Speaking in an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Caesar-Chavannes — who left the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent in March 2019 — said she plans to vote for Conservative candidate Maleeha Shahid in the Whitby, Ont., riding she once represented as a Liberal.
“I’m very much a Liberal at heart, but I would say that in this particular instance, in 2021, I don’t mind voting for my local representative, Maleeha Shahid, who is a Conservative,” Caesar-Chavannes said.
“I’ve never done that in my life. But at this particular time, maybe we have to think about doing things differently.”
When asked about Caesar-Chavannes’ comments on Sunday, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau said he wishes her “all the best.”
“People have a really important choice to make in this election…Mr. O’Toole wants to take Canada back, take it back to 1951, apparently,” Trudeau said. said.
“We need to move forward, and people will make their choices. But we are unequivocal about standing up for women, standing up to fight climate change, standing for a better future for everyone.”
Caesar-Chavannes left the Liberal caucus after comments she made in an interview were published in The Globe and Mail in early 2019. In that interview, she spoke about private conversations she had with Trudeau about her intention to not seek re-election in the 2019 election.
She said Trudeau greeted the news of her planned departure with “hostility” and “anger.” A spokesperson for Trudeau said at the time that while the conversations were “emotional” there was “absolutely no hostility.”
Addressing her departure in a tweet at the time, Caesar-Chavannes said that the interview she did with the Globe and Mail “had unintended effects on those I care about,” adding that she “no longer” wanted to “distract from the great work my caucus colleagues are doing.”
In the months following, Caesar-Chavannes continued her streak as an outspoken critic of Trudeau. She defended former Liberal cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott as they criticized the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair, and regularly issued criticism of the Liberal government’s handling of racial issues.
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Speaking in her interview with Stephenson, Caesar-Chavannes shared that she “cried” when she read an excerpt from former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book. That excerpt detailed a tense discussion between Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau centered on the SNC-Lavalin affair.
“I wasn’t heartbroken because I felt the hurt. I wasn’t heartbroken because of the pain that I felt. I wasn’t heartbroken because some of that feeling that was in that room was so familiar to me,” Caesar-Chavannes said.
“I was heartbroken because we keep continuing to reward bad behavior from a prime minister that won a 2019 election, had a majority and a minority government for six years, (and) continues to say there is more to do.”
She said there’s an opportunity in this election to “do things differently,” and she hopes the Liberals “really think about that” and “distance themselves” from Trudeau.
Despite her intention to vote for her local Conservative candidate, the Tories haven’t been spared from Caesar-Chavannes’ criticism during the election campaign.
“Erin O’Toole doesn’t want to talk about race or write about it or think about it,” she tweeted in mid-August.
“How can Canadians expect him to deal with inequity and racism?”
She also retweeted a tweet that was critical of O’Toole’s letter to Trudeau about the B.C. wildfires, noting the Conservative leader didn’t mention “climate” once.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, O’Toole welcomed Caesar-Chavannes’ support for the Whitby candidate.
“I’m very proud that Maleeha Shahid, our candidate in Whitby, a councilor, a strong woman standing for our party, is going to receive the support of Celina,” O’Toole said.
“I think that’s a remarkable gesture, and a sign that it’s time for change for people that liked the sunny ways and and the new style that Mr. Trudeau was promising six years ago. He has not lived up to it.”