Last week Prime Minister Harper announced his replacement for departing Chief of Staff, Guy Giorno. The incumbent, Nigel Wright, has been a business executive with the Onex Corp since 1997. His tenure with Onex winds up by October 31st. He will start transitioning in mid November, focusing on party organization and generally immersing himself back into the political world. Expect Guy to be very much in charge until Nigel takes over at the end of the year. Having attended both Harvard Law and Business schools and serving prime minister Mulroney’s policy unit, Nigel comes to this position with serious economic credentials and experience. I expect that his background will shape how he approaches his role. While process and politics will be important, for Nigel good policy will make for good government.
Although Nigel comes from ‘big bad’ Toronto he is no Rosedale Red Tory. In my early years with the party I remember very well the battles that young Tom Long and his protégé Nigel Wright had with ‘Red Tories’. It was great fun! But it also was a prelude to the division of the PC party a decade later when the Reform party came on the scene. It is worth noting that Nigel left the PC party and supported the Canadian Alliance before the merger in 2002. So make no doubt about it, Nigel is a conservative’s conservative!
Unlike most of the conservative academics who surround the Prime Minister, Nigel has actually been in business – not just studied it. While he will be a very ‘blue’ influence on policy, the PMO and the Prime Minister will benefit from his practical understanding of the business world.
Expect a greater understanding and empathy for business representations Nigel will be less paranoid about the influence of Bay Street and big business but will also be wise to the economic consequences of the policies that business promotes. Nigel will not easily be convinced of the merit of a business proposal unless it is backed by solid data.
As the Prime Minister and the government renew the focus of their agenda to Canada’s economic recovery I expect Nigel will be key to keeping the government on track. Look for him to be less interested in partisan diversions that have often derailed the government’s agenda. Nigel will not like the politics of provocation. for him good policy will make for good politics!