Liberal MP Anthony Housefather to stay in caucus

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather has ended his reflection on his place in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s caucus, declaring Friday that he intends to stay in the Liberal fold.

“My core values remain Liberal ones and after serious reflection, I believe my greatest value to Canadians is staying in caucus,” he said in a lengthy statement released Friday afternoon.

In concluding his weeks of contemplation, Housefather said that while the House of Commons’ passing of an NDP motion regarding the recognition of Palestinian statehood on March 18 was “a blow” to him and many within the Jewish community, after hearing from and speaking to thousands of his constituents and Canadians nationwide, he’s decided that it’s best for him to remain a Liberal.

“I knew from the beginning that whatever decision I made would make many people unhappy… I heard from people who asked me to leave the Liberal caucus and cross the floor and others who have asked me to remain and be their voice in the Liberal caucus,” Housefather said.

“Despite the strong feelings on either side, I have been very gratified though that so many recognized how difficult the decision was for me and how many of my constituents pledged to support me regardless of the decision that I made.”

The motion initially called on the federal government to recognize the “State of Palestine” – but the Liberals drastically altered its wording at the 11th-hour to see the government simply work towards that aim as part of a two-state solution. 

The late-night wrangling and rewriting of the motion’s text sparked anger and disappointment among both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian advocacy groups. Housefather was one of three Liberal MPs to vote against the watered-down version of the motion.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill the day after the House of Commons commotion, Housefather said that despite the amendments to the motion, his party’s endorsement of it left him feeling isolated, “reflecting” on his place within caucus. 

While he agreed the amended version was better than the initial draft, Housefather called it “bad parliamentary form” for the government to bring forward the amendments minutes before the end of the debate.

The Quebec MP also indicated he had been inundated with “several thousand” messages from constituents over the vote.

Then, in an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play, Housefather indicated he had not ruled out crossing the floor to join the Conservative Party.

Housefather — who has been a Liberal since he was a teenager — added at the time, that he wanted time to think, as he didn’t want to risk “rash decision in the heat of anger or a temper.”

Last week, Trudeau dodged a reporters’ question about whether he’d spoken to Housefather since the Gaza motion acrimony, saying then that he’d talked to him many times and valued the differing opinions within the Liberal caucus.

As the Canadian Press noted in its report about Trudeau’s remarks, Housefather’s Montreal riding Mount Royal, Que. is home to the second-largest number of Jewish voters of any riding in the country, and has been a Liberal stronghold since the 1940s.

In Friday’s statement, Housefather said he’s had “long and important” conversations with Trudeau “over the last couple of days” on the issue of antisemitism in Canada, during which the pair went into “extensive detail about the federal leadership and actions that need to be taken in the short term.”

“The prime minister has asked me to work directly with him and the government in leading on addressing these critical matters. I look forward to working hand in hand with Deborah Lyons [Canada’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combatting antisemitism] and showing that we are taking concrete actions to make the Jewish community feel safe across Canada.”

Housefather also said he intends to use his voice in caucus to “advocate for the centrist classical Liberal Party that I believe in.” 

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