Justin “Little Potato” Trudeau.
Unlike the more average middle-class family Morrison grew up in, Justin Trudeau grew up with his two brothers in the privileged environs of Ottawa political society, all three being born while their father was in office. Being the oldest he was cast in the spotlight at an early age, meeting the countless world leaders and celebrities who orbited within his father’s life. He would be compared at times to John F. Kennedy Jr., or John-John.
Despite learning at his father’s knee and being the “crown prince” and heir apparent to the political throne, he didn’t aspire to politics and chose instead to pursue an education in the arts, and later worked as a drama teacher and gave snowboarding lessons.
Big Potato Little Potato
Those who know me know that I will often refer to Justin as “Little Potato”. During a 2016 trip to Beijing, Chinese social media users began referring to Trudeau as “Little Potato”, as his name sounds like the Mandarin word for potato. I just happen to think that he’s about as smart as one, so it works out nicely that way.
The real brains of the outfit.
By and large successful politicians have a team of people behind them who act to support and advise them. With the help of a good political strategist, even the most intellectually challenged of candidates can become elected, which is a credit to the abilities of the strategist. There are of course examples of this happening throughout election history, like Karl Rove who was in charge of the campaign for George W. Bush, or Steve Bannon who masterminded Donald Trump’s victory.
It isn’t uncommon for these strategists to end up working for their successful candidates, typically in positions like a Chief-of-Staff or Principal Secretary, where they can then establish themselves as the power behind the throne. Such was the case with Little Potato and the strategists and advisors who were able to get him elected.
Gerald Butts – The Kingmaker
Hailing from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Gerald Butts first met Trudeau in 1993 while they were both attending McGill University in Montreal. They would become best friends, going on to help one another plan their respective weddings. While at McGill Butts was elected as the president of the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate and won two national debating championships in consecutive years. Butts obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English literature from McGill.
He would enter into the world of politics after graduation, landing a job as a research assistant in the office of Senator Allan MacEachen helping to organize material for MacEachen’s future memoirs which were ultimately never published. But Gerald Butts had grand ambitions of one day holding the reins in the Office of the Prime Minister, or PMO, which is one of the four central agencies that manage the behemoth organization of the federal government.
The central agencies.
The federal government is a complex organization consisting of over 150 different departments, agencies, commissions, corporations, and other entities. To manage and keep things as organized as possible, these various organizations are managed by four “central agencies”, these being;
- The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)
- The Privy Council Office
- The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
- The Department of Finance Canada
The PMO represents an important central agency in the Canadian government. The term “central agencies” refers to a group of government administrative bodies whose responsibilities extend across all policy areas. This is due to the Prime Minister’s position at the pinnacle of executive political power in the federal government, and the PMO’s role as the Prime Minister’s personal exempt staff. The PMO acts as an extension of the Prime Minister in his/her dealings with other parts of government and the parliamentary system as a whole and, in this context, plays an important role in political decision-making.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is made up of a team of officials, partisan political advisors and administrators, which provides support to the Prime Minister. Three characteristics are important in this context. First, the PMO is intended to serve the Prime Minister exclusively. This is in contrast to other central agencies, such as the Privy Council Office, which serves the Prime Minister, and, more broadly, the federal cabinet.
Second, the PMO is a “partisan” organization. Personnel of the PMO are loyal to the prime minister, not as the head of government, but as the leader of a political party and as a politician who seeks to maintain his power in a democratic system. In this context, the PMO provides support and advice to help the Prime Minister govern in a manner that will maintain his control over his/her political party, maximize his/her influence in government and the House of Commons, and ensure future electoral success.
Finally, the PMO is comprised of “exempt staff.” These are government officials who exist outside the federal public service and are exempt from regular Public Service Commission staffing guidelines, controls, and protection (though, they are subject specific terms and conditions set out by the Treasury Board of Canada). The Prime Minister enjoys wide discretion in choosing the staff of the PMO, and often selects individuals who can be trusted to show strong personal loyalty.re:politics
Ontario provincial politics.
In 1999 Butts took a position in the office of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, helping to develop policy before becoming McGuinty’s principal secretary. He would ultimately become the Liberal premier’s principal adviser where he would become involved in shaping the government’s progressive legislative agenda, in particular with regard to environmental policy.
In 2008 Butts left to become the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada. While there he would receive some rather significant increases in his compensation until the time he left in 2012 to help run Trudeau’s election campaign. Despite having resigned in order to take the position, WWF Canada paid Butts over US$360,000 in severance pay. The WWF would later go on to be the recipient of the Trudeau government’s largesse, receiving federal grants worth millions of dollars.
