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At the heart of the SNC-Lavalin affair is one important question: Whether the Prime Minister’s Office pressed the justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to intervene in the federal bribery case against a Quebec construction giant. Ms. Wilson-Raybould says they did, and has described four months of pressure and “veiled threats” by PMO and other officials to settle the SNC case quietly. But the former top man in the PMO says nothing improper happened, and so does Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though he has acknowledged a breakdown in trust between Ms. Wilson-Raybould and the PMO.

But what is the PMO anyway, and what role do some of its key members play in the controversy? And how does it relate to the Privy Council Office, the public-service agency whose leader was also part of the discussions about what should happen to SNC? Here’s a guide, including some of The Globe and Mail’s in-depth profiles of the major players in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inner circle.


What is the PMO?

June 3, 2017: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confers with his chief of staff, Katie Telford, at the National Press Gallery Dinner in Gatineau, Que.

Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

The Prime Minister’s Office is exactly what it sounds like: A team of people surrounding a prime minister, helping to carry out their leader’s personal vision for how the government should be run. PMO staffers control the prime minister’s schedule, meetings and travel; they help prime ministers pick candidates for public appointments; advisers keep prime ministers informed on major issues, shape their decisions and communicate what they decide to the governing party and caucus; and they oversee public relations.

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In some cases, PMO staffers can be unofficial diplomats, such as how Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford acted as go-betweens with Trump administration officials to smooth out the fractious U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement talks behind the scenes.

In 2016, The Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski and a team of Globe politics reporters took in-depth looks at how the new Trudeau PMO was taking shape and how it differed from those of his predecessors. The institution Mr. Trudeau inherited was largely shaped by his father, Pierre Trudeau, in the 1960s: It was he who turned the office from the loose, decentralized group of about 40 people under Lester Pearson to a structured corps of several dozen. But the younger Trudeau’s initial impulse was to have a smaller, less hierarchical PMO, aiming to create a collaborative decision-making force, Mr. Radwanski explained:

It has been striking to hear some government insiders use the word “Pearsonian” to describe what Justin Trudeau is aiming for in his PMO. In any event, he is pushing, harder than just about any prime minister since his father, for a less centralized and regimented, more open and collaborative decision-making process than Ottawa has been conditioned to expect. If it works, it will produce more innovative and well-considered policies than would otherwise be possible; if it fails, a lack of discipline could make things messy in a hurry.

What is the PCO?

Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council.

Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press

The Privy Council office is a part of the public service that supports the Prime Minister and cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions, a role that involves working closely with the PMO.

The current clerk, Michael Wernick, took office on Jan. 22, 2016. On March 18 this year, after two appearances at the House justice committee to answer questions about the SNC affair, Mr. Wernick announced he would retire before the writ is issued for the 2019 election. “Recent events have led me to conclude that I cannot serve as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet during the upcoming election campaign,” he wrote to Mr. Trudeau.

What do the PMO and PCO have to do with SNC-Lavalin?

A pedestrian walks past the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. headquarters in Montreal.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters

PMO staffers keep the prime minister connected to a complex web of government and public-service departments, several of which are connected to the SNC affair. Chief among these is the Justice Department, which oversees the federal prosecutors that are investigating claims that SNC bribed Libyan officials between 2001 to 2011. On Feb. 7, The Globe and Mail, citing sources granted anonymity, reported that the PMO pressed Ms. Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the fall of 2018 and reach an out-of-court settlement – called a deferred prosecution agreement, or DPA – with SNC, which she refused to do. Months later, she was shuffled out of the justice portfolio, and within days of The Globe’s report, she resigned from cabinet.

In Mr. Wernick’s version of events – which he has now given twice to the House justice committee – the discussions about SNC’s future were “lawful advocacy.” In Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s version, the PMO and Mr. Wernick spent four months putting her or her chief of staff, Jessica Prince, under pressure to settle the SNC matter out of court. Otherwise, they warned, SNC might move its headquarters from Montreal to Britain and thousands of Canadian jobs would be lost, and the Liberals’ political future would be in jeopardy.

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

David Lametti

Justice Minister

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public

Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

David Lametti

Justice Minister

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public

Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

David Lametti

Justice Minister

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Who’s in the PMO

Katie Telford, chief of staff: After co-chairing Mr. Trudeau’s election campaign, Ms. Telford became the second woman ever to hold the chief of staff’s job, after the brief tenure of Jodi White under Kim Campbell’s prime ministership in 1993. With the exit of Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary (more on him below), Ms. Telford is now the most senior political operative in the PMO.

