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Short-staffed Liberals hire chief aides for foreign, health, trade ministers

Simon Doyle

Fred Lu/The Globe and Mai

The Liberal government is starting to fill senior cabinet staffing positions as it grapples with the business of government while operating short-staffed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has hired a number of national campaign workers to serve as chiefs of staff to members of his new cabinet.

Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has hired Brian Clow as chief of staff, Parliament Hill sources confirmed. Mr. Clow was a senior adviser in Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's office before taking leave this summer to work on the Liberals' national election campaign.

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Hill sources said the government has been very short-staffed during the transition, with a lack of employees in cabinet offices as well in as the Prime Minister's Office, where work is being supported by the public service. Mr. Trudeau and his team have created a list of potential hires for chiefs of staff, with many hires expected in the coming days.

Geneviève Hinse, who was working on Quebec public relations for the Liberal Party during the campaign, has been hired as chief of staff to Health Minister Jane Philpott. Prior to that, Ms. Hinse was a communications consultant at National Public Relations and previously worked as an aide in the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest, according to her LinkedIn account.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion's office has hired Julian Ovens as chief of staff, a mining-industry manager who has worked around the world on minerals exploration. Mr. Ovens was most recently the head of potash strategy and development at BHP Billiton in Saskatoon, according to his LinkedIn account.

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc's new chief of staff is Vince MacNeil, who previously worked as chief in the Liberal whip's office.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, meanwhile, has hired Richard Maksymetz as chief of staff. From Alberta, Mr. Maksymetz also worked on the national campaign and is a long-time Liberal organizer for Western Canada.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has hired former clean-energy advocate Marlo Raynolds as her chief of staff. Mr. Raynolds ran for the Liberals in the Alberta riding of Banff-Airdrie but lost to incumbent Conservative MP Blake Richards.

As of Thursday morning, most cabinet ministers' offices included in an online government staff directory did not list a chief of staff. While new people are being added daily, Parliament Hill sources said fewer than 10 chiefs of staff had been finalized so far as hires for Mr. Trudeau's 31-member cabinet. More positions are expected to be filled by the weekend.

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The Prime Minister and his team need this time to make important hiring decisions, said Jacqueline LaRocque, an independent government-relations consultant in Ottawa who earlier in her career worked as an aide in the Liberal government of Paul Martin.

"The choices that Justin and his tight team around him are currently making will help to set the tone and the operations of his government for the next four years, so it's important they get it right. The best thing we could do is afford them the time to do that," Ms. LaRocque said.

Other senior campaign workers will be going to work in the Prime Minister's Office as top advisers, including Jeremy Broadhurst and Cyrus Reporter. Transition-team members Katie Telford and Gerald Butts will continue as senior advisers. Ms. Telford is now chief of staff to the Prime Minister and Mr. Butts is principal secretary.

Further staff could come from Queen's Park given ties to Ms. Wynne's provincial government. Ms. Telford and Mr. Butts both worked as senior aides in former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty's government, and Ms. Wynne's government lent several staff members to Mr. Trudeau's national campaign.

Including MPs' offices, the Liberals need to fill more than an estimated 1,000 positions. That covers its 148 new caucus members, plus another 10 to 20 ministerial staff per cabinet office.

Many younger staff are expected to join Mr. Trudeau's government as several older, more experienced hands go to work in government relations, limiting their career options after government. The federal lobbying rules do not permit consultants to work for government and then enter lobbying jobs.

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The Liberal whip may also help members of Parliament find experienced employees, as has been done in previous years.

Parliament Hill has been busy with the changing of offices, adding to the work faced by Hill employees. Two hundred and fourteen new MPs were elected to Parliament on Oct. 19, and outgoing legislators had 17 calendar days to vacate their offices.

With a report from Daniel Leblanc

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Jennifer Robson, a professor of political management at Carleton University, was expected to head into the office of Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos as chief of staff. Ms. Robson denies she is taking the position.

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