(Ottawa) Without fanfare, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, just set a record for longevity. As the Prime Minister's confidant, she has overseen the government's day-to-day operations for more than eight years now.
Published at 1:10 am. Updated at 6:00 am.
Previously, this record belonged to the famous Jean Pelletier, the former mayor of Quebec, who agreed to become Jean Chrétien's chief of staff in Ottawa for eight years, from 1993 to 2001.
The record that Katie Telford just set is anything but trivial. Especially since Ms Telford is only the second woman in the country's history to hold such a position. The first to do so, Jodi White, held this key position during Kim Campbell's short term as prime minister in 1993, barely four months.
Toronto native and 45-year-old Katie Telford achieved this feat even as the Trudeau government grappled with a host of complex challenges: the rise to power of Donald Trump, an unpredictable president who traveled to Canada for four years; the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the global economy for two years; inflation and the housing crisis undermining the Liberals' popularity; diplomatic cold weather with China and India; finally, the war between Israel and Hamas, which continues.
Ms. Telford, who was a page at Queen's Park at age 12 and studied political science at the University of Ottawa, cut her teeth in Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government in Ontario in the 2000s. She was most notably chief of staff to former Secretary of Education Gerard Kennedy. She was in her mid-twenties at the time.
The record she set in Ottawa could stand the test of time. Because the position of chief of staff is a function that literally devours the people who hold it.
For example, former prime minister Stephen Harper, who was in power for nine years, saw a new chief of staff rotate through his office virtually every two years – Ian Brodie, Guy Giorno, Nigel Wright and Ray Novak.
During his ten years as prime minister, Jean Chrétien had a total of two chiefs of staff – Jean Pelletier and Percy Down, who served for two years before being appointed to the Senate.
For his part, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who led the country for nine years, was supported in his roles by four chiefs of staff, including Bernard Roy and Hugh Segal.
Dimitri Soudas was a close associate of Stephen Harper for almost a decade. He believes the longevity record set by Katie Telford is remarkable in several ways.
“More demanding than the position of Prime Minister”
“If there is a position in the country that is literally more demanding than that of prime minister, it is that of chief of staff. This longevity shows that he is a person of great loyalty and enjoys the Prime Minister's absolute trust. It is also the person, again in the eyes of the Prime Minister, who is able to implement the Prime Minister's program, priorities and instructions,” analyzed Mr. Soudas.
“A prime minister’s chief of staff has more influence than the entire cabinet combined. We can discuss whether she should give her place to someone else. We can also ask ourselves whether she is still the best person for this position,” he added.
But what we say or what we think has no value. All that matters is what the Prime Minister thinks about them.
Dmitri Soudas, political analyst and former staffer for Stephen Harper
According to Dimitri Soudas, who is now, among other things, an analyst on RDI's Mordus de politique, replacing Katie Telford with another person who was not with Justin Trudeau from the start of the Liberal setbacks would be “a monumental mistake.” in national surveys over the past six months.
“The only person who could effectively replace Katie Telford is Gerry Butts. A newcomer will be collecting the toilets in Parliament for four months! “, he said.
This woman's influence is undeniable as we analyze the Trudeau government's key policies and major decisions. Two examples quickly come to mind. The national daycare program, which has been implemented across the country, is inspired by the Quebec model. In its 2021 budget, the Trudeau government committed $30 billion over five years to establish this program, which will ultimately make it possible to offer daycare spaces for an average of $10 per day by 2026.
The other recent example is the Prime Minister's recent appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada in August. Justin Trudeau has his sights set on French-Albertan judge Mary Moreau. Result: The highest court in the country now has a majority of women for the first time in its history.
Katie Telford's influence is also felt in the composition of the Prime Minister's Office, which has been gender balanced since 2015. More than in any previous government, several women occupy key positions – Finance Minister is Chrystia Freeland and Mélanie Deputy Prime Minister Joly heads foreign affairs, Anita Anand is head of the Treasury and Pascale St-Onge is successful in heritage.
PHOTO ADRIAN WYLD, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVE
Prime Minister Karina Gould before her maternity leave
To this list we must add the name of Minister Karina Gould, the Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives. Before she went on maternity leave in December to give birth to her second child, she impressed many in the Liberal ranks by responding with aplomb, strength and conviction throughout the fall to sustained attacks by the Conservative Party leader, Pierre Poilievre, responded parliamentary session.
If Katie Telford has worked primarily in Justin Trudeau's shadow since 2015, her influence can be felt every day in Ottawa.