Before Trudeau, Gerald Butts Abandoned Tar Sands Action As Head Of WWF - 2019-09-05
When veteran climate analyst Keith Stewart arrived at his office at the Toronto headquarters of the World Wildlife Fund Canada in the spring of 2010, he was in for a shock. Turning on his computer, he realized that the campaign he had been directing and working on for years — raising the alarm about the unsustainable exploitation of Alberta's tar sands — had disappeared from the organization's website.
Stewart hadn't received any warning, and would not be offered an explanation. Later, he would learn that a decision to shut down the campaign and wipe the website had come from the top of WWF-Canada. The organization's leadership was abandoning its advocacy on an issue that, thanks in part to their efforts, was finally capturing global attention. When the decision was made, the organization's president was none other than Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau's close friend and primary advisor, who a few years later would become one of the most powerful officials in Canada's Liberal government.
In his role at WWF-Canada, Butts initially embraced bold climate policies. But before long, he would appear to succumb to limits on action prescribed behind closed doors by corporate power-brokers. It was a striking omen of how he and Trudeau would eventually run the Liberal government — and an instructive parable for those seeking to understand Trudeau's shift from ostensible climate champion to pipeline-nationalizing oil booster.