Nearly two weeks after the election that saw them returned to power after a decade in the political wilderness, the federal Liberals are now involved in the important and time-consuming process of building up a new government.
Some of the key appointments in prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau's office have already been announced. A new cabinet will be sworn in next week. But the party is also hiring hundreds and hundreds of aides not only to provide support to the new ministers but to the scores of Liberal backbenchers as well.
After years in exile, with workers from the last federal Liberal regime 10 years older and entrenched in other careers, finding experienced people to fill these roles is not as easy as you might think.
Many of the new hires will undoubtedly include young political volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the campaign. But the party is also looking for people who have some background working in the office of a cabinet minister, either federally or provincially. Consequently, Mr. Trudeau and his staff will be carefully considering the résumés of people working for Liberal regimes across the country.
One government that could take quite a hit is the Liberal administration of B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
According to federal Liberal sources, as many as a dozen political aides (and possibly more) currently working in the Clark government could be heading off to greener (or whiter come January) pastures in Ottawa. While the weather is no match for the West Coast, the proximity to the national power centre far exceeds anything that Victoria has to offer. But there are other reasons so many in Victoria have their curriculum vitaes polished and ready to go.
Firstly, morale among government staffers in the provincial capital is abysmal at the moment. They are among the worst-paid in the country and have nothing in the way of job protection. Moving to Ottawa would come with an automatic $20,000 raise, or more in some cases. Aides under the B.C. Liberals have long complained about the fact there is no staff development or efforts made to assist those interested in moving into other facets of government. In exchange for their vow of unreserved loyalty, they get little in return.
And then there is the fact that they are almost always the first thrown under the bus when a controversy erupts.
On that front, there are some who would like to avoid getting caught up in the growing scandal over the violation of provincial information access guidelines – including the routine destruction of potentially incriminating e-mail correspondence. The imbroglio has already cost one ministerial assistant his job.
According to aides who have recently left the government, e-mail deletions are part of a deep-seated culture of evasiveness that emanates right from the premier's office. Some current staffers fear they, too, could become easily expendable chattel (not to mention front-page news) all in the name of following orders – even more reason to find employment elsewhere.
Only time will tell just how many of those hoping to get out, actually do.
Likely to be relieved the Liberals are now in power in Ottawa, and not the New Democrats, is Rachel Notley's NDP government in Alberta. Going from four to 54 seats and becoming government, as the party did last spring, posed enormous staffing challenges for the Alberta NDP. It has taken months for the party to fill positions in constituency offices around the province. It was difficult enough finding quality, experienced people to staff cabinet offices.
At one point during the summer, when the federal NDP was leading national polls, there was some anxiety in Ms. Notley's office about the collateral damage a Tom Mulcair victory might inflict on staffing in her government. That did not come to pass and, if anything, the federal branch of the party was forced to shed, not add, positions after the election was over.
Meantime, Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government in Ontario could suffer some staffing losses at the hands of Mr. Trudeau's staff build-up, as could Philippe Couillard's Liberal administration in Quebec and those in the Maritimes as well.
The numbers of people that leave a government midterm often tell a tale. And if the departures from the government of Christy Clark are anywhere close to being as predicted, it would be a telling, and troubling, sign of the current state of affairs.