One of the few people in Stephen Harper’s office who knew of the secret $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy has now left the PMO.
Chris Woodcock has quit his job as director of issues management in the Prime Minister’s Office and is now working as chief of staff for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.
Mr. Woodcock’s departure may well mark the beginning of a staff shakeup in the Prime Minister’s Office as Mr. Harper tries to regain control of the federal political agenda after a difficult spring that saw senators he’d appointed under fire for their expense claims. The prime minister lost chief of staff Nigel Wright after it was revealed he tried to tamp down controversy over Mr. Duffy’s expense claims by personally footing the bill for their repayment to taxpayers.
One Harper loyalist who may be returning to the PMO is Jenni Byrne, a Conservative campaign manager known for her take-no-prisoners attitude who currently serves as the party’s director of political operations.
A sworn RCMP affidavit made public in early July reveals that Mr. Wright told three other PMO staffers he had privately agreed to reimburse taxpayers for $90,000 in expenses that Mr. Duffy had improperly claimed.
The RCMP filed the documents as part of its investigation into whether the Prince Edward Island senator committed fraud and breach of trust.
These PMO staffers include Mr. Woodcock, director of issues management – a job that handles hot political files – as well as legal adviser Benjamin Perrin and David van Hemmen, Mr. Wright’s executive assistant. These three ultimately owed their jobs to Mr. Wright, who as chief of staff would have decided who was hired, promoted or fired in such senior PMO positions.
Mr. Perrin has already left the PMO, but Mr. Van Hemmen is still working there as assistant to new chief of staff Ray Novak.