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politics briefing newsletter

Good morning,

Back in late 2015 and early 2016, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford were riding high.

The pair had played a pivotal role in helping Justin Trudeau and the Liberals secure a majority government. They were a new Prime Minister’s most trusted advisers and most prominent political operatives. And everyone knew it.

Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford accompanied Mr. Trudeau on several international trips, rubbing elbows with the likes of then-U.S. president Barack Obama and his top officials, French President Emmanuel Macron and various high-profile billionaires and celebrities.

And back home, they kept an unusually high profile in Ottawa. They called themselves the co-CEOs of Mr. Trudeau’s government. They ran the Prime Minister’s Office so the Prime Minister didn’t have to.

To better understand the dynamics of the PMO under Mr. Trudeau, The Globe’s Adam Radwanski and Daniel Leblanc spoke to more than two dozen Liberal Party sources: current and former chiefs of staff, ministerial aides, senior members of the PMO, ministers and MPs, as well as outsiders with long ties to the party and the current government.

The result is a picture of a PMO in which early successes obscured accumulating structural problems – the result of Mr. Trudeau’s extremely heavy reliance on two people -- Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford -- to run his government. Those problems set the stage for the fallout of the SNC-Lavalin affair that would force Mr. Trudeau to confront a relatively hands-off approach to running his office.

To an extent, the Butts-Telford partnership worked well. Many insiders note that Mr. Butts, Ms. Telford and others in the PMO deserve ample credit both for the impeccable 2015 campaign that brought their party to power and for considerable successes during their mandate – the NAFTA renegotiations among them, as well as the implementation of a progressive policy agenda that included major tax and pension reforms and social changes such as the legalization of cannabis and greater income redistribution.

But there’s another side to the organization of the PMO under Mr. Trudeau and the centralized power of Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford. Cracks would emerge in the PMO and many believe the Liberal Party’s current woes can be traced to this structure.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Aron Yeomanson. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Nine bombings at churches, hotels and other sites in Sri Lanka have sent ripples across its diaspora in Canada, leaving some waiting to hear whether they have been touched by the losses of more than 200 killed in the Easter Day attacks. In a statement issued Sunday afternoon, Mr. Trudeau said he was “shocked and saddened” by reports of the attacks.

Alberta premier-designate Jason Kenney intends to enact Bill 12, Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, on April 30. If he uses it to shut off the taps on fuel to British Columbia, it could have huge implications for B.C.’s economy.

With only a few days before voters were to go to the polls in Prince Edward Island, the Green Party suspended all campaigning Saturday after the sudden death of one of its candidates and his young son.

Protesters dotted one half of Parliament Hill’s front lawn on a blustery, rainy Saturday at the climax the first 4-20 “Weed Day” demonstration since Canada legalized recreational marijuana.

The Ontario government has started tracking firearms seizures after failing to follow its own law for years.

Quebecers whose homes are repeatedly flooded may eventually be forced to move, Premier François Legault said Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani insisted there was “nothing wrong” with the President’s campaign taking information from the Russians, as House Democrats pledged stepped-up investigations.

... and a comedian best known for playing the role of an accidental president on television easily won the real-life election for president in Ukraine.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the political landscape: “Pendulums swing. The populist impatience that appears to be driving voters to throw all the bums out will eventually be replaced by something else, though who knows what that something will be.”

Éric Grenier (CBC News) on the Liberals’ position six months before the federal election: “Since the Second World War, when political public opinion polling first started in Canada, the governing party has trailed in the polls six to eight months before the subsequent election nine times. On two occasions, that party was reduced to a minority government. On five occasions, it was defeated. On only two occasions did it secure a majority.”

Margaret Wente (The Globe and Mail) on carbon taxes: “That’s what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate policy amounts to – a warm and fuzzy feeling dressed up as action. Its effect on carbon emissions will be non-existent. Its effect on interprovincial relations is already awful and likely to get worse.”

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Jason Kenney’s environmental plan: “The bottom line is that the incoming UCP government intends to eliminate the provincial carbon tax on consumers, while reducing it for industry. Mr. Kenney knows climate change is a real issue, and he’s not planning on doing nothing about it. He just isn’t planning on doing much.”

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Doug Ford’s fundraising controversy: “The whole affair reflects badly on the Premier, the PC Party and the government. But it also reveals a continuing problem with political fundraising laws in Canada: Unless they are absolutely airtight and enforced by rules that have real teeth, politicians and party brass will always discover loopholes to exploit, especially if they are in power.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on cannabis legalization, six months later: “In retrospect, it already seems clear that the only revolution in legalizing cannabis was overcoming political inertia. But Mr. Trudeau probably won’t be rewarded. And Conservative Leader Andrew Leader probably wouldn’t dare campaign to recriminalize cannabis. There is already a new normal.”

David Shribman (The Globe and Mail) on the Mueller report and next steps: “Robert Mueller left Democrats a road map to continue their investigations into the conduct and comportment of President Donald Trump. The only question is where that road map leads.”

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