Jump to content

Gerald Butts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gerald Butts
Butts in 2023
Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada
In office
November 4, 2015 – February 18, 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byRay Novak
Succeeded byVacant
President and Chief Executive Officer of the World Wildlife Fund Canada
In office
September 1, 2008 – October 31, 2012
Preceded byMichael Russill
Succeeded byDavid Miller
Principal Secretary to the Premier of Ontario
In office
2003 – August 30, 2008
PremierDalton McGuinty
Personal details
Gerald Michael Butts[1]

(1971-07-08) July 8, 1971 (age 52)
Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada
SpouseJodi (Heimpel) Butts[1]
Residence(s)Westboro, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater
OccupationActivist, consultant

Gerald Michael Butts (born July 8, 1971) is a Canadian political consultant who served as the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from November 4, 2015 until his resignation on February 18, 2019.[2][3][4] From 2008 to 2012, he was president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund Canada,[5] part of a global conservation organization. In 2014, Maclean's magazine declared Butts to be the fourteenth most powerful Canadian.[6] As the former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Butts was praised as the architect behind the Liberal Party of Canada platform that led to its victory in October 2015 and was one of the most senior staffers in the Office of the Prime Minister, along with Katie Telford.[4]

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 closed).

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 helped organize MacEachen's past correspondence for the purposes of his intended memoirs (which in the event were never written).

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]

Butts advised the campaigns that led to the Ontario Liberal Party's election victories in 2003 and 2007.[10]

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.

2015 Canadian election and premiership of Justin Trudeau[edit]

If the Liberals were to win the 2015 election, Gerald Butts could become one of the most powerful people in Canada.

— Lee Berthiaume[7]

... it's hard to picture Trudeau running for prime minister without [Gerald Butts].

— A fellow political aide[19]

In 2012, stemming from a two-decade-long friendship, Butts became the senior political adviser to Justin Trudeau [19] and one of the few people with whom Trudeau consulted regularly.[10] During Trudeau's initial time as Liberal Party leader. He also assisted on the vast majority of policies on which Trudeau campaigned.[10] He was appointed Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister on November 4, 2015.[2]

On February 18, 2019, Butts stepped down as Trudeau's principal secretary and stated that it was to defend himself from allegations made against him in relation to the SNC-Lavalin affair and to avoid drawing attention away from the prime minister's work.[4] In a statement released on Twitter, Butts denied influencing the Attorney General and noted that he specifically recruited Jody Wilson-Raybould to join the Liberal Party of Canada and was an avid supporter during both her candidacy and her tenure as a minister.[4] Butts reiterated these claims in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on March 6, 2019.[20] At the time of Butts' resignation, Trudeau had responded by thanking him for his service, while acknowledging the integrity, guidance, and devotion that Butts had provided him.[21] In July 2019, Prime Minister Trudeau hired Butts back to play a key role in the Liberal 2019 election campaign.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Butts is the nephew of the former Canadian senator Mary Alice "Peggy" Butts, whom he cites as a major influence on him.[23]

He is married to Jodi (Heimpel) Butts, a lawyer,[24] and they have two children, Aidan Ignatius (born May 6, 2006)[1] and Ava Augusta (born December 1, 2007).[25] They resided in Toronto for 13 years until the family relocated in the summer of 2016 to Ottawa. Butts currently resides at Champlain Park area of Westboro, Ottawa.[23]


  1. ^ a b c "Alumnotes". McGill University. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Leadership of the Prime Minister's Office". Official website of the Parliament of Canada. Archived from the original on December 6, 2020. Retrieved Jan 12, 2016.
  3. ^ "Inside Trudeau's inner circle". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Jan 8, 2016. Retrieved Jan 12, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Tasker, John Paul (February 18, 2019). "Gerald Butts resigns as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's principal secretary". CBC News. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  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 Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen More Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen. "Trudeau's most trusted adviser? A Cape Bretoner named Gerry Butts - Ottawa Citizen". Ottawa Citizen.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  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. Archived from the original on October 1, 2018. 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. 21 October 2015.
  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 October 2012.
  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". hilltimes.com. 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. ^ a b Reid, Scott (April 23, 2014). "Justin and Gerald". The Walrus. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  20. ^ "Gerald Butts recalls 'very different' version of dinner with Jody Wilson-Raybould - National | Globalnews.ca". globalnews.ca. 2019-03-06. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
  21. ^ Trudeau, Justin (2019-02-18). "Gerald Butts served this government - and our country - with integrity, sage advice and devotion. I want to thank him for his service and continued friendship. Please read his statement today:pic.twitter.com/VIaEHJMMe4". @JustinTrudeau. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  22. ^ "Former Trudeau adviser Gerald Butts playing key role in Liberal campaign - National | Globalnews.ca". globalnews.ca.
  23. ^ a b Radwanski, Adam (September 3, 2016). "Gerald Butts: The BFF in the PMO". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  24. ^ "Law Society of Upper Canada – call to the bar in Toronto on Feb. 24, 2000" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-10. Retrieved 2016-01-13.
  25. ^ "Alumnotes". McGill University. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017.

External links[edit]