A serendipitously topical bit of advice from Derek Burney, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, delivered during his recent appearance before the Oliphant inquiry:
” … [P]art of the job of the Chief of Staff and the Prime Minister’s office more generally is, to be very frank, to keep peace in the family, to try to mould the differing opinions within caucus on various issues, to try to modulate or moderate the conflicting views of ministers on specific issues. In other words, to reduce the burden on the Prime Minister of conflict resolution.
The Prime Minister’s office at any time is a crisis management office because things are happening that you have no control over and your instincts have to help you get control over issues of the day that you had not contemplated while you are doing the government’s agenda at the same time.”
He does not, alas, appear to have any suggestions for managing crises that the chief of staff has been accused of having created all by himself.
A Conservative party source speaking on background said Harper was in contact with his chief of staff, Guy Giorno, and communications director Kory Teneycke, the officials behind the idea, while he was in Europe last week.
Harper went along with the plan to leak a story that Mulroney had asked to be taken off party lists, the source said. It was later suggested Mulroney’s membership lapsed in 2006. But Mulroney, through a spokesperson, said it was not so: he’d be a Conservative till the day he died.
“He (Harper) knew and he agreed to it,” said the source, referring to plans to leak the original story. “They thought they could differentiate between old Conservatives and new Conservatives, Progressive Conservatives and the Conservative Party of Canada. And of course it’s a ridiculous notion.”
Teneycke, reached last night, declined comment “on any of that” when asked about his, Giorno’s and Harper’s roles in the decision to go public with the Mulroney story. “That all sounds like rumours to me as opposed to fact and I’m not really going to comment. I don’t think this is a major issue.”
A seasoned Hill watcher, who asked to remain anonymous, said the problems in the PMO have come from chief of staff Guy Giorno. “Everybody I talk to points the finger at him,” the source said. “If you look at the Mulroney leak, the economic statement that came out in November, that was Giorno. Here’s a guy that keeps continually bringing the PMO to the precipice of the cliff.” […]
The source said the division could also make the internal Liberal Chrétien-Martin war “look like a picnic” when it’s over. “There’s a meltdown in the PMO,” the source said, adding that the problems could also be the result of inexperience of many of the top staffers. “They’re new to the game.”
It’s also said, however, that nothing happens in the government without the approval of Prime Minister Harper. “That’s the understanding and if that’s the case then he and Giorno can wear this 100 per cent,” the source said.