Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke the news to reporters just before Question Period in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“I have just been notified by my office that Celina Caesar-Chavannes has decided to sit as an independent,” said Trudeau.
“I want to thank her for her service to the Liberal party and to her constituents and wish her the best in her continued service to constituents.”
Ms. Caesar-Chavannes had told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Trudeau yelled at her in February – the day after Ms. Wilson-Raybould quit the cabinet – when she informed him that she did not plan to run in the October election. Mr. Trudeaus office denied he yelled at her, but acknowledged the conversation was emotional.
Caesar-Chavannes publicly challenged the prime minister’s leadership style in a Twitter post on March 7, shortly after Trudeau’s much-anticipated news conference about the SNC-Lavalin controversy.
The defeated Conservative motion urged Mr. Trudeau to waive all solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality so Ms. Wilson-Raybould could speak freely about what happened during the time she was demoted to Veterans Affairs in early January to her resignation from cabinet on Feb. 11.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes quits Liberal caucus
She began by quoting Trudeau, who said in his opening statement that “central to my leadership is fostering an environment where my ministers, caucus and staff feel comfortable coming to me when they have concerns.”
Celina Caesar-Chavannes quits Liberal caucus, votes for Tory motion
Caesar-Chavannes then wrote, “I did come to you recently. Twice. Remember your reactions?”
The rookie MP was elected in Whitby in 2015 — wrestling the riding away from the Conservatives who had held it since the late Jim Flaherty first won the seat in 2006 — and served as Trudeau’s personal parliamentary secretary during her first year in office.
While she has said her decision not to run again is not related to the SNC-Lavalin affair, she has expressed support for Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. Both resigned from cabinet amid allegations that Trudeau and his staff inappropriately pressured Wilson-Raybould in her role as attorney general to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
The Whitby, Ont. MPs departure comes shortly after two other Liberal MPs, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, resigned from cabinet in the wake of allegations that the Prime Ministers Office interfered in the corruption case against Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. The two remain in the Liberal caucus.
On Feb. 11, Caesar-Chavannes wrote on Twitter that the former attorney general — who was shuffled out of the job and switched to veterans affairs minister in January before stepping down from cabinet — is “ fierce, smart and unapologetic.”
She added, “When women speak up and out, they are always going to be labelled. Go ahead. Label away. We are not going anywhere. #IAmWithHer”
A request for comment from Caesar-Chavannes on her decision to leave the Liberal caucus was not immediately returned.
The departing Liberal backbencher has taken to social media repeatedly to make statements supporting Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott—the two MPs who quit Trudeau’s cabinet as his government was rocked by allegations that he and his top officials pressured the former attorney general and justice minister to offer SNC-Lavalin a settlement deal instead of pursuing fraud and bribery charges against the global, Montreal-based engineering and construction giant.
Whitby, Ont. MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes has quit the Liberal caucus and will sit as an independent, prompting Conservative attacks calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a "fake feminist."
"I have just been notified by my office that Celina Caesar-Chavannes has decided to sit as an independent. I want to thank her for her service to the Liberal Party and to her constituents, and wish her the best in her continued service to her constituents," he said.
Caesar-Chavannes, who had announced already that she will not run in the October election, attended today's Liberal caucus meeting.
She told the Globe and Mail that when she first told Trudeau about her plan not to seek re-election, he became hostile towards her.
On Feb. 11, Caesar-Chavannes wrote on Twitter that former attorney general Wilson-Raybould—who was shuffled out of the job in January before resigning from cabinet—is “ fierce, smart and unapologetic.” She added, “When women speak up and out, they are always going to be labelled. Go ahead. Label away. We are not going anywhere. #IAmWithHer”
"He was yelling. He was yelling that I didn't appreciate him, that he'd given me so much," Caesar-Chavannes told the newspaper.
The Prime Minister's Office insisted that Trudeau displayed "absolutely no hostility" in the exchange.
Leaving Parliament Hill this afternoon, Caesar-Chavannes said that the Globe and Mail interview was the reason for her departure from caucus.
"I think it's important to understand that while I support the values and principles of the Liberal Party, that it might be good, since that message did go out, that I sit as an independent for the rest of the term that I'm here," she told CBC News.
Canadas Trudeau under pressure as MP quits, budget criticized
Caesar-Chavannes said that while she loves representing her constituents, she not want to cause them any more "grief" — especially those who are strong Liberal supporters.
The interview I gave last week to the Globe and Mail has had unintended effects on those I care about. Although that was not the intention, it was the consequence, and I am sorry. I no longer want to distract from the great work my caucus colleagues are doing. Love and hugs, C.
On Twitter, she said the Globe interview had "unintended effects" on people she cared about.
"Although that was not the intention, it was the consequence, and I am sorry. I no longer want to distract from the great work my caucus colleagues are doing," she tweeted.
"'I believe real leadership is about listening, learning & compassion … central to my leadership is fostering an environment where my Ministers, caucus & staff feel comfortable coming to me when they have concerns.'
I believe real leadership is about listening, learning & compassion…central to my leadership is fostering an environment where my Ministers, caucus & staff feel comfortable coming to me when they have concerns I did come to you recently. Twice. Remember your reactions?
In the House of Commons, Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said the development is more evidence that Trudeau doesn't live up to his feminist statements.
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada as well as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce complained about the lack of tax reform. But the center-left Liberals may not care too much as their core supporters are progressive thinkers, women and younger voters. Finance Minister Bill Morneau stressed budget measures to help first-time home buyers, including allowing people to withdraw up to C$35,000 from a retirement savings account.
"When he silences women, when he yells and screams at them, when he says that their experiences are just different perspectives, he is demeaning all women and showing what a fake feminist he is," she said.
Trudeau shot back that he would be "delighted" if Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer defended women's causes, including a woman's right to abortion.
The main opposition Conservative Party has relentlessly attacked Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin affair and described the budget as a bribe. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has continuously demanded Trudeaus resignation, which some Conservatives privately worry is the wrong approach.
"If the leader of the Opposition wants to be a better feminist than me, I wish him good luck. That would be a great thing," he said.
"Clearly, the real Justin Trudeau's come out … the way he's been treating people who have expressed their concerns to him, who have stood up to him," he said. "It's just another example of his lack of leadership."
During an afternoon event in Orléans, Ont. to promote the affordable housing measures in Tuesday's federal budget, Trudeau said the government should be judged on its actions. He said the Liberals have consistently invested in women's programs and advanced an equality agenda.
"We continue every day to stand up for gender equality and opportunities for women, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the economically smart thing to do," he said. "That is what we will continue to do, and we will take no lessons from the Conservatives on standing up for women's rights."
Bergen said later that a pattern is emerging in Trudeau's interactions with women in his caucus. She pointed to Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, both of whom have resigned from cabinet but remain in the Liberal caucus.
Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould accused the Conservatives of "hypocrisy" for suggesting the Liberal government is not feminist. She said there is a "clear and concerted difference" in the way Conservatives treat women Liberal cabinet ministers in the Commons, heckling them more often than they do male cabinet ministers.
"As they stand there and try to discredit the numerous actions that we've taken to support women both here at home and abroad, they are also shutting down women when they're speaking," she said.
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