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2016 profile: PMO's Katie Telford: 'People underestimate her, and that has worked to her advantage'

Mathieu Bouchard, senior adviser: A former Montreal lawyer, Mr. Bouchard is the senior Quebecker in the PMO, and also Mr. Trudeau’s point man on legal affairs. In 2016, The Globe’s Daniel Leblanc described him as the link between the PMO and federal lawyers in the PCO.

2016 profile: Trudeau adviser Mathieu Bouchard more than just PMO’s ‘Quebec guy’

Elder Marques, senior adviser: This former Bay Street trial lawyer came to Parliament Hill in 2016 as chief of staff to Navdeep Bains when he was minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. He moved to the PMO about a year later.

Kate Purchase, executive director of communications: During the 2015 election, Ms. Purchase was the Liberals’ point person for communications, a role she continued under Mr. Trudeau when he came to office.

Who’s not in the PMO any more

Gerald Butts, principal secretary to Mr. Trudeau, shown in Ottawa in 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

For years, one of the star members of Mr. Trudeau’s team was his best friend, Gerald Butts. It was he who helped create the political narrative around Mr. Trudeau that allowed his Liberals to win office. In a 2016 profile, The Globe’s Mr. Radwanski likened him to David Axelrod, the American consultant who masterminded Barack Obama’s election victories:

Because Mr. Butts maintains an unusually high profile for a political aide in this country, there have been misconceptions about what that role is exactly. He is not Mr. Trudeau’s brain, although that theory was popular heading into last year’s election campaign, among those who doubted the one in Mr. Trudeau’s head. Nor is he Mr. Trudeau’s protector, a pseudo older sibling looking out for his more innocent friend ever since they met at McGill University in the 1990s. He’s not even alone at the top of the food chain among Mr. Trudeau’s aides: Katie Telford, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, has as much clout. What he is, really, is a sort of co-author as Mr. Trudeau tries to write history – someone who has an innate sense of the big-picture story the Prime Minister is trying to tell, and helps to make sure the government’s decisions are consistent with it.

But Mr. Butt’s days in the PMO came to an end on Feb. 18, two weeks after The Globe and Mail broke the news about the allegations of PMO pressure in the SNC case. Weeks later, after seeking legal advice about what he could say, he spoke to the House justice committee denying that Ms. Wilson-Raybould had been demoted because of the SNC affair and insisting that nothing improper had happened. Here are the highlights of his March 6 testimony and the full text of his prepared opening statement.

2016 profile: Gerald Butts, the BFF in the PMO

The lobbying question

So far, Mr. Butts and Mr. Wernick have been doing most of the talking about the PMO and PCO’s version of events. The justice committee tried to summon others, including Ms. Telford, but the Liberal majority voted that down. One issue Mr. Butts didn’t address in detail was lobbying. Since the start of 2017, SNC contacted PMO officials 19 times, and met according to lobbyist registry records reviewed by The Globe. That included Mr. Butts, Mr. Bouchard and Mr. Marques.

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On Sept. 18, Mr. Wernick met with Neil Bruce, SNC’s chief executive officer: According to an aide’s notes of the conversation, Mr. Wernick suggested to Mr. Bruce that he go to the prosecutors with a “public interest argument” for reaching a deferred prosecution agreement. Then on Oct. 15, he spoke on the phone with SNC chairman Kevin Lynch, a former PCO chief himself, who was frustrated that no deal was forthcoming. Mr. Wernick told the justice committee that he advised Mr. Lynch to address his concerns to Ms. Wilson-Raybould.

Number of monthly lobbyist

communications with the

Prime Minister’s Office

Conservative gov’T

Lib. gov’t

180

160

140

2015

federal

election

2011

federal

election

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

‘15

‘16

‘17

‘18

THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF LOBBYING

Number of monthly lobbyist communications

with the Prime Minister’s Office

Conservative gov’T

Lib. gov’t

180

160

140

2015

federal

election

2011

federal

election

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

‘15

‘16

‘17

‘18

THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF LOBBYING

Number of monthly lobbyist communications with the Prime Minister’s Office

Conservative government

Liberal gov’t

180

160

140

2015

federal

election

2011

federal

election

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

‘19

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF LOBBYING



Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Robert Fife, Steven Chase, Adam Radwanski, Shawn McCarthy, Justine Hunter and The Canadian Press

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