April 24th, 2024

Trudeau won’t say if he has spoken to Housefather since Gaza motion

By The Canadian Press on March 28, 2024.

Quebec MP Anthony Housefather remains undecided on his future more than a week after a House of Commons motion on Israel and Gaza left him questioning if he has a future in the Liberal party. Housefather speaks with reporters as he makes his way to Question Period, in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – Quebec MP Anthony Housefather remains undecided on his future more than a week after a House of Commons motion on Israel and Gaza left him questioning whether he will remain in the Liberal party.

And Prime Minister Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t saying if he has even been talking to Housefather to try and keep him in the fold.

Trudeau dodged the question today, saying only that he has spoken to Housefather many times over the years and that he is proud to head a caucus where multiple viewpoints are heard and reflected.

Housefather is a lifelong Liberal and has been the party’s MP for Mount Royal since 2015.

But on March 19 he said he was “reflecting” on his future a day after the a majority of Liberals supported an NDP motion on Gaza after negotiating heavy amendments.

Housefather said the last-minute amendments without consultation were not the right way to go and that he was hurt that some members of his party appeared to applaud the NDP for a motion he felt was anti-Israel.

In response to a question Thursday from The Canadian Press he said he had not made any decisions he was ready to share.

The final motion included 14 amendments proposed by the Liberals, which eliminated a stand-alone call to recognize Palestinian statehood and instead saw MPs voice support for a peace process and a two-state solution, in keeping with existing Canadian policy.

It also identified Hamas as a terrorist organization, added a call for Hamas to lay down its arms, and changed language about banning all Canadian exports to Israel of military goods and technology to banning the export of arms.

Many of those changes reflected some of the criticism of the original motion but the final motion was still met with disgust by Israel and several Canadian Jewish organizations.

Housefather said he wishes the Liberals had simply voted down the flawed motion. However, there was the very real possibility that the cabinet would vote against it, and a majority of the rest of the caucus would vote for it.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said last week that would have been a far worse outcome for the party.

Trudeau has not spoken publicly about the motion or Housefather’s concerns before Thursday.

“Over the years I have had many many conversations with Anthony Housefather. I’ve known him a long time,” Trudeau said, when asked if he had spoken to Housefather in the last week.

He went on to say that the whole thing reinforces that the Liberal caucus is a reflection of Canada, which can sometimes get messy.

“And yes, for parties that can pick one side of the conflict and ignore the concerns of a whole bunch of Canadians, it may be easier to manage that caucus. But I suggest that it probably is not as good for Canada,” he said.

His office later said he had spoken to Housefather the day the motion was debated but would not say if the two had spoken since.

Housefather is Jewish and has been advocating for his community in the face of threats and protests targeting synagogues and Jewish community centres and businesses.

His Montreal riding has been a Liberal stronghold since the 1940s, and is home to the second-largest number of Jewish voters of any riding in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2024.

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