‘War sto­ries and other lies’

Email ex­change sparks calls for greater clar­ity for role of premier’s chief of staff

Journal Pioneer - - NEWS - BY TERESA WRIGHT

Email ex­changes between two for­mer chiefs of staff to the premier have sparked calls for more clearly de­fined roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the top non-elected po­lit­i­cal job in the prov­ince. The emails, re­leased un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion, de­tail con­ver­sa­tions in 2012 between Chris LeClair and Al­lan Camp­bell.

Both served as chief of staff to for­mer premier Robert Ghiz – LeClair from 2007 to 2011, then Camp­bell from 2011 un­til 2015.

At the time of the email ex­changes, LeClair was work­ing as a con­sul­tant and lob­by­ist with Pol­icy In­tel Inc. and was reg­u­larly email­ing Camp­bell, ask­ing to set up meet­ings to in­tro­duce Camp­bell to var­i­ous busi­ness own­ers or to dis­cuss busi­ness pro­pos­als be­ing pitched to the prov­ince.

One of th­ese pitches was from Rodd Re­sorts, which pro­posed to sell its cot­tages in Crow­bush and Brudenell as well as build other res­i­dences on a pre-sell ba­sis in an ef­fort to pay down its debt to the prov­ince and im­prove its fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity.

LeClair pre­sented this pro­posal to Camp­bell in late May 2012. He also set up a meet­ing in Au­gust 2012 between Camp­bell and a busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive named Keith Laslop, whose back­ground in­cluded work­ing as a di­rec­tor for a Lon­don-based in­ter­ac­tive gam­ing soft­ware de­vel­oper.

In all the ex­changes, Camp­bell read­ily made him­self avail­able for the meet­ings, plan­ning them as part of his govern­ment du­ties. Other emails show the two men set­ting up tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions. In one email, LeClair asked for an up­date on a mat­ter, de­tails of which were redacted, and Camp­bell re­sponded by giv­ing LeClair his Black­berry PIN. The emails were re­leased through a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest by the Op­po­si­tion Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives. Op­po­si­tion MLA Steven My­ers says he found one par­tic­u­lar ex­change es­pe­cially con­cern­ing.

The sub­ject line of the Nov. 13, 2012, email from LeClair to Camp­bell reads: “war sto­ries and other lies.”

In it, LeClair of­fers to get to­gether with Camp­bell to “trade some war sto­ries.”

“The fact is there is no play book for the job of chief of staff,” LeClair writes.

“You make it up as you go along and you never re­ally know what is right or wrong. I spent my first year 1 (sic) try­ing to fig­ure it out.”

LeClair goes on to tell Camp­bell the job is “the most pow­er­ful non-elected po­si­tion in the prov­ince,” and the job of chief of staff is “not named in any reg­u­la­tion, piece of leg­is­la­tion, or­ga­ni­za­tional chart, cabi­net note or any doc­u­ment.”

My­ers says he was “flab­ber­gasted” by this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the po­si­tion.

“Are they ac­tu­ally fol­low­ing a plan or a play­book or is it just guess­work? Be­cause there is a lot of peo­ple’s lives on the line who are re­ally re­liant on govern­ment to help them,” he said.

“I think Is­landers are go­ing to be shocked to read this and to find there is re­ally no play­book.” My­ers is now call­ing for more de­fined roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the premier’s chief of staff.

In re­sponse to a re­quest for com­ment, a spokes­woman for the premier’s of­fice said while she could not com­ment on the in­tent of emails between two for­mer chiefs of staff from five years ago, she as­sured there are in­deed checks and bal­ances in place for the premier’s chief of staff.

“The role is sub­ject to a num­ber of ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency mea­sures, like other se­nior of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing: fil­ing to the ethics and in­tegrity com­mis­sioner, con­flict-of-in­ter­est re­quire­ments, post-em­ploy­ment re­quire­ments, and de­tailed re­lease of ex­penses. All of th­ese were ex­tended un­der the cur­rent govern­ment.”

She added the premier’s chief of staff is seen in most Cana­dian ju­ris­dic­tions as an evo­lu­tion of the tra­di­tional role of prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary.

“I’m sure Steven My­ers knows that po­lit­i­cal of­fices have chiefs of staff – in­clud­ing his own cau­cus of­fice.”

My­ers noted the Op­po­si­tion’s chief of staff is an of­fice man­ager, not a pow­er­ful mem­ber of the premier’s of­fice.

He says more ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures should be put in place for this po­si­tion.

“What­ever that role is should be clearly out­lined as ev­ery other role is in govern­ment, be­cause if in fact it is the most pow­er­ful non-elected job in the prov­ince, there needs to be a dif­fer­ent level of ac­count­abil­ity than even the reg­u­lar pub­lic ser­vice… to en­sure there is some checks and bal­ances in that role,” My­ers said.

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