One of the things that has been remarkable about the SNC/PMO Scandal has been the near steady flow of news and stories coming from it. For a month now, it’s felt like there has been something new that’s happened every, single day and there have been very few days that have gone by with nothing happening. So today felt like it might be one of those few days without a big detail or a bombshell getting dropped from the crew at the Globe and Mail. But maybe I should have simply paid more attention, especially to this tweet that the Liberal MP for Whitby Celina Caesar-Chavannes put out in response to the Prime Ministers statement yesterday morning.
That Tweet was a part of the discussion yesterday, mostly because most people didn’t know what it was referring to. Many people were wondering, but given all of the news and reactions that came out of yesterdays press conference it got a bit lost in the shuffle. Well that’s no longer the case after this:
Wow, with everything that’s happened so far you’d think it would be hard to still be shocked, but I’m floored by the details in this story. That would be the case on any day of the week, let alone at the end a week like this. Add to it that today is International Women’s Day, this is that much worse. To me there were two quotes that really say it all:
Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, a first-term MP from the Toronto area, said she 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.https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-liberal-mp-celina-caesar-chavannes-says-she-was-met-with-hostility
A source with the Prime Minister’s Office 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 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 Mr. Trudeau apologized again later that day, prior to a vote on a Conservative motion in the House of Commons. Opposition MPs have told The Globe she appeared visibly upset.https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-liberal-mp-celina-caesar-chavannes-says-she-was-met-with-hostility/
“He came back in and said ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,’ ” she said. “I was upset and I left. I was angry. I was angry, because this guy holds a lot of power and in the first conversation I asked him to consider the impact on my family, and he didn’t do that.”
Reading those words, those quotes, there was no way to read them and think that was alright, for many reasons. For starters, yelling things like he is quoted there saying would look bad on any normal politician; they look that much worse on a politician who has built his image around being a woke, feminist Prime Minister of the age. Given what he said to the Press Gallery on Thursday morning, I can easily see why she reacted now the way she did when he talks about his team and how he leads them.
The other part of those quotes that jumped out at me was the comments about her family. She has been a visible MP who hasn’t been afraid to take on tough issues, which has lead to her run-ins with Maxime Bernier. So from there, with everything that’s going on in our political culture these days, it shouldn’t come as a shock that threats have followed. She tried to tell him about the impact this has had on her family, and that she wasn’t willing to risk that anymore. But when his reaction should have been understanding and comforting, he allegedly screamed at her, called her ungrateful. I don’t care who you are as a political lead, that is not an acceptable response. It wouldn’t be acceptable in a normal workplace and it’s not acceptable in an abnormal one like elected politics. It hasn’t been acceptable decades before now, and it sure as hell isn’t acceptable now.
One final, striking thing I noticed about this story was the response from the PMO about it. I’m going to quote it below and see if you notice the same thing that I did:
In response to detailed questions from The Globe and Mail, 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.”https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-liberal-mp-celina-caesar-chavannes-says-she-was-met-with-hostility
Yes, “things got emotional” but there was “no hostility”. He has deep respect for her, yes words were exchanged, but they weren’t hostile. Take that response, and compare it in tone and wording to what he said about Jody Wilson-Raybould yesterday. Then compare that to what he said in other earlier incidents in his tenure as Prime Minister that come to mind. There is a pattern there; he tends to acknowledge that for the other person “situations were experienced differently”, but then goes on to try to invalidate that “experience” by saying that there was no ill intent, no malice, no nothing like that. Also there is usually a complete absence of two words: I’m sorry.
Regardless of how you may feel about the Prime Minister or your partisan leanings, stories like this one tonight leave an impression. After everything that’s happened this week, this story hurts that much more and is one that won’t be forgotten for a while. It’s a story that not only shines a terrible light on the Prime Minister, it feeds into the growing perception of a government that’s lost the plot and lost control. This feeds into that view because in situations where things are going well, you don’t get reactions like this from your leader. It will remain to be seen what more the PMO will have to say about this but this part of the story will not be going anyway anytime soon, nor should it.