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Canada's top public servant announces retirement

The SNC−Lavalin affair claimed its fourth resignation today as Michael Wernick announced his intention to step down as the country’s top public servant, having concluded he’s lost the trust of opposition parties.

Opposition parties have been calling for the clerk of the Privy Council’s resignation since he first vehemently rejected allegations that he and others improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson−Raybould to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC−Lavalin.

Wernick’s combative testimony to the House of Commons justice committee was denounced as partisan and unbecoming a senior bureaucrat who is supposed to be impartial.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, Wernick said he will retire before this fall’s federal election campaign kicks off.

He noted that the clerk is supposed to be "an impartial arbiter of whether serious foreign interference" occurs during the campaign, as part of a new federal watchdog panel, and is also supposed to be ready to help whichever party is elected to form government — two roles he no longer believes he can fulfil.

<who>Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

"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," Wernick wrote.

"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."

Wernick, who has served in senior public service roles for nearly 38 years, has been clerk of the Privy Council since 2016, shortly after the Trudeau Liberals assumed office.

Government insiders have said he wanted to retire as clerk a year ago but was persuaded to stay on.

Trudeau said he intends to name Ian Shugart, currently deputy minister of foreign affairs, to replace Wernick.



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