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PCO Clerk Michael Wernick retiring before next election, cites lack of trust with opposition

PCO Clerk Michael Wernick retiring before next election, cites lack of trust with opposition
Politics
OTTAWA Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is replacing Canadas most senior bureaucrat Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, as the head public servant has announced his upcoming retirement.

In an open letter to the prime minister published on the Government of Canada website, Wernick said 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, and that he intends to retire before the election is called.

Wernick said that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the Opposition parties, after both have called for his resignation given his role in the still unfolding SNC-Lavalin controversy.

He was directly named by Jody Wilson-Raybould as one of the senior officials who she alleges was involved in a sustained effort to politically interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. She accused Wernick of issuing veiled threats if she did not change her mind about instructing federal prosecutors to pursue a remediation agreement rather than continuing with the criminal trial.

During his two appearances before the House Justice Committee on this matter, Wernick delivered direct and sometimes terse responses to MPs questions about his alleged involvement. He denied ever making any threats in relation to Wilson-Rayboulds handling of the criminal case against the Quebec company, as she had alleged.

The minister experienced lawful advocacy to consider doing something lawful in the public interest. I made no threats, veiled or otherwise, that the ministers decision would lead to consequences for herIt is my contention the minister was doing her job and I was doing mine, Wernick testified earlier this month.

He also raised eyebrows during his first round of testimony when he offered off-topic opening remarks on the state of online discourse, partisanship and the prospect of political assassinations in the upcoming campaign.

NDP MP and ethics critic Charlie Angus sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prior to Wernicks second round of testimony, saying that Wernick was "deeply compromised," has "overstepped his role," and could not remain in his position. As of last week, the PMO had confirmed to CTV News that Wernick still had the confidence of the PM.

Trudeau announced Monday that he intends to appoint current deputy minister of foreign affairs Ian Shugart as Wernicks replacement, in the coming weeks.

In the statement announcing the major shakeup to the leadership of the public service, Trudeau thanked Wernick for his support over the last few years as we worked to implement an ambitious agenda to build a better future for the people and communities at the heart of this country.
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