Canadian Manufacturing

Who is Gerald Butts? A look at Trudeau’s former top aide

The Prime Minister's top aide is slated to testify on Wednesday about his discussions with Jody Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin

March 6, 2019  The Canadian Press

PHOTO: Tholden28 [CC BY-SA 4.0 PHOTO: GeraldButts/Creative Commons

OTTAWA – Gerald Butts, who resigned as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top aide last month, is to testify on Wednesday about his discussions with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin. Here is what you need to know about him:

Age: 47

Born: Glace Bay, N.S.

Family: Butts is the youngest of five children of coal miner Charles Butts and nurse Rita Butts. He is married to lawyer Jodi (Heimpel) Butts and they have two children, Aidan and Ava. His aunt Peggy Butts was a nun and educator who served for two years in the Senate in the 1990s.


Education: Butts graduated with degrees in English and theology from McGill University. He was president of the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate and won the national debating championships two years in a row.

Work: Butts joined Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty’s office as a political adviser in 1999 following brief stints on Parliament Hill with Nova Scotia Liberal senator Allan MacEachen and at Queen’s Park with Ontario Liberal MPP George Smitherman. He helped write the platform that led to the Liberals’ winning the provincial election in 2003, after which he became McGuinty’s principal secretary. He left Queen’s Park in 2008 to become CEO of the World Wildlife Fund Canada until he joined Trudeau’s Liberal leadership campaign in 2012.

Relationship with Trudeau: Butts met Trudeau through a mutual friend while they were studying at McGill. He helped Trudeau write his famous eulogy for his father Pierre Trudeau in 2000. The two were in each other’s wedding parties and retraced Pierre Trudeau’s famous canoe trip down the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories in 2003. Butts joined Trudeau’s leadership campaign in 2012 and became his principal secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office after the Liberals won the federal election in October 2015. He resigned Feb. 18 following allegations he tried to pressure former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to end the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Influence: Butts has been credited as one of the key architects of both McGuinty’s and Trudeau’s electoral victories. His fingerprints are evident on numerous policies under both leaders, including Ontario’s decision to phase out coal-fired power plants and bring in a federal carbon tax. He was also seen as partly responsible for overpromising during elections and subsequently breaking campaign pledges, such as when McGuinty promised not to raise taxes before he was elected, only to impose a new health tax afterward. Butts has been described as a pragmatist, but also a fierce partisan, strategist and Trudeau defender.

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