Trudeau's principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Gerald Butts

Gerald Butts

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that recently resigned cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould would not have been moved from her former position as attorney general and justice minister if former Treasury Board President Scott Brison's resignation didn't trigger a cabinet shuffle.

One of the key architects of Trudeau's 2015 electoral win and his longtime friend, Gerry Butts said he resigned as the prime minister's principle secretary to avoid distractions for the government facing another tough ballot fight in eight months.

That pressure was said to have come previous year when Wilson-Raybould was justice minister and attorney general.

"But the fact is that this accusation exists".

Nevertheless, Butts says the allegation is distracting from the "vital work" Trudeau is doing so it's in the best interests of the Prime Minister's Office for him to step aside.

The SNC-Lavalin case is before a court in Montreal, charged with fraud and corruption in connection with payments of almost $48 million to public officials in Libya under Moammar Gadhafi's government and allegations it defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated $130 million.

During the political firestorm that followed the report, Wilson-Raybould refused to comment on the case, saying she was still bound by solicitor-client privilege.

In his statement, Butts writes positively of his relationship with Wilson-Raybould.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves his office with his principal secretary Gerald Butts to attend an emergency cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. "They go back to being undergraduates at McGill (University) at the same time".

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Since the news broke, Wilson-Raybould resigned from her Cabinet role of Minister of Veterans Affairs and hired a lawyer to determine what she is allowed to say.

"There were many discussions going on, which is why Jody Wilson-Raybould asked me if I was directing her or going to direct her to take a particular decision", Trudeau said.

If convicted, the company could be blocked from competing for federal government contracts for a decade.

SNC-Lavalin employs about 9,000 people at its Montreal office.

The company released a public letter to Canadians in October complaining it had not been offered a remediation agreement and noting that "innocent stakeholders continue to bear all the brunt of this uncertainty - including all 52,000 current employees who have no responsibility for any past misconduct".

Trudeau also slammed anonymous Liberals who made unflattering remarks about Wilson-Raybould by suggesting she was hard to work with and didn't seem to be a team player.

Multiple MPs also told CBC News that while there was a consensus in caucus that Wilson-Raybould should no longer sit at the cabinet table, there was no justifiable reason to remove the MP for Vancouver-Granville from the Liberal caucus.

Trudeau issued a brief statement on Twitter.

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