Three big questions raised by Butts testimony
It takes some skill to pull a draw out of a loss, especially a loss as big as this one.
There was no doubt that Trudeau’s former principal secretary went to the Justice Committee to try to turn this fiasco into a “he-said she-said” wash. The only question was how.
It was artful for sure. He needed to cast doubt on the testimony of Jody Wilson-Raybould, without appearing to attack her in any way. He came not as an adversary, but as a colleague, even did his best to disarm opposition members.
To Lisa Raitt, he twice pointed out to her that they had known each other a long time. To Murray Rankin, he congratulated him on his retirement and told him that he had been an admirer of his for a long time.
The Liberal members of the committee voted against asking Gerald Butts to testify under oath, voted against ordering the production of relevant texts and emails, and voted against inviting Jody Wilson-Raybould back to testify and respond to Butts’s testimony.
There were also some questions I had while listening to the testimony. While they might seem like minor details, the hope is that it will help to illuminate the style of misleading remarks that were woven into the fabric of his statement.
Former Chief Justice McLachlin is name-dropped
We heard from Jody Wilson-Raybould that part of the campaign to influence her was the offer to have an “eminent” expert on the subject. Today, Butts name dropped the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, telling the committee he told Wilson-Raybould that she should accept external advice from “someone like Beverley McLachlin”.
What the committee and the rest of Canada did not hear is the fact that our country already has a well-established and transparent avenue for parliament to seek external legal advice from the Supreme Court itself.
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure saw Parliament send nine reference questions to the Supreme Court to get their opinion before making certain decisions. These included such things as whether his ideas for senate reform were constitutional, whether he could appoint Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court as a Quebec judge, and the scope of federal jurisdiction over securities regulations.
While we may now be questioning how much our current government actually knows about how our system works, we know they know what a reference question is. They themselves sent one to the Court just last year.
One thing is clear. If Jody Wilson-Raybould was indeed “nervous” about the decision that the PMO wanted her to take, which I do not believe to be the case, nothing would have convinced her like a Supreme Court of Canada reference. That would have been the “ultimate op ed”!
So why ask one former Supreme Court justice when you can ask nine current ones?
USMCA presented as evidence that ‘Quebec jobs aren’t everything’
Trying to make the point that jobs are a consideration but not a ‘be-all end-all’, Butts pointed to the USMCA, which he continued to refer to as NAFTA, the name of its predecessor agreement.
Quebec farmers were not happy with the USMCA’s agriculture concessions. The Conservatives had criticized that aspect of the agreement while PPC leader Maxime Bernier had said that the agricultural concessions did not go far enough.
What was not said is that the government would compensate those farmers for the new trade agreement. I am not saying that it was wrong to agree to compensate them, but it would have been a relevant fact to the implication that was being made.
Furthermore, another notable part of the USMCA was the concessions with respect to intellectual property which would raise pharmaceutical prices in Canada. The reason that is worth mentioning is because we are now learning that the Liberals’ attempt to distract Canadians from this scandal will shift its focus from climate change to pharmacare.
It is interesting that the government is trying to buy-out everyone who will be disadvantaged by the replacement of NAFTA with the USMCA. By the way, the expert panel exploring the government’s options to implement pharmacare is none other than former Ontario Premier Wynne’s health minister, Eric Hoskins.
So how many other times were relevant facts omitted from Butts’s claims, both express and implied?
Timing of JWR testimony used to accuse her of having ‘sour grapes’
A point that Butts made more than once went something like this.
“If something as wrong as what’s being alleged happened, why didn’t she tell the prime minister in writing?”
He claimed that the first time he learned about Wilson-Raybould’s suspicions of political interference was only after she was asked to move to another cabinet position.
In my opinion, Wilson-Raybould herself answered this question in her testimony, and was a little disappointed that nobody on the committee pointed it out.
She had every incentive to, as she said, “take the prime minister at his word”. Even after the shuffle, she said that she wanted to see it as an opportunity to do good and important work in veterans’ affairs.
If her opinion was that judicial independence was under threat, why would she respond to that by vacating her post by resigning? Would Trudeau and Butts have preferred if she gave up on ‘trying to stay the course’ on her decision and publicly resigned?
