that nothing illegal had transpired in the multiple attempts to get her to bring in an outside expert to examine the DPA as an alternative to criminal action.
This prompted her to ask the Prime Minister: "Are you politically interfering with my role as attorney general?"
Trudeau's defense strategy appears to depend on carefully chipping away at Wilson-Raybould's credibility without flatly accusing her of lying, a strategy that will presumably widen to include Philpott as well. As minister of health, she worked with Wilson-Raybould in legalizing medical assistance in dying. She was appointed to the powerful budget position in January.
"When you add women, please do not expect the status quo", she said.
In her testimony to the committee last week, Wilson-Raybould singled out Butts as one official who tried particularly hard to change her mind. So, what do we make of these cabinet losses?
Butts resigned from Trudeau's office last month, insisting neither he nor anyone else in the Prime Minister's Office had done anything wrong but saying he didn't want to be a distraction from the government's work.