Conservative insiders say they expect to see a “softer side” from Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Bruce Carson as his new chief of staff after news broke last week that current chief of staff Guy Giorno is leaving the job.
Mr. Carson, the executive director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment and former senior adviser in the PMO, was in Ottawa last weekend meeting with Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and sources told The Hill Times that the Prime Minister will hire him to bring a less adversarial approach to politics when Parliament resumes later this month.
When Guy Giorno took over the chief of staff’s office to the Prime Minister, he rounded up the Ministerial chiefs, the directors of communications and senior PMO staff and told them the same thing: this is essentially an election year and everything that we do from now on will be proactive, direct and obviously political. Giorno’s “be political” theme will set the tone of this government as it moves into the fall when opposition leader Stephane Dion blusters about defeating the government, into the winter when Dion threatens to defeat the government over the budget and into the fall of 2009 when the government’s mandate comes up for renewal due to the fixed election date legislation the Prime Minister’s tabled early in this term.
Today, in the National Post, David Akin writes about Conservatives cutting travel grants to Canadian artists. Surprisingly, at least to this observer, is that this money comes under the mandate of Foreign Affairs. Sending artists to film festivals and to columnists to give lectures in communist countries would more appropriately be fixed in the department of Canadian Heritage but that’s another discussion. The government’s political staffers have found some cash that is sure to enrage the arts community and as a side-benefit, show ordinary hard-working 9-5 Canadians that their tax dollars are sending others overseas while they put together their savings (after filing their income tax) over the months to put the kids in a minivan and drive down to Disneyworld for a week.
You can tell that Giorno’s people are executing the “be political” strategy in the quotes provided to David Akin by government staffers.
On Gwynne Dyer’s government grant to travel to a popular Canadian vacation destination to “[create] greater awareness and appreciation of Canadian foreign policy … within key audiences of Cuban decision makers and opinion leaders.” political staffers explained that
“[Dyer’s] a left-wing columnist and author who has plenty of money to travel on his own.”
On the North-South Institute
“[it’s] a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank … Why are we paying for these people to attend anti-Western conferences in Cuba?”
Canadian artists are not on PMO director of strategic planning Patrick Muttart’s radar as these folks have never likely voted Conservative and never will. This move to cut taxpayer money from these groups for foreign travel will cause outrage among that community and will in turn, the Conservatives are predicting, will show other Canadians that the government is defending their interests instead.
This is an obvious political move by PMO and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Conservative Party comps Sarah Polley’s airfare the next time she comes to Ottawa to hold a press conference.
Here’s a summary of the Arts Promotion Projects funded in 2006-2007:
Congratulations to Kory and thank you for taking up the cost of the job. A former lobbyist, Teneycke is now subject to future lobbying restrictions of the Federal Accountability Act. Though with this cost comes greater personal honour of serving Canadians.
Today the news hit the wire: Kory Teneycke is the new director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office.
In Langevin, I’ve heard that new chief of staff Guy Giorno is telling communications staff that the theme from now until the writ is “be political”. As the new director of communications, Teneycke will assume this role of actively building positive political momentum in the messaging of the government, something that was somewhat muted under the former director.
Under Sandra Buckler, the communications strategy seemed to be more of a shield; the former D.Comm. was effective in circling the wagons closely and the government only messaged to mitigate damage or give a basic understanding of its agenda.
Under Teneycke, I’ve come to understand that the strategy will be more of a sword. The communications strategy of the Teneycke comms shoppe will be proactive in its approach, it will get ahead of message and set the political tone from the Conservative government’s perspective.
Today, Sandra Buckler informed her friends and colleagues that she’ll be leaving the Prime Minister’s office as Director of Communications.
Buckler started with the PMO shortly after the Conservatives took power in February 2006 and has served the PM for 28 months. She served in the Conservative war-room during the election and was one of the most effective communicators during that time. Her skills impressed Stephen Harper and the Prime-Minister-elect hired her on as his Comms boss.
In her role as one of Harper’s senior advisers, she often butted heads with members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery as the Prime Minister sought to define his communications style as disciplined and focused in contrast to Paul Martin’s frantic and chaotic style. Her departure comes as the PM’s new chief of staff Guy Giorno takes the helm in Langevin.
A moderate shuffle among senior staff is expected under the new boss and Buckler’s departure comes after two and one half years in government. The departure of Harper’s departing chief of staff Ian Brodie indicates a major reconfiguration has been in the works at the highest levels of government and Giorno and the new DComm will seek to put their own mark on upper management.
Sandra has earned a well-deserved rest. Best wishes and a job well done.