Gerald Butts

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Gerald Butts
Gerald Butts.jpg
Butts in November 2015
Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister
Assumed office
November 4, 2015
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Preceded by Ray Novak
President and CEO of WWF-Canada
In office
September 2008 – October 2012
Principal Secretary to the Premier of Ontario
In office
November 1999 – August 2008
Premier Dalton McGuinty
Personal details
Born Gerald Michael Butts[1]
(1971-07-08) July 8, 1971 (age 47)
Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Spouse(s) Jodi (Heimpel) Butts[1]
Children 2
Residence Westboro, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater McGill University (BA, MA)
York University
Occupation Activist, consultant, lobbyist

Gerald Michael Butts (born July 8, 1971) is the senior political adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.[2] Since November 2015, he has been the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.[3][4] From 2008 to 2012, he was president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund Canada,[5] a global conservation organization. In 2014, Maclean's magazine declared Butts to be the fourteenth most powerful Canadian.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Butts grew up in the Bridgeport neighbourhood of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, with three older brothers and one older sister.[7] He is the son of Charles William "Charlie" Butts, a coal miner[8] who was 56 years old when Butts was born and retired when Butts was 6 years old, and Rita Monica (Yorke) Butts, a nurse[8] and a first-generation Canadian daughter of a Ukrainian father and a Polish mother.[9][10] He attended Bridgeport School (now closed) and then St. Michael's High School (now a junior high school).

He received a B.A. and M.A. in English literature from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. It was at McGill that he was introduced to Justin Trudeau by a mutual friend.[7][11] There, he was also elected president of the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate and won the national debating championships two years in a row.[7] He briefly attended York University to pursue a Ph.D.[10]


Upon graduating from McGill University, his first job was working as a research assistant in the Senate office of Allan MacEachen. There he organized MacEachen’s past work for the purposes of his future memoirs. It has been stated that although the Allan MacEachen biography was never published, Butts had a thorough understanding of MacEachen's long standing political career.

In 1999, Butts became a policy director within the Government of Ontario.[7] He was the policy secretary, and later the principal secretary, in the office of the then premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, in Toronto.[12] Prior to the 2007 election, Butts was a McGuinty insider. After the election, he became McGuinty’s principal adviser. As one of his biographical notes describes it, Butts "was intimately involved in all of the government’s significant environmental initiatives, from the Greenbelt and Boreal Conservation plan to the coal phase-out and toxic reduction strategy."[13]

Butts had previously worked with Senator Allan MacEachen, and with George Smitherman.[7] With Butts' influence,[10] the Ontario Liberal Party won the Ontario provincial elections in 2003 and in 2007.

On June 25, 2008, Butts was announced as the president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund Canada. He officially took up the position on September 2, 2008,[14] succeeding Mike Russill.

On October 16, 2012,[15] Butts left WWF-Canada to become the political advisor to Justin Trudeau.[16] His position at WWF-Canada was filled by David Miller, a former mayor of Toronto.

On December 13, 2012, Butts was interviewed by Steve Paikin for The Agenda on the topic of "The Best Way to Clean Up the Environment".[17][18] Butts has published articles in the Boston Book Review, the Literary Review of Canada, and Gravitas. He has also appeared on television programs such as W5 and TSN's Off the Record.

On February 12, 2018, Butts sparked criticism by referring as 'nazi' to those who condemned Justin Trudeau's 'peoplekind' remark.[19]

2015 Canadian election and premiership of Justin Trudeau[edit]

Stemming from a two-decade-long friendship, Butts became the senior political adviser to Justin Trudeau in 2012.[2] Therefore, he is among the five people with whom Trudeau consults regularly.[10] He assisted on the vast majority of policies on which Trudeau campaigned.[10]

Previously, during Trudeau's initial time as Liberal party leader, Butts advised on such decisions and issues as the legalizing of marijuana, the expulsion of the entire Liberal senate caucus,[2] and Trudeau's position on the Northern Gateway pipeline.[7]

On September 21, 2016, it was reported by The Globe and Mail that Butts charged moving expenses to Canadian taxpayers in the amount of $126,669.56 in order to relocate his residence from Toronto to Ottawa.[20] In the wake of the controversy, he apologized and said he would repay $41,618.62.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Butts is the nephew of a Canadian former senator, the Hon. Mary Alice "Peggy" Butts, whom he cites as major influence on him throughout his life.[22]

He is married to Jodi (Heimpel) Butts, a lawyer,[23] and they have two children, Aidan Ignatius (born May 6, 2006)[1] and Ava Augusta (born December 1, 2007).[24] They resided in Toronto for 13 years until the family relocated in summer of 2016 to Westboro, Ottawa.[22]


  1. ^ a b c "Alumnotes". McGill University. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Reid, Scott (April 23, 2014). "Justin and Gerald". The Walrus. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  3. ^ "Leadership of the Prime Minister's office". Official website of the Parliament of Canada. Retrieved Jan 12, 2016.
  4. ^ "Inside Trudeau's inner circle". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Jan 8, 2016. Retrieved Jan 12, 2016.
  5. ^ Dehaas, Josh (October 20, 2015). "5 things to know about Trudeau confidant Gerald Butts". CTV News. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Maclean's Power List: The 50 most important people in Canada". 2014-11-22. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen More Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen. "Trudeau's most trusted adviser? A Cape Bretoner named Gerry Butts - Ottawa Citizen". Ottawa Citizen.
  8. ^ a b Berthiaume, Lee (May 13, 2014). "A tale of two friends: Gerry Butts and Justin Trudeau". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Glace Bay native key adviser in Trudeau's inner circle". Cape Breton Post. April 21, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e Patriquin, Martin (September 25, 2015). "Meet the man who made his friend the next prime minister". Maclean's. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  11. ^ "Cape Breton man key player in Trudeau victory". CTV News.
  12. ^ The Liberal Team That Dethroned the Tories Archived 2011-05-13 at the Wayback Machine. (Ottawa Citizen, 2003)
  13. ^ Corcoran, Terence (October 6, 2016). "Boondoggle: How Ontario's pursuit of renewable energy broke the province's electricity system". National Post. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017.
  14. ^ WWF-Canada Appoints New CEO (WWF-Canada,2008)[dead link]
  15. ^ "A message from Gerald Butts". WWF-Canada Blog.
  16. ^ The Hill Times. "Butts resigns from job to work full-time on Trudeau's Liberal leadership bid, creates more speculation over McGuinty's federal intentions". Archived from the original on 2016-01-08.
  17. ^ "Agenda Plus: The Best Way to Clean Up the Environment". TVO.
  18. ^ Gerald Butts on Climate Change. YouTube. 15 December 2009.
  19. ^ "Trudeau blasted over Gerald Butts 'Nazi' tweet". Globalnews.
  20. ^ Stone, Laura (September 21, 2016). "Top Trudeau aides Butts, Telford expensed over $200,000 for moving homes". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  21. ^ Zimonjic, Peter (September 22, 2016). "Senior PMO staffers Gerald Butts and Katie Telford to return $65K in 'unreasonable' moving expenses". CBC News. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  22. ^ a b Radwanski, Adam (September 3, 2016). "Gerald Butts: The BFF in the PMO". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  23. ^ Law Society of Upper Canada - call to the bar in Toronto on Feb. 24, 2000.
  24. ^ "Alumnotes". McGill University. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017.

External links[edit]