Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in an armchair discussion at the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association Annual General Meeting in Ottawa on Saturday, March 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

PMO denies Trudeau was hostile toward Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes

Caesar-Chavannes described multiple angry conversations with her party’s leader

A spokesman for the prime minister’s office says Justin Trudeau had “emotional” conversations with Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, but denies her claims the encounters were “hostile” or that Trudeau yelled at her.

Caesar-Chavannes told the Globe and Mail in an interview Trudeau was angry when she told him on Feb. 12 of her plans to announce she was not reoffering in the October federal election.

She alleges he yelled at her in that conversation and that she responded by shouting back at him, and says the prime minister later apologized.

Caesar-Chavannes also detailed another encounter with Trudeau in the House of Commons a week later in which she describes him as acting hostile toward her.

Caesar-Chavannes first raised questions about her interactions with the prime minister in a tweet she published earlier this week following Trudeau’s press conference on the ongoing SNC-Lavalin controversy.

Trudeau told reporters he felt there had been an erosion of trust between himself and former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, which was something he regretted because a central tenet of his leadership is fostering an environment in which MPs and staff feel comfortable coming to him when they have concerns.

“I did come to you recently. Twice. Remember your reactions?” Caesar-Chavannes wrote in her tweet.

Caesar-Chavannes told the Globe and Mail he yelled at her in the Feb. 12 telephone conversation, telling her she didn’t appreciate him for all he had given her. The Whitby MP served as Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary from December 2015 to January 2017, when she stepped down from the post voluntarily.

The second encounter happened a week later after a caucus meeting. She approached Trudeau and says she tried to broach the topic of their previous testy conversation, but was met with a hostile “stare down.” He came to apologize to her quietly on the floor of the House of Commons later, and she left visibly upset — an episode witnessed by several MPs in the chamber that day.

An official with the PMO speaking on background told The Canadian Press Saturday that Trudeau makes a regular effort to meet with his MPs as often as possible, and that often these discussions are candid. The official conceded that Caesar-Chavannes’ perception of the encounters may have been different, but added they have never heard Trudeau yell or raise his voice to anyone.

In a statement sent to multiple media outlets, Matt Pascuzzo, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office, denied Trudeau was hostile toward Caesar-Chavannes, adding that he has “deep respect” for her.

“There’s no question the conversations in February were emotional, but there was absolutely no hostility,” Pascuzzo said.

“As the prime minister said (Thursday), 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.”

Speaking at a teachers’ conference in Ottawa on Saturday, Trudeau was asked to respond to concerns about whether “recent events” involving several women in his caucus call into question his dedication to promoting women’s rights.

Trudeau said he has faced a tough number of weeks involving members of his team who have experienced “some real differences of perspective and opinion.”

“I regret that it has happened this way and it’s certainly something that we’re learning a lot about,” he said.

“I’m rethinking some of the processes of how we support cabinet and caucus members, how we function as an office. I’m getting outside advice that because internal disagreements like this need to be dealt with in a better way.”

He also said he hopes these events will not distract or detract from the work his government has been doing.

When asked whether he is concerned the SNC-Lavalin controversy could hurt his re-election chances, Trudeau pointed to concerns about the rise of divisive politics in other countries: the ”toxic populism” in the United States, the yellow-vest protesters in France and the “total mess” of Brexit in the U.K., which he said was caused by an “impulse of populism and a knee-jerk reaction against institutions and in favour of cynicism and negativity.”

He warned against Canadians embracing the politics of wedge issues, characterizing his government as a “thoughtful, progressive, positive government that believes in the rule of law.”

The Trudeau government has spent weeks defending against allegations his office leaned on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution on charges of offering bribes to do business with Libya.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last month, saying she experienced inappropriate political pressure and veiled threats. Jane Philpott also resigned as Treasury Board president, citing a loss in confidence in the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey mom says Liberal budget falls short in helping people with autism

Louise Witt, whose son has autism, says budget provisions like ‘putting a Band-Aid on a cancer’

Upbeat White Rock concert blends ecology, history

The Wilds and Tiller’s Folly raise ‘Voices for the Salish Sea’

Missing Surrey woman ‘located and safe,’ police say

Kayla Amy Smith, 30, who was reported missing last month

South Surrey mother guilty of second-degree murder in death of daughter

Lisa Batstone ‘took seven decades of Teagan’s life’

Prayer vigil to be held at Delta mosque for Christchurch victims

The event gets underway at the Baitur Rahman Mosque on River Road at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

98-year-old cyclist in critical condition after struck by car in Abbotsford

83-year-old driver stayed on scene and did not suffer any injuries in the incident

Wildlife activists slam B.C. business, clubs for ‘wolf-whacking’ contests

Chilcotin Guns, Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club and West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club under fire

VIDEO: Giants take a 1-0 playoff series lead

Vancouver beat Seattle 7-1 in game one of the best-of-seven Western Conference series in Langley

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

Six ‘distraction thefts’ in two days spark warning to seniors by Vancouver police

Distraction thefts are used to steal jewelry off the necks of unsuspecting women

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

Most Read