Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former top adviser Gerald Butts is back in the fold as the Liberals prepare their campaign strategy for the upcoming federal election, a senior party official confirmed to CTV News.
A second source confirmed Butts’ involvement with campaign preparations, describing the new role as an advisory position to the prime minister and senior leadership during the campaign period. However, according to the source, Butts will not be at the helm or running the campaign. The Liberals have already selected Jeremy Broadhurst as their 2019 campaign director.
A Liberal party source says Butts’ involvement shouldn’t be surprising considering his long history with the party and his relationship with Trudeau.
The Conservatives say that Butts shouldn’t be involved. “And just like that, the Trudeau team that brought Canadians the SNC Lavalin scandal is right back together,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said on Twitter.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre told CTV News that Butts resigned in disgrace. "But now we know that that was just a big phony act to cover for the boss," he added.
Butts stepped down as Trudeau’s principal secretary in February, amid a furor involving the Prime Minister’s Office and SNC-Lavalin.
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould testified to the justice committee that month that she received sustained pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to have federal prosecutors pursue a remediation agreement instead of criminal proceedings against SNC-Lavalin.
In 2015, the Quebec engineering and construction firm was charged by the RCMP with corruption and fraud related to contracts in Libya. Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel, whose position was created by the Conservative government in 2006 to prevent political interference in public prosecutions, recommended against the remediation agreement. Wilson-Raybould has repeatedly said she would not overrule Roussel.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that he was concerned SNC-Lavalin might cut jobs.
Wilson-Raybould testified in February that she met with Butts on Dec. 5 and told him that she “needed everybody to stop talking to me about SNC, as I had made up my mind and the engagements were inappropriate.”
“Gerry talked to me about how the statute was a statute passed by Harper and that he does not like the law,” she went on. “I said something like ‘that is the law that we have.’”
Wilson-Raybould claimed that Butts told her chief of staff, Jessica Prince, later that month that he wanted an “external counsel retained to give you an opinion on whether you can review the DPP’s decision here and whether you should, in this case,” to which Prince responded “that would be interference.”
“Gerry said: ‘Jess, there is no solution here that does not involve some interference,’” according to Wilson-Raybould’s testimony.
Butts testified in March that he believed nothing wrong occurred. “We did what any responsible government would, of any political stripe. We worked as hard as we could, strictly within the laws and conventions of the country, to protect thousands and thousands of Canadian jobs,” he told the justice committee.
Liberal strategist Jonathan Scott told CTV News Channel on Saturday that he doesn’t think Canadians will be “particularly animated one way or the other about who is staffing the Liberal campaign.”
“Quite frankly, it’s the Conservative Party who has the former director of the Rebel News media outlet running their campaign,” he said, referring to Scheer aide Hamish Marshall.
The federal election is set to take place on or before Oct. 21.