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Heritage Minister nabs Google official as chief of staff

Leslie Church, of Google’s Canadian division, has been hired as Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s chief of staff.

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Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly's office is emphasizing Canada's digital landscape with the hiring of a senior Google Inc. official to manage her cabinet office.

Ms. Joly, whose priorities include promoting the Canada 150 celebrations and increasing funding for CBC/Radio-Canada and other cultural organizations, has hired Leslie Church as her chief of staff, said people familiar with the move. Ms. Church, currently the head of communications and public affairs for Google's Canadian division, will start the new job in a couple of weeks.

Ms. Church has been with Google since 2012 and previously served as director of communications to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff while he was leader of the opposition. She also worked on Mr. Ignatieff's leadership campaign.

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It's important for the people at the top of the Heritage Department to recognize there's no longer a separation between digital culture and other culture, said Michael Hennessy, an independent media and communications consultant in Ottawa and former head of the Canadian Media Production Association. "Increasingly, all media that we're really consuming is digital or on digital platforms, so understanding the appropriate intersection of those two things is critical," he said.

In other new hires, people familiar with staff moves said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has hired Brian Bohunicky as his most senior aide.

Also a former senior adviser to Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Bohunicky previously worked as a director-general in the federal departments of Transport and Agriculture. Most recently, he had executive positions with companies Maple Pure Products Inc. and consulting firm Baker Group International, according to his LinkedIn page.

Renée Filiatrault, a public relations professor at Algonquin College, has also moved into Mr. Sajjan's office as director of communications. Ms. Filiatrault is a former ministerial aide and worked on public diplomacy in Afghanistan with the government's Task Force Kandahar.

Another confirmed hire is Rick Theis, who is serving as chief of staff to Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. Mr. Theis worked on issues management for Mr. Trudeau's national campaign.

Ms. Joly, a former consultant, writer, and journalist with CBC, has been one of several cabinet ministers stretched for aides. As of Wednesday, some cabinet offices remained without chiefs of staff, including that of Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, whose portfolio covers the massive Industry Department. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was also without a permanent chief.

Following a number of initial hires, more chief of staff positions are expected to be filled by early next week as ministers hope to have teams in place for the return of House of Commons business on Dec. 3. Several Hill sources said the hiring process has been slow, in part due to ministers' travel, and that their offices are still lacking bodies.

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As cabinet ministers deal with high-profile issues from the Paris climate summit to the Syrian migration crisis, their offices have been relying on the temporary help of public servants, with some bureaucrats stepping in as acting chiefs of staff.

The Prime Minister's Office has been using a "hot list" of preferable hires for Mr. Trudeau's 30-member cabinet, with hiring done in consultation with ministers.

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has hired Geoffroi Montpetit in the chief of staff role. Mr. Montpetit was a senior adviser to then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and most recently worked as director of public affairs for the Canadian Payments Association, according to his LinkedIn profile. The association supports and maintains financial institutions' payment systems.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi has hired as his chief of staff the former executive director of Toronto's Evergreen CityWorks, a group that works on urban sustainable development and green infrastructure. The new aide, John Brodhead, had served as deputy chief of staff to then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty.

Mr. Trudeau's chief of staff Katie Telford and principal secretary Gerald Butts also worked as senior aides in Mr. McGuinty's government. Also in the Prime Minister's Office is director of communications Kate Purchase, the daughter of pollster Bruce Anderson.

A couple of international affairs professors from the University of Ottawa have taken leave to work for the Trudeau government. Roland Paris has become senior adviser to the Prime Minister, according to his LinkedIn page, and Bloomberg reported last week that Robert Asselin, a University of Ottawa professor who worked on Mr. Trudeau's national campaign, has joined Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office as policy adviser.

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Liberal adviser Richard Maksymetz is serving as chief of staff to Mr. Morneau. Sharan Kaur has also joined the office as senior special assistant, according to her LinkedIn profile. Veena Bhullar, who served as Mr. Morneau's campaign director, has also joined the Finance Minister's team.

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