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National Liberal Campaign Leader Katie Telford attends an event in Ottawa on Monday, March 9, 2015. (Matthew Usherwood/The Canadian Press Images)
National Liberal Campaign Leader Katie Telford attends an event in Ottawa on Monday, March 9, 2015. (Matthew Usherwood/The Canadian Press Images)

politics

Trudeau expected to name Katie Telford chief of staff Add to ...

Justin Trudeau is expected to turn to the woman who managed his winning election campaign to serve as his chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Multiple sources have told The Globe and Mail that Katie Telford, who served as the Liberals’ national campaign director from the time that Mr. Trudeau won his party’s leadership, is set to become Ottawa’s most powerful backroom official.

Gerald Butts, the close personal friend of Mr. Trudeau who served as his top adviser during the campaign, will effectively continue in that role as the new PM’s principal secretary.

Ms. Telford and Mr. Butts will continue a working relationship in which she primarily manages staff and operations while he serves as the lead strategist on policy and messaging.

In addition to being just the second female chief of staff to a Canadian prime minister – Jodi White served in the role during Kim Campbell’s short tenure as PM – the 37-year-old Ms. Telford will be among the youngest people to hold that position. But she will enter the job with considerable experience in political management.

Like Mr. Butts, Ms. Telford cut her teeth in the Ontario Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. Quickly rising through the ranks at the provincial level, she served as chief of staff to then-education minister Gerard Kennedy – managing negotiations with the province’s teachers’ unions while still in her mid-20s. She would then manage Mr. Kennedy’s 2006 federal leadership bid and went on to become deputy chief of staff to that contest’s winner, Stéphane Dion, before a brief stint at the lobbying firm StrategyCorp.

It is with Mr. Trudeau, though, that Ms. Telford has made a name for herself as one of the country’s foremost political organizers.

As national campaign director, a role she took on after managing Mr. Trudeau’s 2012-13 romp to the Liberal leadership, she oversaw the rapid modernization of her party’s operations in everything from fundraising to volunteer recruitment to voter identification – including, over the objections of some of the Liberals’ more established voices, a shift toward much greater use of data and analytics.

In her new role as chief of staff, though, Ms. Telford’s people-management skills, her adeptness at pushing through key elements of Mr. Trudeau’s agenda and her ability to put out fires will be put to the test in what is generally considered the most challenging political backroom job in the country.

Those who have worked with Ms. Telford praise her for being cool-headed and even-tempered – an occasional contrast to Mr. Butts, who is known for his passionate defences of Mr. Trudeau in public and in private – and for taking a careful approach when facing decisions that will have a long-term impact.

Colleagues suggest that throughout her career Ms. Telford has had to push back against misperceptions based on her youthfulness, gender and even her small physical stature – sometimes surprising older and more experienced backroom operatives with her toughness and willingness to hold others to account.

Liberals who have been exposed to Mr. Trudeau’s management style said that his appointment of Ms. Telford, rather than someone from the business world or who has served in a senior role in the federal government, is in keeping with his preference for surrounding himself with close allies with whom he has a high degree of familiarity.

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