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Onex Corp. managing director Nigel Wright speaks to reporters in Wichita, Kan., on June 17, 2005. (Larry W. Smith/Larry Smith for The Globe and Mail)
Onex Corp. managing director Nigel Wright speaks to reporters in Wichita, Kan., on June 17, 2005. (Larry W. Smith/Larry Smith for The Globe and Mail)

Tim Powers

Harper makes an inspired choice Add to ...

Stephen Harper has chosen his new chief of staff: Nigel Wright, soon to be a former executive with Canadian business powerhouse Onex Corp. Like his predecessors Ian Brodie and Guy Giorno, Wright is a very smart man with deep roots in Conservative politics. But unlike Ian and Guy, top-notch talents themselves, Nigel has an abundance of world-class business experience that will be invaluable to the country and government in these still-tough economic times.

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I'm sure Nigel Wright doesn't want to inflate expectations or be seen as some sort of Messiah. That's a sure-fire way to fail as well as capture the ire of your boss. Equally, as the chief-of-staff position takes on new perceptual dimensions in this era of celebrity-focused political coverage, it is still important to remember that it is but one position on a big team.

A chief of staff can make a positive difference. Witness the good work Peter Donolo has done thus far with Michael Ignatieff. Ultimately, though, the public will pass judgment on the person that does the hiring, not the one who's been hired.

As Ignatieff got credit for hiring Donolo, the PM deserves the same for getting Wright on board. Both of these leaders clearly aren't afraid to bring in mature, wise hands who will speak truth to power. This also cuts into the myth of convenience that the government is a one man show.

Finally, the altruist in me delights in seeing a person of Nigel Wright's abilities leave a successful private-sector career to embrace public service. It sends an important message about participating and making a difference.

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