Most board members of the federal Liberal riding association for Markham-Stouffville — represented by Jane Philpott — have stepped down in solidarity with the well-liked former cabinet minister because they “have no longer got the heart,” CBC News has learned.
In an exclusive interview, the board’s secretary, Leea Nutson, said 10 of its 16 members have tendered their resignations. With the upcoming fall federal election, Nutson said, two are staying on in the interim. Three others will continue serving the riding association, and one member’s intentions are unknown.
“This is not a protest resignation, in my part at least, but I have no longer got the heart to run or work on another campaign,” she said at her home on Tuesday.
“We had a star candidate in Jane, and I just don’t have the energy to carry on.”
Philpott — widely considered to be one of the most competent and respected ministers in the Trudeau government — stepped down from cabinet on March 4, saying she had lost “confidence” in the Liberals’ handling of the SNC-Lavalin file. At the time, she remained in the Liberal caucus and said she intended to run in the fall election under the Liberal Party banner.
Nearly a month later, Trudeaubooted her from caucus, explaining that trust has been irreparably broken.
Philpott, the MP for the riding of Markham-Stouffville, was expelled alongside Jody Wilson-Raybould.
The move came after Wilson-Raybould released a 17-minute audio recording of a Dec. 19 conversation between her and Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council. Wernick wasn’t told he was being recorded.
Several Liberal MPs lashed out at the covert recording, calling it unethical and dishonourable. Trudeau deemed it “unconscionable.”
Both former senior ministers have defended the decision. Wilson-Raybould said the prime minister’s focus on the secret recording is a “red herring,” while Philpott said the focus should be on its contents.
According to Nutson, her departure from the Markham-Stouffville Liberal association isn’t influenced by the SNC-Lavalin controversy.
“It’s strictly about Jane Philpott,” she said.
Those members leaving the Markham-Stouffville Federal Liberal Riding Association are the most senior, Nutson explained, noting that each arrived at the decision independently.
“The heart has gone out of it. I feel like we are collateral damage in this whole affair,” she said. “I cannot in good conscious work for another candidate.”
Philpott was first elected as the MP of Markham-Stouffville in 2015. The rookie MP was appointed to the Health portfolio in Trudeau’s first cabinet.
This story originally appeared on CBC