The power behind the throne.
Butts put together a successful campaign for Trudeau and was duly rewarded with the job of running the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as Chief of Staff while also being Justin’s chief adviser. Together with Trudeau’s other key adviser Katie Telford, Butts would be the ones setting the legislative agenda and making sure that Liberal MP’s were in lockstep. They would also be the ones to coach Trudeau, giving him his talking points on issues and doing their best to ensure he didn’t appear intellectually challenged and self-absorbed, but, as good as they might have been, there was only so much that they could do.
Then, in early 2019, Butts was forced to resign in the wake of a scandal that could have brought down his boss and meal ticket.
Jody Wilson-Raybould (Puglas)
Jody Wilson-Raybould was elected to Parliament in 2015 representing the riding of Vancouver-Granville. Once a crown prosecutor in provincial court, Justin Trudeau named her as his Minister of Justice and Attorney General, making her the third female and the first member of Canada’s First Nations community to hold the position. She was by all accounts a capable and competent minister.
SNC Lavalin is a large construction and engineering company based in Quebec. In 2015, the company found itself facing criminal prosecution for allegedly bribing officials in an effort to win lucrative contracts with the Libyan government. If found guilty, it faced the possibility of not being able to bid for Government of Canada contracts for a long time, something which would have a negative effect on employment in Quebec where the company employed thousands.
A 2018 change in the Criminal Code allowed for deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), which allowed for corporations to pay fines and take other steps to redress any wrongdoings in order to avoid prosecution. A DPA in this instance was rejected by the Public Prosecution Service, which was under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice which Wilson-Raybould headed as minister.
Pressure from the PMO.
In January of 2019, Wilson-Raybould was suddenly and rather unexpectedly moved from justice to veteran’s affairs, a move that was reported in February 2019 by the Globe and Mail. According to the report, the move apparently took place due to her resisting pressure from the PMO to intercede on SNCLs behalf with the Public Prosecution Service, in order to get them to negotiate a DPA with SNCL.
According to Trudeau however, there were no improprieties on the part of himself or anyone in the PMO, and he claimed that he left the matter up to Wilson-Raybould’s discretion. She would later testify before a Commons committee that there had been a “consistent and sustained” effort from the PMO to have her intervene in the matter and that she had received “veiled threats” from the PMO and the other central agencies. She would go on to name the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, and Trudeau’s best friend and principal secretary, Gerald Butts, as being among those who attempted to unduly influence her decision in the matter. She was repeatedly reminded that SNCL was a major employer in Quebec and that there would be major implications for the party in the next election if she didn’t step in and take care of things.
Butts falls on his sword.
On February 18th, Butts resigned from the PMO claiming that he was doing so “in the best interests of the office and its important work”. Katie Telford would later go on to become principal secretary, though most people were of the opinion that Butts was still running the show from the outside.
Re-elected two years later.
Trudeau would manage to survive what could have been a politically fatal scandal to win re-election in September 2021, despite the Liberals having received nearly 200,000 fewer votes than the opposition Conservatives. That’s just the way things work in Canada because of the way our electoral system is set up, and more often than not the Liberal Party has historically benefitted from it.
Only one example out of many.
The SNC Lavalin scandal is but one of many examples that demonstrate just how much power the Prime Minister and the PMO have, essentially being able to do whatever they like at any time and having to be accountable to nobody. The matter involving Adm. Mark Norman is another good example that demonstrates how much power the Prime Minister and PMO actually have, using the law as a sword rather than as a shield the way that it was intended.
Justin Trudeau – Aspiring Chinese Communist Strongman.
Like his father before him Justin Trudeau has an affinity for communist China, having stated so in the past, and his actions seem to bear this out. I would therefore classify him as being an aspiring communist Chinese strongman, which I have no doubt would be much to the chagrin of Xi Jinping.
A lesson for ScoMo.
Scott Morrison would have seen much more success as a strongman if he had followed the Trudeau model, which has worked quite well for its intellectually challenged namesake. If he had, he wouldn’t be spiralling out of control and headed for certain disaster right now. So let this be a lesson for all those other aspiring political strongmen out there. By following Justin Trudeau’s example, even the biggest idiots can achieve political success and become the strongmen they truly aspire to be.
An important lesson for voters everywhere.
Let this also be a lesson to those living in other so-called democratic nations. It is up to those living in these countries to stand up and begin demanding some accountability from their elected leaders, in addition to demanding real and meaningful political reforms that would inhibit a national leader’s ability to act as a dictatorial strongman.