Politics

MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes quits Liberal caucus

Whitby, Ont. MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes has quit the Liberal caucus and will sit as an independent. The PMO has denied her allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became angry and hostile with her when she informed him she was not seeking re-election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces Ontario MP's departure after weekly caucus meeting

Celina Caesar-Chavannes has quit the Liberal caucus. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

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."

Trudeau announced her decision after the weekly caucus meeting.

"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.

"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.

The Whitby, Ontario MP spoke with the CBC's Chris Rands after Question Period on Wednesday 1:24

"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.

Caesar-Chavannes said that while she loves representing her constituents, she did not want to cause them any more "grief" — especially those who are strong Liberal supporters.

When asked if she and Trudeau are "OK" with each other now, she declined comment.

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.

On Mar. 7, Caesar-Chavannes issued a cryptic tweet quoting the prime minister:

"'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?"

The MP's Liberal Party website has been shut down.

Trudeau called 'fake feminist'

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.

"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.

In the House of Commons, Conservative MPs Candice Bergen and Lisa Rempel challenged Trudeau on his feminism 2:27

Trudeau shot back that he would be "delighted" if Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer defended women's causes, including a woman's right to abortion.

"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.

Scheer commented on Caesar-Chavannes quitting caucus as he left Parliament Hill.

"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."

The Trudeau government has seen several high-profile departures since the SNC-Lavalin controversy first broke in February. (CBC News)

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.

Wilson-Raybould praised Caesar-Chavannes.

"I think Celina's an extraordinary person, a great MP," she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces that Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes has stepped down from the Liberal caucus and will now sit as an independent MP. 0:16

With files from Chris Rands

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.