Michael Ignatieff’s new Director of Communications has an interesting background

“Everything old is new again” is the buzz coming from Liberals and journalists in Ottawa. Peter Donolo’s the new boss of the OLO shop (the Dunno-LO as one journalist told me weeks ago) and today we’ve learned that he’s finally put some new key players in place after the wholly awkward ejection of Davey/Fairbrother.

Among the “fresh” faces is Michael Ignatieff’s new Director of Communications, Mario Laguë, a man the CBC’s Rosemary Barton tells us is among the new gang that “[knows] Quebec inside-out”.

But, a Lexis-Nexis/Informart plunge into the past tells us more!

It appears that Mario Laguë was not only hired by Paul Martin to put a brave face on the sponsorship scandal, but Ignatieff’s new D.Comm was also part of a three-man panel with Chuck Guité that hired then Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano’s Chief of Staff to replace Guité, who was retiring. Stephen Harper, then opposition leader, criticized the hire saying the sponsorship scandal could have been stopped if a senior bureacrat was hired in the position instead.

Affidavit shows how Guité was replaced Document reveals membership of team that chose boss for sponsorship program — The Globe and Mail, October 18th, 2005 by Daniel Leblanc.

OTTAWA — An affidavit prepared by the Public Service Commission for the Gomery inquiry sheds new light on the controversial hiring of a former Liberal aide to head the sponsorship program in 1999, including the role of a federal official who would become an aide to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The inquiry heard conflicting testimony about how Pierre Tremblay, then the chief of staff to then public works minister Alfonso Gagliano, was hired to replace retiring bureaucrat Chuck Guité. Mr. Guité said he rigged the process at Mr. Gagliano’s behest; the former minister denied any political interference.

The affidavit, which went unnoticed when it was tabled in May, shows that Mr. Tremblay’s hiring was approved by a three-member selection board made up of Mr. Guité, Public Service Commission executive resourcing consultant Michael Carey, and Mario Laguë, a long-time Liberal supporter who became Mr. Martin’s first director of communications when he became Prime Minister. The affidavit said Mr. Tremblay was hired “based on the recommendation of the selection board.”

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said yesterday the problems with the sponsorship program could have been stopped if an experienced civil servant had been hired in 1999 instead of Mr. Tremblay. The problems continued until an RCMP investigation was launched in 2002, but by then Mr. Tremblay was working in another federal agency.

When Prime Minister Paul Martin was in office he hired Laguë to “cover-up” the sponsorship scandal according to opposition Conservatives at the time.

Assistant to PM contributed to cover-up, opposition says Mario Lague included in strategy sessions when problems first surfaced, e-mail says; Mario Lague included in strategy sessions when problems first surfaced, e-mail says — The Globe and Mail, February 20th, 2004 by Campbell Clark

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Paul Martin’s communications director was a key player in the Chrétien government’s efforts to put the best face on serious problems in the sponsorship program in 2000, government records show.

Opposition politicians focused many attacks in the Commons yesterday on Mario Lague, Mr. Martin’s communications director, insisting he was involved in efforts to “cover up” the sponsorship scandal, which saw millions misused from 1996 to 2002.

Mr. Martin fought back, asserting that Mr. Lague “was not involved in the management of the sponsorship file.”

However, records show that Mr. Lague was included in top-level meetings to plan strategy when problems began to emerge. An e-mail from September, 2000, obtained by an independent researcher and provided to The Globe and Mail, indicates that Mr. Lague was one of a small group of senior officials and political aides who plotted to put the best face on a damaging audit.

Photoshop fun: a variation on this week’s persistent theme

After cleaning house in the Opposition leader’s office, Ignatieff is expected to put so many of his former Toronto faithful in prominent backroom jobs that some are already calling it the “Rosedale gang.” — Toronto Star, January 9th 2009

“Should [Ignatieff] follow his Quebec lieutenant while working closely with a credible team? Or his Toronto advisers who know nothing about the social and political realities of Quebec?” — Denis Coderre

(click to enlarge)

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