Michael Ignatieff's new office is a blast from the Chrétien past.
New chief of staff Peter Donolo is clearly relying on old friends and colleagues from his years as Jean Chrétien's communications director to help him out. This morning - his first full day on the job - Mr. Donolo called his troops together, introducing these new senior staffers who are part of the re-organization that saw Mr. Ignatieff's inner circle returning to their old lives in Toronto.
With the help of David Zussman, a public policy and governance expert in the capital, Mr. Donolo has also managed to attract some serious francophones, which were lacking in Mr. Ignatieff's previous OLO. Jean Marc Fournier, a former MLA and Quebec cabinet minister from Chateauguay, is the new principal secretary. He also served as a senior adviser to Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
The new director of communications, Mario Laguë, had served in that role briefly in 2004 when Paul Martin was Prime Minister. During Mr. Chrétien's tenure as PM, Mr. Laguë worked as the communications head in the Privy Council Office. He was also Canadian ambassador to Costa Rica.
Mr. Donolo, meanwhile, has made his close friend, Heather Chiasson as the party liaison, providing the link between the party and the OLO. She is an expert at this, having worked in the party for years in various functions. She is originally from Nova Scotia and was a staunch Chrétien supporter, working for deputy prime minister Sheila Copps in 1993.
And then there's Brian Bohunicky, the new director of the Liberal caucus research bureau and senior policy adviser to Mr. Ignatieff. He had worked for Chrétien ministers, Lloyd Axworthy and David Anderson and has been in the public service since 2000.
Former Liberal whip, Karen Redman, who was defeated in the 2008 election, is the caucus liaison, providing the contact between the leader and his MPs. She had represented the Kitchener riding since 1997; she is nominated to run there as the Liberal candidate in the next election.
There is some continuity, however, as several senior Ignatieff aides from the previous office are remaining - Jim Pimblett continues to be Mr. Ignatieff's executive assistant, a job he had done for Mr. Martin. And Sachin Aggarwal, who has been part of the Ignatieff inner circle since his 2006 leadership bid, is the director of operations. Jeremy Broadhurst, who had worked for both Stéphane Dion and Mr. Ignatieff, is the director of legislative affairs.
The full list is here.
(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)
Update Liberals are buzzing about the re-organization in the Opposition Leader's Office. Here's one take on Peter Donolo's re-org from staunch Paul Martin supporter and former two-time Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre, Richard Mahoney:
"Some very, surprisingly strong choices," Mr. Mahoney writes to his friends in an email. "This is a major coup for Ignatieff and Donolo. It has been a long time since a team this well-rounded and senior has worked in the Leader's office."
Mr. Mahoney notes, too, that Mr. Donolo is working hard on bringing back Don Guy. Mr. Guy, former chief of staff to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, had been pegged as Michael Ignatieff's national campaign director but was never confirmed. Mr. Mahoney writes that he stayed awa over "a conflict with Davey," referring to former chief of staff Ian Davey, who was pushed aside for Mr. Donolo.
Despite what Mr. Mahoney says there was never any confirmation or clarity around the allegation that Mr. Guy had left because of conflicts. That being said, Mr. Guy would be a strong addition to the team. He is smart, strategic and savvy when it comes to running campaigns.
Mr. Mahoney, meanwhile, writes that Jean Marc Fournier, the new principal secretary, is "the first serious adult from Quebec on Ignatieff's staff."
About Patricia Sorbara, the OLO's chief operating officer, Mr. Mahoney says she is "not afraid to kick ass."
Executive assistant Jim Pimblett is "unflappable, discreet, works like a dog. Gets the job done and everyone still likes the guy."
About new communications director Mario Lague, he says that he "will work well with Peter". But that he's "shocked he would come back."
Of the new senior policy advisor, Brian Bohunicky, a former Chrétien ministerial staffer and now public servant: "strong choice, surprised he would leave the PS for this. Risky move."