, 05.07.2019 06:09 AM

Pray for Justin’s Jeremy

Pause, for a moment, to say a prayer for Jeremy Broadhurst.

A few days ago, Broadhurst was named the campaign director for the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2019 re-election effort. He was not the first choice.

The first choice was Katie Telford, Trudeau’s Chief of Staff. The 2019 plan was for Telford to reprise her 2015 campaign role, with principal secretary Gerald Butts riding on the campaign plane with Justin Trudeau. Telford would again oversee the campaign back in Ottawa, and Butts would be on the road, hectoring journalists on Twitter and explaining big words to the Liberal leader.

Then, LavScam hit. Obstructions of justice, breaches of trust, plummeting popularity, resignations aplenty.

It remains an enduring mystery why Gerald Butts was the one to resign, and Katie Telford wasn’t. By Jody Wilson-Raybould’s own admission, Butts was the prime ministerial factotum she spoke to the most. He was the one she liked and trusted. His only sin, according to the incomplete evidentiary record, was to acknowledge the reality of what was going on.

There was no solution to the SNC-Lavalin matter “that does not involve some interference,” Butts blandly informed Wilson-Raybould’s Chief of Staff at a now-infamous December 18, 2018 meeting. It was Telford, however, who was far more direct.

“We don’t want to debate legalities anymore,” Telford said to the Attorney-General’s shocked Chief. “Legalities,” here, refers to “the law,” “the Rule of Law” and “the criminal justice system.” In effect, the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Canada said that the law didn’t matter, and – allegedly – that it could be bent, if not broken.

How Katie Telford could survive that, and Gerald Butts could not, is mystifying. We will need to wait for Prime Minister Andrew Scheer to relieve Jody Wilson-Raybould of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality, one supposes.

But we digress. Jeremy Broadhurst, as is his wont, has stepped up to the proverbial plate. Or, in this case, the chopping block. His dedication to the Liberal cause is so complete, one is moved to wonder if he has the party logo tattooed on one of his body parts.

He’s a lifer, Broadhurst is. Attended one of the better law schools in Canada (U of T), was an associate at one of the better law firms (Davies Ward Phillips), and then…he gave it all up and moved to Ottawa.

He has served every permanent and interim Liberal Party leader for the past decade-and-a-half, which is testament to his fealty, if not necessarily his sanity. Mostly, he’s laboured on the policy side of the campaign divide, but he did act as Telford’s second-in-command during the successful 2015 election effort.

His most-senior post – before he was invited to breathe the rarefied air of PMO in 2015 – was to act as the lead guy on “Parliamentary strategies and tactics” after Michael Ignatieff fired everyone he knew, and hired a bunch of people he didn’t. Ignatieff – and, by extension, Broadhurst and others – then giddily piloted the Liberal Party of Canada into the ditch in 2011, leading to its worst electoral result in its history. Third place, 34 MPs. Ignatieff spoke glowingly of Broadhurst in the book he wrote afterwards, the one that confirmed that he was, in fact, just visiting.

Prior to Ignatieff’s OLO bloodletting, this writer met Jeremy Broadhurst. He was an enigma to me. Unlike every other Liberal I knew, Broadhurst had declined to choose sides in the leadership wars that had beset the Liberal Party for most of two decades. Personally, I had always subscribed to Graham Greene’s view: in order to remain human, one must choose sides. Broadhurst didn’t.

At meetings in the panelled confines of room 409-S, Broadhurst would therefore sit alongside all the senior MPs and senior staffers and this is what he would say:

Nothing.

After quite a bit of this, I came to understand how Jeremy Broadhurst had survived so long. He didn’t take anything that resembled a clear position. He didn’t take clear positions at all, really.

Is that the sort of fellow you want running your election campaign, when just one recent poll pegs you at 13 points behind the aforementioned Andrew Scheer? Someone who doesn’t have a theory of the case to prosecute?

The winningest Liberal campaign managers were John Rae and Keith Davey, for Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau, respectively. Both men ran the same sort of campaigns: let Chretien be Chretien, let Trudeau be Trudeau. Ruthlessly hammer your opponent, and always talk about your issues – not the other guy’s issues.

Jeremey Broadhurst can’t do any of that. In particular, he can’t let Justin be Justin – because, as Maclean’s famously put it on a recent cover, Justin is “The Imposter.” He has no core beliefs or persona. He’s truly what he always was: an actor.

Say a prayer, then, for Jeremy Broadhurst. His devotion to the Liberal Party cannot be questioned.

His judgment, this year, can be.

11 Comments

  1. Montrealaise says:

    Maybe Butts resigned because he just got tired of constantly having to ” explain big words to the Liberal leader”. I’m speculating that Butts thought, at the outset, that JT would learn from his mistakes and grow into his role as PM. However, JT in 2019 is just as clueless as he was in 2015, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Butts just decided to throw in the towel.

    • ABB says:

      Very insightful. The smartest people get out ahead of the train wreck.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Montréalaise,

      The reasoning behind Butts departure is far more sophisticated than that. He isn’t the éminence grise for nothing.

  2. Dork in East York says:

    The Wizard II?

  3. Steve Maudsley says:

    Warren,

    How united is the Liberal Party right now? The amount of bad news that has happened to the party must be affecting party morale and unity?

  4. Joseph says:

    Yeah well, we all choose a path in life in the hope of a reward at the end of the path.
    His sounds like one where he plays martyr for the lost causes, but in reality just looks around for the most popular position of the moment and tries to get at the front of the parade. That fits the MO of just sitting at the table and not saying anything.
    As to Telford, well I suppose there is evidence to suggest she should be outside the PMO, but that doesn’t automatically excuse Butt’s role in the shenanigans does it?
    There are more than a few in and outside the PMO that where cognizant of what was going on that are able to remain behind the secrecy of cabinet confidentiality.
    It should also be remembered that this “solution ” didn’t get formulated over a weekend, so anyone in cabinet could be party to the plan
    Call it one of those facts that shall not be spoken outside of cabinet …. those that do get kicked out of caucus.

  5. the real Sean says:

    A campaign directer who doesn’t take positions on issues sounds like a perfect fit for PM Zoolander.

    Any word on who they are going to pay to listen to the caucus (liaison) so that PM Zoolander doesn’t have to?

  6. ABB says:

    Firstly, little Justin did not have the guts to terminate another woman after JWR and JP. So Telford was saved by her gender. And he also knew Butts would only ever be just a phone call away, still reachable, still holding influence by voice to fill the PM’s voracious curiosity about life and politics. So dumping Butts was the default option and never doubted.

  7. Anon111 says:

    Telford will still be calling the shots. Once parliament rises, she will move to LPC HQ and run the campaign. They just did not want her to become the target of CPC election ads. She will still be coordinating the ground game, advertising, etc. etc. Butts will also be in the war room, unofficially, of course, and if the Liberals lose, they will all blame Jeremy B., and move on to lucrative consulting careers and television punditry … until the next Liberal Messiah arrives.

  8. Joseph Taylor says:

    Never trust anyone who promises to do politics differently because if it could be done differently it would’ve been, long before he was born.

  9. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Well, he’s not a guy lacking in guts. I’ll say that for him given the Telfordesque realities.

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