At least that would have given them a legitimate reason to replace her as attorney general, and all Canadians should be thankful that that did not happen.
So why did Butts misleadingly repeat an already answered question instead of actually refuting JWR’s answer to it?
Even more disingenuous was the fact that in response to a question from a Liberal member, Butts pointed out that Wilson-Raybould never expressed a lack of confidence in the prime minister, even at the point of the cabinet shuffle.
He seemingly expected us not to remember that Wilson-Raybould still carefully refuses to express non-confidence in the prime minister, which many believe is just to make it politically impractical for Trudeau to boot her from caucus.
Questions not answered
A number of questions were left unanswered by Gerald Butts, which is understandable since he cannot be aware of everything that occurred. They are still worth mentioning because these questions are those that should still be present in Canadians’ minds after the testimony.
Why, if true, did the Ministry of Finance contact the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General (“MoJAG”) on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution?
How, if true, would Bouchard and Marques know that an individual Crown attorney (who should have no political communications whatsoever) was in favour of a DPA for SNC-Lavalin?
Gerald Butts acknowledged that it would have clearly been improper for MoJAG to be told to reach out to the DPP, formally or informally, but does not believe that that occurred.
He also denied the quote attributed to him by Wilson-Raybould that he told her that there would be political interference in this case “one way or the other”.
He told the committee that the practice of soliciting favourable opinion articles was a common practice, comparing it to “asking your supporters to support you”.
He was asked why the Quebec premier seemed to think that the DPA for SNC-Lavalin was already a done deal, but he said that he had “no knowledge” of it.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has accused Justin Trudeau’s former top aide and best friend Gerald Butts of conspiring with the Obama administration to have the Keystone XL pipeline project kyboshed, according to a report from Politico.
At a forum in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Kenney said he didn’t doubt Butts spoke with Obama’s people in the White House before the project was nixed 48 hours after Trudeau was sworn-in to office.
“I mean, the announcement of President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL came 48 hours after Prime Minister Trudeau was sworn into office,” said Kenney on Friday, according to Politico.
“And I have absolutely no doubt there had been back-channel conversations between his then-Principal Secretary Gerry Butts and the White House that there would be no negative reaction, and there wasn’t. It was a news release, and they walked on to the next issue.”
“All of that is absolutely correct,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who was with Kenney as part of a panel discussion.
The Politico report also stated Kenney told the crowd Trudeau Liberals failed to use any political or diplomatic leverage against the Obama administration by invoking “the spirit of NAFTA, which was about, in part, open access to the U.S. market for our energy exports.”
Butts responded to the accusations from Kenney by tweeting out a report in which Trudeau said he was in support of Keystone XL back in 2013 when Liberal leader while in opposition.
“It was a position I publicly and privately promoted and defended without exception while I worked with him from 2012 to 2019,” Butts said to Politico in an email.
“It’s a position I still support. The premiers’ speculative allegation to the contrary is baseless.”
Before Butts became Trudeau’s top adviser, he was the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada, in which he repeatedly made public statements saying he was opposed to increased oil production. He also served as a top adviser for former Ontario Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty, where he was called the “policy guru” during the time the green energy plan was rolled out in the province.
When Kenney was asked if he would retract his accusation against Butts, he responded to Politico journalists by saying, “The Obama administration chose not to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline until just after the Trudeau government took office.”
“The Trudeau government did nothing to object to this attack on Canada’s clear economic interests by the U.S. government. No one familiar with the issue believes the timing of the veto was a coincidence,” he went on. “Having said that, we appreciate that the government of Canada now supports the Keystone XL Project under the current presidential permit, and we look forward to working together to get this done for the benefit of both Canadians and Americans.”
The former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts spread false information attempting to further tie the Conservative Party of Canada with the “Canadian alt-right”.
In a tweet that was shared by several dozen followers, Butts retweeted a claim by the account “Jimmy Nobody” which pointed out that the Conservative website’s domain was being hosted by a company called “Rebel.ca Corp”.
