On Tuesday, the threat to Canada’s Justin Trudeau’s continued leadership grew as one if his top ministers quit, the third high-profile resignation in recent weeks. The resignations add further concern over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin bribery affair. And if opinion polls are anything to go by, the crisis poses a real threat to Mr Trudeau’s ability to secure a second term in October’s federal elections.
What do opinion polls show?
According to an Ipsos opinion poll conducted in February for Global News, Mr Trudeau’s Liberal government’s approval rating dropped nine points to 42 percent.
The poll, conducted between March 1 and 4, sampled 1,000 adults across demographics living in Canada and is accurate to within about 3.5 percentage points.
The poll showed that, if an election were to be held imminently, the Liberals under Prime Minister Trudeau would receive 31 percent of the decided popular vote, down three points since Ipsos’ most recent poll two weeks ago.
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The Conservatives under Andrew Scheer would receive 40 percent of the vote, up 4 points.
Jagmeet Singh’s NDP would receive 20 percent of the popular vote (up three points), while the Bloc would receive four percent of the vote nationally (19 percent in Quebec), down two points.
Other parties, including the Green Party, would receive five percent of the vote (down two points).
Overall, two in ten Canadians say they are undecided (nine percent) or simply would not consider voting (eight percent).
What is the crisis about?
The crisis is based around alleged political meddling to shield engineering firm SNC-Lavalin from a bribery trial, which the government has denied.
Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin is one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies.
The firm and two of its subsidiaries face fraud and corruption charges in connection with about C$48m ($36m; £28m) in bribes it is alleged to have offered to Libyan officials between 2001-11.
The firm has openly lobbied to be allowed to enter into a remediation agreement instead of going to trial, saying it has cleaned house and changed its ways.
SNC-Lavalin says it would be unfair to penalise the company as a whole and its thousands of employees for the wrongdoing of former executives.
The matter is proceeding to trial and the company says it will “vigorously defend itself” against the allegations.
Mr Trudeau has been accused of pressuring his former attorney general to cut a deal with the company, and retaliating when she refused to play ball.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former attorney-general, said Mr Trudeau and his staff spent months trying to convince her that taking the company to trial would cost Canadians jobs, and their party votes.
She also says she was subject to “veiled threats”, which she believes were realised when she was pushed out of the justice department.
Who has resigned?
Ms Wilson-Raybould resigned from Cabinet in a sudden move in February.
On 18 February, Mr Trudeau’s top aide, Gerald Butts, announced he would quit, denying in a statement that he or anyone on his staff had done anything wrong but said he had to leave so as not to be a distraction from the team’s “vital work”.
The most recent resignation comes from Treasury Board President Jane Philpott, one of the Prime Minister’s top Cabinet ministers.
In her resignation letter, Ms Philpott said it had become “untenable” for her to continue to serve in the cabinet.
“It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases,” she wrote.
“Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”