Gerald Butts, senior political adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during the federal Liberal national convention in Halifax on Friday, April 20, 2018. A Liberal party official is confirming that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts is playing a key role in the party’s election campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Trudeau’s former right-hand adviser playing role in Liberal election campaign

Gerald Butts, a close long-time friend of Trudeau, resigned in February amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy

With three months to go now until the election, the Liberals are intensifying their campaign efforts with Prime Minister Trudeau hitting party events to drum up support and by ensuring his long-time friend and former senior adviser is in the fold.

A Liberal party official confirmed Sunday that Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts is playing a key role in the party’s election campaign — and the pace of it stepping up quickly.

Butts, a close long-time friend of Trudeau, resigned in February amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy, citing allegations from anonymous sources that he pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to assist the Quebec engineering giant to be considered for an agreement akin to a plea bargain.

Butts issued a statement at the time saying he categorically denied the accusation that he or anyone else in his office pressured Wilson-Raybould, adding that they acted with integrity.

“Any accusation that I or the staff put pressure on the Attorney General is simply not true,” he wrote.

“But the fact is that this accusation exists. It cannot and should not take one moment away from the vital work the Prime Minister and his office is doing for all Canadians.”

READ MORE: Gerald Butts provides notes, texts to justice committee on SNC-Lavalin affair

Since the winter, the SNC-Lavalin affair has been connected to sliding support for the Liberals reflected in a number of public opinion polls.

The Liberals insist, however, they’re hearing positive feedback during canvassing efforts and that they have more field volunteers on the ground than in any other election.

The party is also seeing continued growth in grassroots fundraising, spokesperson Braeden Caley said Sunday, adding it closed out last month with its best-ever June fundraising results and that four out of the last five months have amounted to monthly bests.

More than 204,000 Canadians have registered as new Liberals since the last federal election, he said, noting the upcoming campaign will offer “a clear choice” between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

In Ontario, a key battleground for every election campaign, the leadership of Premier Doug Ford is expected to figure prominently in the federal discussion. The Liberals have indicated they’ve heard a strong response about Ford’s policies during door-knocking efforts.

Behind the scenes, the Liberals have also made key decisions, like who will take on starring roles in the campaign.

In May, the party announced that Jeremy Broadhurst, the former chief of staff to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the party’s national director from 2013 to 2015, will lead the national campaign.

The platform committee is being co-chaired by Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale and Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier, Caley said Sunday.

ALSO READ: Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press


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