“He Was Yelling That I Didn’t Appreciate Him, That He’d Given Me So Much”: Female Liberal MP Details Trudeau Behind the Scenes
Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes says she was met with hostility and anger from Justin Trudeau when she told him she was leaving politics, prompting her to speak out about the Prime Minister’s behaviour.
Ms. Caesar-Chavannes sent out a tweet earlier this week after Mr. Trudeau spoke about his leadership style during a news conference to address allegations of political interference between his office and former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin.
“I did come to you recently. Twice. Remember your reactions?” wrote Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, who worked closely with Mr. Trudeau as his parliamentary secretary from December, 2015, to January, 2017.
Speaking for the first time in an interview with The Globe and Mail about what she meant by her post, Ms. Caesar-Chavannes outlined a series of interactions with Mr. Trudeau in recent weeks, including one witnessed by members of the House, that she says left her feeling unsupported. She turned to social media after Mr. Trudeau stated that real leadership is about listening, showing compassion and fostering an environment in which caucus is comfortable coming to him with concerns. Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, who has repeatedly offered public support for Ms. Wilson-Raybould, said she felt he did not show those qualities in their personal discussions in recent weeks.
In response to detailed questions from The Globe, Matt Pascuzzo, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, said, “The Prime Minister has deep respect for Celina Caesar-Chavannes. There’s no question the conversations in February were emotional, but there was absolutely no hostility. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, he is committed to fostering an environment where ministers, caucus, and staff feel comfortable approaching him when they have concerns or disagreements – that happened here.”
Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, a first-term MP from the Toronto area, said she had told Mr. Trudeau in a phone call on Feb. 12 that she would be announcing her decision not to run again in the October election. She said Mr. Trudeau told her to wait, because Ms. Wilson-Raybould had quit cabinet that day. She felt that he was worried about “the optics of having two women of colour leaving,” Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said.
A source with the PMO who was not authorized to discuss details on the record said Mr. Trudeau was concerned that her decision would be associated with the SNC-Lavalin affair, but did not raise any concerns about race.
Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said she had told him that she hoped he could one day understand the impact that political life has had on her family. She said threats to her safety have been made against her in the past.
“He was yelling. He was yelling that I didn’t appreciate him, that he’d given me so much,” Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said.
She said she yelled back at him, and Mr. Trudeau eventually apologized. She said she agreed to his request the next day to hold off on making her announcement until early March.
A week later after a caucus meeting, Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said she had approached Mr. Trudeau to talk about their previous interaction.
“I went to him, I said, ‘Look I know our last conversation wasn’t the greatest but …,’ and at that point I stopped talking because I realized he was angry,” she said.
“Again, I was met with hostility. This stare-down … then him stomping out of the room without a word.”
The PMO said the two posed for a photo together and their interaction was brief.