EDITORIAL – Butts testimony presents very different picture of JWR affair

(Image: Screenshot of Gerald Butts at justice committee)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE RUMBLE IN OTTAWA is now officially a he said-she said situation.

Former principal secretary Gerald Butts gave his side of the story today (March 6, 2019) and it is vastly different than the one Jody Wilson-Raybould offered the Commons justice committee last week.

The former attorney-general and justice minister had painted a picture of “inappropriate pressure” from the PMO with respect to the SNC-Lavelin legal case. Butts, however, ran through a chronology of discussions with her over the months that suggested they were respectful and appropriate.

Butts also rejected, in detail, suggestions that Wilson-Raybould was demoted for standing up to the PMO, instead saying it was entirely to do with a necessary shuffle due to a vacancy in cabinet.

He did, however, concede that relations between his office and Wilson-Raybould deteriorated and “I take my fair share of responsibility for that state of affairs.”

But he said discussions with her about SNC-Lavelin were about making sure she had all the information she needed, and “absolutely not” about interfering.

While carefully avoiding any verbal attacks on Wilson-Raybould, he denied the tone and substance of many of the conversations she had related.

He fended off a grilling by Opposition committee members, who at times seemed at a loss and even somewhat frustrated in their efforts to contradict him.

So where to now? The reaction to his testimony will be interesting to observe over the next couple of days but it clearly demonstrates there’s always more than one side to every story.

It’s now also clear, though, that it’s time for Justin Trudeau to speak up and explain himself in detail. Until he does that, there will continue to be a shadow over this whole thing regardless of what Butts and others might say.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (7210 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – Butts testimony presents very different picture of JWR affair

  1. Here are my observations about the hearings and the standoff. We see three of the most powerful men in Ottawa in diametric opposition to two talented and highly credible women. Whatever side one takes, the government has lost, indisputably, two of its most talented and effective ministers. This must result from some failure of leadership. It seems, as ever, that tribalism is alive and unwell.

  2. Sean McGuinness // March 6, 2019 at 9:44 PM // Reply

    There are many possible sides to this story, but only one irrefutable point; the independence of the judicial system is tantamount to everything. And JWR’s testimony was all about this. Given that one of first things Mr. Butts said in his testimony was the importance of jobs at SNC, it’s clear that he’s appealing to political instincts and being distracted by it simultaneously. But neither he nor the PM get it; you shouldn’t weigh the independence of the judiciary against jobs or anything else. You can’t talk or dance your way around this (even in the netherworld of Quebec politics).

  3. If I can hazard a guess the Prime Minister will probably offer a story which me thinks will probably be inline with everyone else’s but JWR. Regardless, for many there is no compromise, never was never will be.

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