Publishing Three Times a Week

The Macdonald Notebook is your source for exclusive Business & Inside Politics publishing every Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday.

The Latest Issue

Retired Architect Andy Lynch & Karen Lynch Have Just Sold Their Quinpool Road House – And Got Close To Asking Price During a Pandemic
Carl Potter Loses Big Tender On 103 HWY Paving To A New Brunswick Road-Builder – Dexter Construction Edged Out By Tight Margin
Halifax Port: Can The Cruise Ship 2020 Season Be Salvaged? Port CEO Captain Gray: ‘It Will Take 2-3 Years To Rebuild Industry To Record Levels’
Emerging Halifax-Toronto Architect Omar Gandhi Creates New Maritime Vernacular For Jim Spatz & Val MacDonald’s Chester Back Harbour Cottage
Halifax-Toronto Architect Omar Gandhi: Called Canada’s Next Best Architect: Refines New Maritime Vernacular
MacPolitics: Halifax Pollster Margaret Brigley Reports Premier Stephen McNeil’s Popularity Soars To Record Highs
MacPolitics: PEI Tory Premier Dennis King Rates Record Popularity Of An Island Government – Ever Says Pollster
Alison Strachan’s Bird Watching In Halifax & Lunenburg Offers Joys To Behold Of Wildlife: ‘I’ve Become That Woman’
New Column: A Maritime Moment: Hummers In Rural St. Margaret’s Bay
Grasshoppers Are Cute, But June Bugs? A Sure Sign Of Early Summer’s Arrival: June Bugs Make Annual Visits To NS This Week
Cottage Life: Seasonal Ownership Does Have Some Pitfalls
Sunday Edition, Below
Realtor David Dunn Lists Kelly Dawe’s Halifax Northwest Arm Mansion For Cool $6.5 Million
Halifax Headquartered Real Estate Brokerage Eyes Expansions to Inverness & Liverpool – Donna Harding Also Talks Plans for Baddeck, North Shore & Yarmouth
Fairview Home Has 36 Offers – Goes $55,000 Over Asking Price
Halifax-Chester Realtor Piers Baker Commutes Around In A Tesla
Halifax Port Begins Talks With An Entrepreneur Who Wants To Take Over Seaport Farmer’s Market – Captain Allan Gray Says
Millennial Entrepreneur Lara Cusson Re-Opens Cafe Lara
Millennial Entrepreneur Ian MacLeod Finds A Way To Open Hold Fast Cafe In Pandemic Times
Saturday Edition, Below
Halifax Port: CEO Captain Allan Gray Bullish On New $12M Crane Being Shipped To Southend Container Terminal
Real Estate Broker Donna Harding: Multiple Offers On Listings During Pandemic
HWY 103 Twinning Will Turn NS South Shore Communities Into Bedroom Communities For Halifax
HWY 103 Second Phase Twinning Tender To Be Issued In The Summer
Dartmouth Raised Contractor Ian Boyd Had A High Powered Salary At Bird Construction
Cottage Life: Richie Mann On Pros & Cons Of Northumberland Strait Cottage Ownership

Cabot Links Airport: Decision Could Rest With Powerful Liberal Glace Bay Politico Triumvirate

By Andrew Macdonald

As Ben Cowan-Dewar goes about his quest for taxpayers dollars from the Trudeau and McNeil governments, the decision on granting $18 million for a Cabot Links airport could rest with the Glace Bay politico triumvirate of Glace Bay MP Rodger Cuzner, Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan — and even former federal power Gerald Butts.

Butts has previously praised Cabot Links Golf Course in Inverness, doing so after a round of golf there in 2017.

After a round of golf at Cabot Links in 2017, Gerald Butts took to Twitter. He has been a best friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for three decades.

While no longer principal assistant to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s PMO, toppled by the SNC-Lavalin affair, suffice to say Butts still occupies a top level of support with Trudeau. After all, Butts and Trudeau have been best friends since meeting in the 1980s at McGill University.

Illustrating that tight friendship is that Butts was the first person to advise Trudeau on running for the Liberal leadership.

So, suffice to say Butts still has influence with his best friend, the prime minister of Canada.

After a round of golf at Cabot Links in 2017, Butts took to his twitter page, and said: “Reminder that Cape Breton is awesome, and Cabot Links keeps getting better every year.’

Rodger Cuzner is another Glace Bay politico who has been making public pronouncements that government money is necessary to take Cabot Links to the next level. He has been vocal with his support ever since The Notebook broke the Inverness airport project on June 1.

A Dash 8 aircraft fuels at Port Hawkesbury Allan J MacEachen Regional Airport before flying off to Newfoundland. The airport is only one hour from Inverness and its third-party contract operator says an Inverness airport would lead to bankruptcy for the Port Hawkesbury airport.

Cuzner’s office on Tuesday contacted The Notebook after I canvassed Nova Scotia Liberal MPs, and federal candidates on the Inverness file, asking those MPs if money from Ottawa should go to an airport for the two golf courses, Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs. (Stay tuned for the answers from our NS MPs).

