Justin Trudeau's inner circle a reflection of the leader

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's closest supporters, instrumental to his past and future success, look a lot like him: well-connected 40-something young parents with politics in their blood.

Liberal leader relies on a group of 40-somethings who juggle work and family

Justin Trudeau chats with his chief adviser, Gerald Butts, who is at the head of an inner circle that will manage the 2015 election campaign. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's closest supporters, instrumental to his past and future success, look a lot like him: well-connected 40-something young parents with politics in their blood.

Jeremy Broadhurst, the national director of the Liberal Party, said in an interview, "We've joked about opening up a daycare here. I have a two-year-old daughter, [campaign co-chair] Katie Telford's got a two-year-old son. Half the leader's office has kids or kids on the way."

Broadhurst, a key part of the circle, was chief of staff to former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.

The concept of an inner sanctum around a leader is a popular narrative in politics, and so compelling it was the plot of a TV series, The West Wing.

Here's a look at other members of Trudeau's circle, ahead of the Liberal policy convention in Montreal that starts Thursday.

Gerald Butts, principal adviser

Gerald Butts has been friends with Trudeau since their McGill University days, and is said to be so close to him that he had a hand writing the eulogy Trudeau famously delivered at the funeral of his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

The son of a Glace Bay, Cape Breton, coal miner, Butts was principal secretary to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and is the former president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund-Canada.

Katie Telford, national election campaign co-chair

Katie Telford, who co-chaired Trudeau's leadership campaign, can be seen in action in a video pitched to potential volunteers. With flawless delivery, Telford speaks of working online at home with a phone list, a model Obama first used in 2008.
Katie Telford is the Liberal national election campaign co-chair. (Strategy Corp)

The volunteers can work "sometimes at 1 a.m., sometimes at 10 a.m.," she says, leaving little doubt about the demographic group she's seeking.

Sounding like a pragmatic technocrat, she describes the Excel spreadsheet she views as soon as she gets up and her fondness for graphs and pie-charts. "I love the numbers because they don't lie."

Telford was deputy chief of staff in the opposition leader's office under former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and served as chief of staff to the Ontario minister of education.

Dominic LeBlanc, Liberal MP 

The son of Pierre Trudeau-era cabinet minister and former governor general Romeo LeBlanc and a lifelong friend of Trudeau's, Dominic LeBlanc is the caucus member closest to the leader. Some say he has just as much influence as Butts, if not more.

He is the Liberal House leader and sits beside Trudeau in the House of Commons.

Alex Lanthier

Alex Lanthier is described as someone who's been with Trudeau since Day 1. He campaigned for Trudeau in his Papineau riding for months without pay when Trudeau first ran as an MP.

Suzanne Cowan

The daughter of James Cowan, who served as Opposition leader in the Senate, Suzanne Cowan worked on Trudeau's leadership team handling social media and focus groups. Cowan is a former manager at the Ontario Energy Board and chose not to come to Ottawa to be in Trudeau's office, but is likely to stay involved.

Stephen Bronfman, chief fundraiser

Stephen Bronfman is the Liberal Party's chief fundraiser. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
A scion of the Bronfman (Seagram's liquor) family and head of a private investment firm, Stephen Bronfman is credited with the Liberals' fundraising success. In 2013, the Liberal Party raised $11.6 million, up 42 per cent from the previous year. The Conservatives are still the leaders at $18.2 million, but increased their numbers by only five per cent.

The Bronfman and Trudeau families have been friends for years.

Cyrus Reporter, chief of staff

Cyrus Reporter once worked for former Liberal cabinet minister Alan Rock, and for a while he an Ottawa transit commissioner. Reporter was also a member of Paul Martin's election campaign "war room" in 2005. One observer said Reporter's "been around, but not made too many enemies."

Mike McNair

Mike McNair worked with Dion, helping to write his "Green Shift" policy, and also worked for Dion's successor as Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff. He's described as someone who has a strong policy mind and who has Trudeau's ear.

Anna Gainey, running for party president

A close friend of Trudeau's, Anna Gainey is the daughter of former Montreal Canadiens hockey star and former manager Bob Gainey, and sister of Laura Gainey, who was killed when she was swept overboard from the deck of a tall ship in 2006. Gainey runs a foundation that funds environment and arts grants for youth in her sister's name.

Gainey's husband, Tom Pitfield, was Trudeau's digital director during the leadership campaign, and is the son of former Canadian senator Michael Pitfield.

Dan Gagnier, national co-chair of 2015 election campaign

One of the few older members of Trudeau's team. Dan Gagnier was chief of staff to former Quebec premier Jean Charest, and is also a veteran of the Privy Council Office and Foreign Affairs. He's described as having "30 to 40 years of experience."

Trudeau's team is set to grow. The party is looking for an analytics director because of its "huge commitment to do data in the new era," and is said to be going through more than 600 resumés.


  • This story has been updated from an earlier version that, due to an editor's error, referred to Romeo LeBlanc as a Chretien-era cabinet minister. In fact, he served in Pierre Trudeau's cabinet.
    Feb 19, 2014 11:57 AM ET


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