However, Butts forgot to do his homework, since a simple search reveals that the website in question is a common domain host and not the right-wing media company.
Earlier this year, Butts resigned from his position in the Prime Minister Office in the midst of the damning SNC-Lavalin scandal, but has since taken up a position on the prime minister’s campaign team.
Furthermore, ironically the Liberal party’s own website is hosted by the very same Rebel.ca Butts was so quick to smear the Conservatives with.
Soon after recognizing his error Butts quickly deleted the false tweet saying, “My bad on that Rebel tweet. Tweet deleted.”.
Butts has gone on record before spreading further outrageous claims about ties between the Conservative Party and Rebel News, like the statement that the right-wing media company is “running” Andrew Scheer’s campaign.
Huffington Post Canada’s Ottawa bureau chief and upcoming election debate moderator Althia Raj dined with Justin Trudeau’s best friend and disgraced former principal secretary Gerald Butts Sunday evening, a week before the official leaders’ English debate.
Rumour that the two were at dinner together swirled on social media after Conservative operative and pollster Nick Kouvalis tweeted out a picture claiming a source sitting next to the pair spotted them at Ottawa’s Whalesbone on Elgin St. for buck-a-shuck oyster night.
“[Gerald Butts] is busy busy busy. I’m told this is happening, right now, at WHALES BONE with…. Someone who looks awfully like an upcoming DEBATE MODERATOR, [ALTHIA RAJ]???? Is that you?” tweeted Kouvalis.
Ottawa criminal lawyer James Bowie tweeted pictures of Whalesbone looking closed for renovations, saying, “It is across from my office, near the courthouse. It’s been closed since last week. Renovations.”
However, upon closer inspection of the sign, it says the front is undergoing renovations so customers can still be served at the back area of the restaurant.
Some online observers noted the restaurant’s outward appearance of looking shuttered would make it an ideal clandestine meeting spot in public. (Bowie promptly deleted his tweet after Kouvalis told him to look closer at the sign.)
The Post Millennial confirmed with sources that Raj and Butts were indeed at Ottawa’s Whalesbone at 7 p.m.
Raj is one of five journalists who were selected to moderate the English official leaders’ debate taking place on Monday, Oct. 7.
Butts resigned as Trudeau’s top advisor in the middle of Feb. for his role in the SNC Lavalin scandal in which he, Prime Minister Trudeau and others pressured former Attorney General Jodie Wilson-Raybould to consider a deferred prosecution—something legislatively created by Trudeau’s government after being lobbied by SNC Lavalin.
A deferred prosecution would allow for the disgraced engineering giant to not have to go to trial for allegations such as buying prostitutes for murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s son and bribing the Libyan dictator’s family with millions.
It was announced in July Butts had rejoined the Liberals as an election campaign pitbull without the mainstream media really questioning the relatively quick return of a disgraced top aide.
Political observers were concerned Raj and Butts may be colluding in debate prep to give Trudeau a heads up on what the questions will be or what prickly questions to throw at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
Election debate collusion is not new, in the last U.S. presidential election cycle, CNN commentator Donna Brazile leaked questions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign team.
Some journalists came to Raj’s defence, saying it’s common practice for journalists to meet with sources.
The commission responsible for selecting debate moderators came under fire when four of the five journalists they selected to moderate the debate have shown favouritism for the Liberals and Trudeau.
Debate moderator Rosemary Barton, one of four anchors on CBC’s flagging flagship news show The National, took a selfie with Trudeau shortly after he got into office—proudly posting it on Twitter—and makes partial remarks in favour of the Liberals such as how the Trudeau government’s large deficits don’t matter or that the RCMP are “just asking a few questions” about the SNC Lavalin scandal investigation. Fellow debate moderator Susan Delacourt has long been a stalwart supporter of Trudeau in her Toronto Star columns and was a Trudeau Foundation mentor in 2016, receiving a $20,000 honourarium.
Raj herself wrote an effusive biography of Trudeau—Contender: The Justin Trudeau Story—in which she repeatedly praised Butts’ intelligence. She’s also repeatedly defended Trudeau in her writing and on national television, as one of CBC’s “At Issue” panellists, for his scandals and government’s failings.
