Several Liberal cabinet ministers say they believe Anthony Rota’s days as speaker of the House of Commons are numbered, Radio-Canada has learned.
That Rota remains in office is causing discomfort in the liberal group, sources told Radio-Canada, after he invited a Ukrainian veteran who fought in a Nazi unit to witness Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to Parliament on Friday.
Opposition parties could force a vote on a motion in the House of Commons calling for the president to resign. If that happens, several influential members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet told Radio-Canada they can’t imagine a scenario in which Liberal MPs would vote to save Rota’s skin.
Radio-Canada spoke to five sources, including cabinet ministers and parliamentarians, who spoke on condition of confidentiality because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Although Rota is a liberal deputy, the president is elected by all members of the Chamber.
On Monday, no liberal deputy publicly called for Rota’s resignation. But Behind the scenes, many believe Rota’s departure has become inevitable, sources told Radio-Canada. Several members of the Liberal group say they cannot consider supporting Rota in a possible vote in the House of Commons.
“If we vote in his favor, it would be as if we supported the action he took last week,” a Liberal source told Radio-Canada. “Being stubborn and standing there embarrasses everyone, including the prime minister,” the source added.
“He has to go,” said another source familiar with internal deliberations.
Sources said the trust Rota needs to do its job well is now broken.
“A president cannot continue without the confidence of the house,” a cabinet member told Radio-Canada.
“It is impossible for him to overcome this if there is a vote,” another cabinet member said.
Rota extended an invitation to Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian now living in North Bay, Ontario, to witness Zelenskyy’s speech to Parliament on Friday. Rota had praised Hunka, a member of his Nipissing-Timiskaming riding, as a “Ukrainian hero” and a “Canadian hero” and drew a standing ovation for the man.
During World War II, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, some Ukrainian nationalists joined Nazi units because they saw Germans as liberators from Soviet oppression. Breaking: reported Sunday that Hunka fought in the 1st Galician Division, a branch of Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS.
The president personally apologized to MPs at the opening of Parliament on Monday. Rota said he personally regrets inviting this voter and paying attention to him after Zelenskyy’s comments.
The Liberal cabinet meets every Tuesday morning. The Cabinet will meet before noon with Rota and House leaders. Typically, part of the meeting is dedicated to more political discussions. Today at least one minister hopes that the Rota issue will be the topic of discussion.
“I would be surprised if we didn’t talk about it,” said one minister.
Speaking briefly to reporters in Parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped short of calling for Rota to step aside from the position he has held since 2019.
“It’s extremely disturbing that this happened. The president acknowledged his mistake and apologized,” Trudeau said. “But this is something that is deeply embarrassing for the Parliament of Canada and, by extension, for all Canadians.”
“Everyone was stunned”
After controversy erupted over the weekend, some MPs were surprised to see Rota presiding over the chamber’s debates on Monday, sources told Radio-Canada.
“Everyone was stunned,” says a Liberal MP.
Many Liberal MPs expected Chris d’Entremont, a Conservative MP and vice-president, to chair Monday’s debates.
Both the NDP and Bloc Québécois have called for Rota to resign as president. The two opposition parties said it is not enough for Rota to apologize for inviting Hunka to the day’s festivities.
Rota is expected to hold a meeting with government and opposition House of Representatives leaders at noon Tuesday, sources told Breaking: and Radio-Canada.
The Bloc Québécois originally requested the meeting with Rota and House leaders from the other parties, according to a letter obtained by Breaking:. The letter, from House Bloc leader Alain Therrien, said Hunka’s invitation has created “an unprecedented crisis of confidence” in the House of Commons.
Conservatives on the attack
Unlike the NDP and Bloc Québécois, the Conservatives did not demand Rota’s resignation. Instead, they accused the Prime Minister’s Office of failing to properly check the backgrounds of participants who came to see and hear Zelenskyy in the House of Commons.
Some liberals believe that the only way to calm things down is to cut ties with President Rota.
“The longer it stays, the more it will continue and the more problems it will cause us,” a government official said.