Cuzner’s office suggested a follow up question for the those MPs: “Will you also ask a follow-up question about what the MPs see as the lost opportunities of not securing this exceptional investment in rural economic development that is being supported by three former and the current premier of the province?”

The former premiers supporting the airport project are Rodney MacDonald, Darrell Dexter and Frank McKenna.

Cape Breton MP Rodger Cuzner has been vocal in his support of taxpayers dollars going towards building a Cabot Links airport in Inverness.

Even as a soon-to-retire MP, Cuzner has an elevated spot in Trudeau’s sphere since he was the first MP in the Liberal caucus to endorse Trudeau’s leadership bid. That may carry significant weight as the Trudeau government considers giving money to Cabot Links for an airport project.

Cuzner, a 20-year politician, did not make it into cabinet, mostly because of gender issues, so Trudeau might reward Cuzner with his political swan song by giving government money to the airport project in Cuzner’s riding.

Allan J. MacEachen, left, with Pierre Trudeau. Allan J built the Port Hawkesbury airport in 1973.

The other Glace Bay politico who is in a significant role to see Nova Scotia government money go towards the airport project is Business Minister Geoff MacLellan, who told a Legislature press scrum the Inverness airport has “merit.”

NS Business Minister Geoff MacLellan says a Cabot Links airport in Inverness has “merit”.

“The federal government has a decision to make, seeing what’s happening in that county. This is bigger than Cabot, just what’s happening in the county and of course on what I believe is the pinnacle of tourism for the province, based of course, on the Cabot Trail,” said MacLellan.

“I think that there’s certainly merit in it,” the Glace Bay politico added.

I should note, that when political pundits talk to The Notebook about a possible successor to Premier Stephen McNeil, Maclellan’s name is always on top of that list.

Back to Gerald Butts.

To understand his close friendship with Justin Trudeau, here is part of a February news article from the National Post detailing their tight three decade friendship:

Founded in friendship

Butts and Trudeau are not just colleagues, they are very close friends. They met at McGill University in the early 1990s and their friendship was so close that Butts helped craft Trudeau’s memorable eulogy for his father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 2000.

That was the public speech that produced a push for Trudeau, then a teacher in British Columbia, to follow his father into politics. In his book, ‘Common Ground’, Trudeau wrote that when he began to think about running for the Liberal leadership in 2012, Butts was the first person he approached for advice.

Butts was a critical part of both Trudeau’s leadership campaign and the Liberals’ 2015 election campaign. Trudeau has described Butts and Katie Telford, his chief of staff, as “the core of my inner circle.”

Butts and Trudeau were both born in 1971 but grew up in very different circles. Trudeau was the son of a prime minister whose childhood included a security detail and handshakes with world leaders. Butts was the youngest son of a Glace Bay coal miner and a nurse, who nonetheless grew up to have at least one link to Liberal politics.

His aunt, Peggy Butts, a nun and social activist who is said to have been one of the biggest influences on how he views the world, was appointed to the Senate by Jean Chretien in 1997.

Deja-vu all over again

The 2015 campaign was not the first in which Butts helped steer a Liberal leader into government. Butts’s first foray into politics came with the Ontario Liberals, where he was a policy adviser to then-leader Dalton McGuinty. He was one of the architects of the 2003 Liberal platform that propelled McGuinty into the premier’s office and Butts would be his principal secretary for five years.

McGuinty’s agenda has many similarities to Trudeau’s, such as phasing out coal power, expanding renewable energy, and increasing social spending.

Prime Minister Butts

Butts has been unusually visible for a senior political staffer. He did not shy away from talking to journalists — in fact he seemed to relish doing so — but always “on background”. His presence on social media, however, was public and constant, as he used Twitter to spin government policy, challenge government critics and even get into sparring matches with the leaders of provincial parties and governments.

This visibility began in his McGuinty days, with the Ontario Tories in 2003 putting out an entire press release attacking him as an “anonymous, un-elected, backroom spin doctor” who was the “real leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario.”

This visibility, and his influence and power within Trudeau’s office, were not always met happily by Liberal MPs, some of whom secretly referred to him as “PM Butts.”

It’s the environment, stupid

Butts’s influence is felt in every area of government policy and Trudeau would not make any big policy decisions without the input of both Butts and Telford.

But the area Butts holds dearest is the environment. Environment policies were a central theme in McGuinty’s government during the Butts era, and again with the Trudeau Liberals.

In between the two governments, Butts was the CEO of the World Wildlife Fund in Canada, a position he held until the Trudeau Liberal leadership campaign came calling.

In his resignation statement Butts even made a pitch for action to halt climate change: “Our kids and grandkids will judge us on one issue above all others,” he said. “That issue is climate change. I hope the response to it becomes the collective, non-partisan, urgent effort that science clearly says is required. I hope that happens soon.”

Return Home

Contact The Editor

Share This
error: Alert: All content is protected. Copying or Printing this material is not allowed at this time.