Last week Raj faced a firestorm on Twitter for greenlighting and publishing another HuffPo writer’s hit piece—on a 16-year-old allegation that Andrew Scheer tacitly supported an MP’s homophobic comments in 2003—which didn’t properly quote the response from Scheer’s spokesperson.
The debate moderators were selected by the Canadian Debate Production Partnership (CDPP), which was created by a Leaders’ Debate Commission that the Trudeau government founded in 2018.
The spokesperson for the Leaders’ Debate Commission referred The Post Millennial’s questions of debate integrity to the CDPP.
“…It’s not unusual for political journalists to meet with political sources. We remain confident in all of the debate moderators, all of whom are professional journalists who are working for their respective outlets, as well as with the CDPP production teams on the debates,” said CDPP spokesperson Leon Mar.
So far, Trudeau has skipped a Maclean’s debate and caused the Munk debate to be cancelled because he refused to attend.
Raj and the Liberal Party of Canada did not respond to requests for comment.
Gerald Butts spreads fake news on Twitter with Hollywood & "colossal lack of knowledge" about mortgages, banking sector
Gerald Butts, former jack of the advice trade in the Prime Minister’s Office and now on Twitter as Justin Trudeau’s virtual campaign guru, still hasn’t learned his lesson about giving tips after SNC-Lavalin.
Following Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s announcement Monday – that his party would ease up on mortgage amortization from 25 to 30 years – Butts attempted to scare the plebes with a banking lesson gleaned from watching an American film about the 2008 U.S. subprime mortgage collapse.
Readers of mainstream media in Canada, especially political watchers, will recall that Butts resigned as Trudeau’s principal secretary in February, after revelations that he orchestrated and participated in attempts to pressure former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to go easy on SNC-Lavalin.
SNC-Lavalin is the Québec-based construction firm, whose activity in Libya between 2001 and 2011 is the subject of bribery and corruption charges set to go to trial later this year.
Butts, Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick, Trudeau, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau were among the cast of a failed attempt to have Wilson-Raybould divert the case to a remediation deal.
“When you boil it all down, all we ever asked the attorney general to do was to consider a second opinion,” Butts told Parliament’s Justice committee back in March when the scandal was daily headline news.
“I am not a lawyer but I have extensive experience in government.”
But not enough to prevent his boss from breaking conflict of interest law as Ethics commissioner Mario Dion’s scathing Trudeau II report concluded; the RCMP is also probing a potential obstruction of justice element to the scandal.
Which brings us to Monday’s Twitter activity from Butts, who showed his Canadian banking sector insight – informed by Hollywood’s version of the 2008 U.S. financial crisis – is as reliable as his knowledge of the law.
But don’t take The Post Millennial‘s word for it.
Anticipating that Scheer’s mortgage promise would be torqued as harbinger for a similar banking failure in Canada, we asked Carleton University professor Ian Lee, MBA director with the Sprott School of Business and former BMO mortgage manager, to explain why that perspective is poppycock.
“What happened in the states did not and could not have happened here. It could not happen because of the law. The law. I repeat that a third time, the law that made it mandatory that high ratio mortgages be insured against credit default,” Lee told TPM during a wider interview about changes in amortization rules in Canada over the past decade.
TPM’s conversation with Lee was conducted before Butts’ ill-informed Tweet and elements of it were used in TPM’s Monday coverage of Scheer’s announcement.
“There is no such law in the United States of America (and) you can lend zero (down)payment and that’s perfectly legal. The regulatory system that Canada has had forever and ever, is we regulate the downpayment between
“And secondly, the due diligence is completely different in the states – the two systems are incommensurate. In Canada, most banks keep most of the mortgages they book, whereas what’s happened in the states is that the banks sell off most of the mortgages they book.”
“There’s so many profound structural differences and people who make parallels between the two simply do not know what they are talking about and betray their colossal lack of knowledge.”
So there you have it: Gerald Butts, MA English Literature from McGill University on 30-year mortgage amortizations impact on the Canadian banking ecosystem, versus a business school director and former mortgage manager for Bank of Montreal.