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Canada’s top civil servant to quit, the latest victim of scandal

Canada’s Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick attends a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The head of Canada’s federal bureaucracy said on Monday he was quitting over his role in handling a corporate corruption case that has sparked a political crisis and damaged the ruling Liberals’ hopes of re-election in October.

Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council, said in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that he wanted to leave well before the election because he had lost the confidence of opposition leaders.

Trudeau has been on the defensive since Feb. 7 over allegations that top officials leaned on former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to ensure engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoided a corruption trial.

The civil service and Wernick are supposed to be non-partisan, but his strong defense of Liberal officials and his insistence that no one had done anything wrong triggered widespread criticism that he was siding with the government.

“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 said in his letter.

Wernick, who was appointed by Trudeau to the job in early 2016, is the latest victim in a scandal that has already cost the prime minister his closest personal aide and two senior cabinet members.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao and Cynthia Osterman

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