Caesar-Chavannes did the right thing

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Celina Caesar-Chavannes left the Liberal caucus after publicly challenging the character of the leader. Her two former cabinet colleagues should follow suit.

By Sheila Copps

First published in The Hill Times on March 25, 2019.

OTTAWA—Celina Caesar-Chavannes did the right thing. She left the Liberal caucus after publicly challenging the character of the leader.

Her two former cabinet colleagues should follow suit. In defending her decision, Caesar-Chavannes showed some insight into how her actions might have caused some damage to the Liberal Party.

She said she was leaving because she did not want to cause any more “grief’ to her constituents, especially those who were strong Liberal supporters.

The rookie Member of Parliament declined to comment on whether she had patched things up with the leader.

But at least she is on the outside looking in, which is where the other two should be.

There is a difference among the three, and therein lies the rub.

Caesar-Chavannes has already announced that she has no intention of running in the next election. The other two both plan to run as Liberals while they are doing their best to damage the leader.

Jane Philpott kept the anti-Liberal rhetoric going with an accusatory interview to Maclean’s magazine.

Jody Wilson-Raybould sent out a 684-word manifesto on why she would be seeking re-election “currently” as a Liberal.

That is the only time she mentions the dreaded L-word.

We all know Wilson-Raybould chooses her words carefully. She does not always tell the whole story, as when she neglected to mention the prime minister’s offer of a cabinet switch to the Ministry of Indigenous Services.

So why would she qualify her Liberal standing with the adverb “currently”? The dictionary defines the word as “at the current time.” That leaves the door wide open for her to switch sides.

Several weeks ago, I wrote that her father had referenced Wilson-Raybould’s potential to take down the government and replace Justin Trudeau.

My viewpoint was skewered in the Twitterverse. One virulent critic is Warren Kinsella, a political operative and former Liberal staffer who has a hate-on for Trudeau.

Kinsella accused me of acting as a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office. I tweeted him directly, seeking a retraction, which never came.

But Kinsella’s own cyber presence is revelatory.

He has set up a petition to collect names and emails of all those Canadians who supported the former attorney general and tweets virulent anti-Trudeau messages on a regular basis.

The government was hoping the budget would be a channel-changer on the damaging internal fighting that has cost the prime minister and the caucus dearly.

Wilson-Raybould needs media oxygen to keep her name in lights.

She needs to stay in caucus to keep this drama going.

By refusing to resign, they both prove their motives are not so pure as those of Caesar-Chavannes.

In an open letter to constituents, Wilson-Raybould made some stunningly sophomoric generalizations. Referring to constituents she writes, “You are the true leaders who reject the increasing culture of conflict, empty partisanship, and cynical games that are far too common, and you are committed to building a culture of ever greater collaboration, truth-seeking, and principled service for the well-being of Canada and all Canadians.”

However, she makes no mention of who is actually creating this culture of conflict, empty partisanship, and cynical games.

The only conflict she has claimed is with the prime minister, his staff, and former Privy Council colleagues.

So how does she square the “cynicism and empty partisanship” claim with her stated desire to run for the Liberals?

If the top job is the former minister’s endgame, Wilson-Raybould needs the Liberal Party more than the party needs her.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.