Bay Street executive Harper's new chief of staff
Published Friday, September 24, 2010 3:03PM EDT
Stephen Harper has selected a Bay Street lawyer as his next chief of staff, in a move aimed at buoying the government's economic efforts.
Nigel Wright, 47, a managing director of Onex Corp., was expected to be named to the position early next week. But rumours began circulating Thursday night and sources confirmed the appointment on Friday.
"Nigel Wright is a successful business leader," one government source told CTV.ca. "The prime minister recruited Nigel because he has the business and finance experience that is needed to strengthen our plan for job creation and economic growth."
The news comes amid a tough summer for the Conservatives, who have fallen into a statistical tie with the Liberal opposition and face criticism for the cost of holding the G20 Summit in Ontario, and its decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census.
Wright is a Harvard University-trained lawyer who has been with Onex Corp., a capital investment firm, since 1997 and assumed his current position of managing director five years ago.
He previously worked in the Prime Minister's Office as a policy adviser and speech writer for Brian Mulroney.
John Duffy, a public policy strategist active with the Liberal Party, said he was impressed Harper was able to attract someone of Wright's caliber.
"This is a high-grade appointment, it is unusual and it is also a very smart one," Duffy, a University of Toronto classmate of Wright's, told CTV.ca.
"What is unusual about Nigel's appointment is that it has been a long time since somebody with this level of accomplishment in the world outside politics has come into the position of chief of staff."
Wright will assume the position when current Chief of Staff Guy Giorno steps down at the end of the year. Giorno, formerly chief of staff for Mike Harris' Ontario government, has held the position for two years.
It was reported earlier this month that Giorno, who recently became a father for the second time, would be stepping down to spend more time with his family.
Wright is a life-long Conservative who first met Harper during his first leadership run 10 years ago; he was recruited based on his history of restructuring companies for growth. He is credited with the acquisitions of Spirit AeroSystems and Hawker Beechcraft, Inc.
"Having known the guy for a long time, I just have to say he is a tough, very effective opponent. He is also a good guy, and a decent, honourable person," Duffy said.
"Having someone who doesn't come from the partisan jungle of Ottawa in this role might be a signal from the prime minister that he would like to have a little bit less of a jungle-like atmosphere in Ottawa."
CTV parliamentary correspondent Richard Madan said several Conservative insiders say Wright will not be as combative as the outgoing Giorno and could soften the prime minister's image.
"We will see a bit of a change in the direction of the Prime Minster's Office, but what kind of stamp he will put on it -- that is what we are all eager to see," Madan said on CTV News Channel.