Michael Wernick retiring as clerk of Privy Council, cites lack of ‘mutual trust’ with Opposition

by - 2 min read

Michael Wernick retiring as clerk of Privy Council, cites lack of ‘mutual trust’ with Opposition

by - 2 min read


Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick is leaving his post as Canada’s top bureaucrat, saying there is “no path” for him to have a “relationship of mutual trust and respect” with Opposition party leaders.

Wernick, a longtime public servant, has been heavily criticized in recent weeks for his involvement in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing his retirement, Wernick wrote that “recent events have led me to conclude that I cannot serve as clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to cabinet during the upcoming election campaign.”

Wernick’s first appearance in front of the justice committee over SNC-Lavalin — during which he both defended his role in the affair and bemoaned the state of political discourse in Canada — was widely criticized as a partisan display. NDP MP Charlie Angus even called for his resignation.

“Mr. Wernick has overstepped his role,” Angus wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau earlier this month.

Wernick said working with Opposition parties would be difficult going forward.

“It is now apparent that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the Opposition parties,” he wrote.

“Therefore, I wish to relinquish these roles before the election. It is essential that Canadians continue to see their world leading public service as non-partisan and there to provide excellent services to Canadians and the governments they elect.”

Trudeau didn’t ask for resignation: PMO

As clerk, Wernick also served on the new “critical election incident public protocol” team.

As part of that team, Wernick — along with the national security and intelligence adviser and the deputy ministers of justice, public safety and foreign affairs — was supposed to alert the public of any election interference during the campaign period, also known as the writ period.

“It is essential that during the writ period the clerk be seen by all political parties as an impartial arbiter of whether serious foreign interference has occurred,” he wrote in his letter.

Wernick has denied making “veiled threats” to pressure former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to sign a remediation agreement with the Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

On Monday, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Ian Shugart, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, will take over as clerk. 

A spokesman for the prime minister said Trudeau did not ask for Wernick’s resignation.

This story originally appeared on CBC