The departure of Gerald Butts as principal secretary from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office leaves chief of staff Katie Telford as the senior political operative.
Named by Chatelaine magazine in 2017 as the most influential woman in Canadian politics, Ms. Telford has been at the centre of operations for the Prime Minister’s Office since the 2015 election, regarded as a part of an – until now – indivisible trio with Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Butts.
However, while Mr. Butts met with representatives of SNC-Lavalin on the topic of “justice” and “law enforcement," according to the federal lobbyists registry, Ms. Telford appears to have avoided that contact.
As the chief of staff to the Prime Minister, she is only the second woman – Jodi White had the job for a few months in 1993 under Kim Campbell – to serve in that position.
Ms. Telford grew up in Toronto’s west end. She was a page in the Ontario Legislature as a teen and in the House of Commons as a university student.
She got her start in politics with the Ontario Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty in her early 20s, and moved swiftly up the ranks of political operatives. In the 2003 Ontario campaign, Mr. McGuinty, then the opposition leader, put an emphasis on education, handing Ms. Telford that part of the platform during the successful campaign.
At Queen’s Park, with the Liberals in opposition, Ms. Telford was at first MPP Gerard Kennedy’s general assistant. But she eventually worked her way up to chief of staff when he was education minister. And she helped achieve labour peace with teachers – not one day was lost to strikes or lockouts in four years.
Ms. Telford joined federal Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s office, at first to work on policy. She became his deputy chief.
Shortly after his run for prime minister, Mr. Dion was replaced by Michael Ignatieff. And Ms. Telford headed back to Toronto, and to the lobbying firm StrategyCorp., where David MacNaughton, who would later work with her on Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 campaign, was chairman.
She managed Mr. Trudeau’s 2013 victory for the Liberal leadership, and is credited with modernizing her party’s operations in everything from fundraising to volunteer recruitment to voter identification.
Ms. Telford served as national campaign co-chair and national campaign director for the Liberal Party of Canada’s successful 2015 federal election campaign. At the party’s first political convention after that victory, Ms. Telford was introduced as a principal architect of the transformation of the Liberal “movement” in Canada, and a leading advocate for data-driven campaigning.
She is also regarded as a key driver behind the Liberals’ push for gender equality.
“She has been beating bias about her age and gender for a long time,” Mr. Butts told The Globe and Mail in 2016.
She is expected to resume her campaign roles for the Liberals in the federal election this fall.