Just 2 years ago, Celina Caesar-Chavannes was a 42-year-old mother studying for her executive MBA, running a health-care management business, while raising three children with her husband. It was then around that time when she mentioned the idea of possibly running in the 2014 by-election to her other classmates at the University of Toronto.
She had no political background, had never taken a political science course, and grew up hating politics. It was her three daughters who inspired Caesar-Chavannes to enter this whole new world.
“My daughters, very political,” said Cesar-Chavannes, whose children are seven, 11 and 16. “I would say they are the political wonks in the family.”
What also inspired her was the man leading the Liberal party, now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I felt there was an energy in the party, a new purpose or feeling,” said Caesar-Chavannes. “And I just thought, let me try it out.”
So she tried in 2014 when she became the Liberal candidate for then Whitby- Oshawa riding. Casear-Chavannes finished second, losing to Conservative candidate Pat Perkins.
Victory came just a year later for Caesar-Chavannes. In 2015 she won with 45 per cent of the vote, kicking out the 8-year long Conservative hold in the now Whitby riding. What would come next would again change her political career forever.
One day after the election, Caesar-Chavannes was taking the long drive on Hwy. 416 into Ottawa from Whitby, when her phone started buzzing. It was a call from Katie Telford, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.
Telford was calling to tell her Trudeau enjoyed the time he had with Caesar-Chavannes during the by-election. Telford was also calling to tell Chavannes she had been chosen as one of of Prime Minister’s three parliamentary secretaries.
“The most important thing that she said was that we built a relationship. That for me, was gold,” said Caesar-Chavannes, who spends half her time in Ottawa and the other half in Whitby. “That’s what you want to strive for, building that rapport.”
As the parliamentary secretary, Caesar-Chavannes handles routine matters in the House of Commons, and attends meetings and events on behalf of the Prime Minister.
“Myself and Justin are like a tag team,” said Caesar-Chavannes with a laugh. “I said Justin, I am your ride or die. Like, I am your girl, I got your back.”
It also means she has many opportunities to speak for the residents of Whitby to those in higher power. Such as her March visit to the White House, where Caesar-Chavannes was knocking elbows with her tag team partner Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama. Or getting to attend Canada’s Black History Month event on Parliament hill in February.
But Caesar-Chavannes did admit she always has Whitby on the brain.
“I am always mindful of the fact that, whether I’m in Washington or Ottawa, how does this connect back to Whitby?,” said Caesar-Chavannes. “Justin is not my boss, the people of Whitby are my boss.”
She also wants to stay true to herself.
“I am the truth. I give you the truth whether you like it or you don’t,” said Caesar-Chavannes. “And I do the same thing for the Prime Minister.”
So will we be seeing her sometime in the future running for Prime Minister of Canada? Caesar-Chavannes said she does not take that consideration lightly.
“It’s not even something I am even pondering right now,” said the MP. “Justin told me to just learn and I am loving the ride.”
Caesar-Chavannes does want to make a lasting impression on the people of Whitby, but on her own terms.
“Just Celina, to remember me as just Celina,” said Caesar-Charvannes.