Who is Gerald Butts? And what happens now?
His resignation, the typical political scandal narrative swirled around Gerald butts, a political stunt up from Ottawa one of the prime minister's most trusted advisers, a longtime friend Gerald butts has resigned amid allegations the prime minister's office interfered to help Quebec engineering giant SNC loveline avoid a criminal prosecution statement butts flato denied any wrongdoing saying the allegations have become a distraction from the prime minister and the government's work. So he stepping aside except Jerry butts, isn't your typical political staffer resignation not at all as much as this move will dominate headlines all week. And of course, it indicates that the SNC level and scandal is probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The most interesting story from this is about a break-up. You see Justin Trudeau has never won anything without Jerry butts. And now he's got an election in eight months and butts walked away from his partner and his friend at the time. He was needed more than ever. So why? Who is the man that every insider on the hill has used as an unnamed source at one point or another how much Justin Trudeau's policy came from him. What will the prime minister of Canada do now without his right hand, man. I'm Jordan heath Rawlings. And this is the big story Holwell's is a senior writer at Maclean's. He knows more about the personal relationships at play in politics than anybody on parliament health. Paul who is jailed butts. He was until. Minister's principal secretary, which is which is a job title looking to have many meanings over time. He was the prime minister's right hand Ranya was his right hand since long before he was the prime minister he co managed the campaign in twenty fifteen. He went to McGill University Justin Trudeau in the nineties and they've been nearly inseparable ever since. I mean, I I was hearing rumors guesswork from people who the both of them better than I nearly twenty years ago. Just try to prime minister Sherry butts wants to make up and he did it and then he walked away. Yeah. He there is around town that Jerry butts doesn't have hurt in the job as much lately as he had those rumors are from before Christmas from last autumn. And so to some extent as amazing is not a huge surprise. This is not somebody who was in the middle of new adventures and was looking forward to the next grade accomplishment. There was there was a sense. That but says been a little listless and not not as deeply engaged with files as as yet been for. That's kind of interesting because the first thing that everybody went to is the timing and the relationship to the scandal you're saying that that this might have been brewing for some time. Well, it's pretty clear that the scandal has something to do with it. But it's easier to get someone to give up on a job, if they are have already in toying with the idea, you know, and and a lot of quite reasonably a lot of speculation a lot of the reaction to the announcement of his resignation was people say, well, look if he's done nothing wrong. Then why is he quit if you know if there's no fire than wildest smoke. And I think it's possible that possible we'll find out, but that the resignation was kind of an expression of to hell with this. I don't need. I you know, I made my best friend minister he's been prime minister for three years. I was in all the meetings. I was at dinner with Barack Obama off I go, you know, there's still there's still way more unanswered than. Answered questions around the sessions, he level and business. So I'm hesitant to speculate with great certainty, but that's a that's a looking supposition. What was to the best of your knowledge people around the hill. Anyway, what was their working relationship lake? How how close were they I I mean, I know they were really good friends. But but how did it work between them important decisions were made by the prime minister is chief of staff, Katie Telford and its principal secretary Gerald butts all three of them together in meetings that they would have a few times a day. And you know, sometimes the the circle would be extended is probably ten or a dozen people who would be frequent make frequent appearances at those meetings. But if they were all in the same city together and Telford or would never be absent from those big decision. They were at least as necessary to the process was the prime minister. Maybe who is he is a guy if you spent any time with them, you hang out with them. Remember the first time you met him. I don't remember the first time I met him. But I'll tell you an early extended. That a time. I spent with him was on a big maybe both in the Arctic for a week in probably two thousand eight why the hell did that happen? Because even Harper was would have the Canadian forces do annual sovereignty patrols in Arctic waters. Right. And I was interested in that as a journalist. He's coming Stephen Harper throw budget that point was the head of the World Wildlife federation for Canada, and he was interested in it for climate change. And so I asked the harbor PM. Would you put me on his boat? And when I got there Jerry was there, and so he and I spent a week on the deck of a Canadian navy boat in the art looking at icebergs, and what was he lying? What struck you about him? He he's a low T. He's not emotionally demonstrative. He is friendly to everybody he encounters. He is not nearly as sort of confrontational and abrasive in person as us on Twitter where he's very act and where. Since long before the election every night. He would cheerfully Perec journalists on on his perception of the flaws in their reporting and analysis, which is when I had a bit of a falling. But in person he seeks agreement rather than confrontation. He doesn't pull rank particularly he doesn't say, you know, look, I'm I'm Justin Trudeau in. You're not his competitive advantage in history comes to the fact that when when else these he's in the room until recently, he wasn't room with the leader with the prime minister. And so he he gets the last say, but in the moment, he doesn't he's not look looks for fights. There's been a ton of discussion since he resigned about him kind of being the man behind the curtain when it comes to Justin Trudeau. Do you have a sense of how much power he wielded there? And how many how much of of Trudeau's actions kind of came from him, or is that just kind of the typical stereotype people tend to exaggerate the roles of left tenants for people who are. Supporters or members of government. It's a way to criticize the leader with criticized leader, criticized the people around and for Ponant of the government. It is a handy way to make it look like the prime minister staffed himself up with monsters as having many times with conservative and liberal prime ministers people used to claim that Stephen Harper was we're in for a university of how profit and Tom Flanagan and then for the last seven years. Harper was prime minister was was well known that he wasn't even speaking time finding his angry. He didn't need the supposed send galley was controlling. Similarly, look, I expect that Justin Trudeau will be able to function as prime minister for the rest of this calendar year without without journal butts around, but even people in the gone, even people whose future was bound up with Justin Trudeau's continued electoral success would complain about the extent to which biggest then get made until Jerry butts got around to getting the file and and the decision. This government is not a super fast that decision. And since the beginning large part of perceived reason for that is that Jerry butts and or Tito for half to personally find off on every important decision. And so there was just this huge bottleneck. It was not a discentralising when he came to power Justin Trudeau announced that cabinet government cabinet is none other words ministers have power to make their own decisions. Everything I hear says that hasn't been true you've covered a lot of governments. Do you have a sense of how rare it is for it to be structured that way and decisions to made like that? It is everyone complains about excessive power in in five ministries EM Brodie who was chief of staff to Stephen Harper for a while. We're really interesting book that outlines all the reasons why that's kinda needs to be the case. Why important decisions have to go through the? But I mean, there could be six or eight people who make those decisions the definition of what is the decision. So important that it has to go through the pm couldn't does change from government to government and the combination of very elevated executive decision. Making power in the hands of prime ministers to principal tenants, and the very close personal relationship. It's not unprecedented. But it's very it's very novel. I mean chief of staff John tape phone after back city Christian and Peltier went to seize up together, you know, in the stone age, and so there there have been cases where personal relationship translates to a functional relationship in office. But Harper was not buddies with any of his chief of staff, so if a bit of a pendulum, and and and it can it can go both ways. Do we have a sense yet