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While continuing to insist he doesn't want an election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made big changes to the top ranks of his campaign team.

Guy Giorno, who mere weeks ago stepped down as Mr. Harper's chief of staff, has been appointed national campaign chair, responsible for crafting and implementing the Conservative Party's election campaign strategy, whenever that campaign comes. Jenni Byrne, the party's director of political operations, will also take on the role of campaign manager.

The two Conservative stalwarts replace Senator Doug Finley, who ran both the 2006 and 2008 election campaigns. Mr. Finley is battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, and since an election could be called in March in the event that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget is defeated, he and the Prime Minister agreed that it was time he stepped down.

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Mr. Giorno has a reputation as an able manager and a fierce partisan, which at times led to missteps - the second prorogation of Parliament, firing former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, cancelling the mandatory long-form census - during his tenure as chief of staff. Partisanship, of course, is what drives a good campaign chair. So is judgment.

Dimitri Soudas, Mr. Harper's director of communications, told a gathering of Parliamentary reporters that the government will focus on law-and-order and free trade legislation, in the weeks leading up to the budget, which will come in March.

There will probably be a vote on the legislation interning refugee claimants who arrive en masse by boat, if only to afford an opportunity to castigate the opposition parties, who will defeat it on the ground it is unconstitutional. The government also wants Parliament to ratify trade agreements with Panama and Jordan.

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About the Author

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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