“I also need to say this (and I know it’s a non sequitur). Our kids and grandkids will judge us on one issue above all others. That issue is climate change. I hope the response to it becomes the collective, non-partisan, urgent effort that science clearly says is required. I hope that happens soon.” – Gerald Butts, February 2018
Well, the news is out: the top public servant in Canada has resigned. The man that spear-headed the Trudeau majority government, and furthermore, a lifetime friend to the PM, has simply walked out on the job. In an election year I might add. What the hell is going on here?
The political pundits have been quick to assign this to the ongoing spat over SNC-Lavalin, MP Wilson-Raybold and ethical issues within the PM’s office.
In my mind that’s lazy journalism, and a conclusion that we ought to reject outright.
Why would the top political adviser in the land leave over simple, anonymous allegations? These are allegations that he categorically denies as having no basis in fact. Is it too much of a distraction from the work of his office? Or is it perhaps that the SNC-Lavalin affair is itself a distraction from a much larger issue threatening to rot out the core of the Liberal leadership in the upcoming election year.
Distractions, allegations and misinformation can easily be ironed out by the enormous public relations and legal powerhouse that is the PM’s Office. There’s so much more to this rift than the SNC-Lavalin affair alone could justify.
It’s going to take some time for the full truth to come out, but we have a very tasty clue in the quote at the top of the page.
The quote above by Butts has an uncomfortable place in a letter that has almost nothing of substance in it. A few cordial thanks, a few denials, and nothing much else. That’s why it’s so telling, and it ought to be the focus of our understanding. It’s what he wants us to know about why he’s leaving, despite the candid admission that it doesn’t fit with the overall picture.
This has nothing to do with SNC-Lavalin. This has everything to do with the next election, and a deep split over how it ought to be handled. Furthermore, how the nation will be governed in the aftermath, and how it has been handled so far by this government.
Trudeau has laid his plans clear in the years he has held office. He wants to walk the safe middle road between the NDP and Conservatives and walk easily into a second term. He is prepared to buy pipelines, pander to oil industry, and progressive conservatives, and reject the pressing need of a real climate solution for the globe. It’s easy to do, it doesn’t require real leadership. These are the hallmarks of the Trudeau government now, and will ultimately be his longest legacy.
What started as a very promising progressive new government at the COP21, has evolved into a queasy balance between the old and the new that has never quite fit. Climate change is the issue that this government has failed to juggle in any palatable way, to ANY side of the political spectrum. Perhaps this is the issue that could split the Liberal caucus, and cleft a brilliant long-time adviser and friend from the PM’s side.
From the quote above I get the feeling that Butts just isn’t on board with this.
And you know what, I agree with him….