Team Layton

Joanna Smith looks at the advisors that have surrounded Jack Layton over the last nine years.

That vision, from the beginning, was called “The Project”, says Brad Lavigne, who is now principal secretary to Layton after having served in a number of senior positions. Nine years ago, Lavigne was part of a team that set out to make Layton leader of the federal New Democrats, meeting in his Toronto kitchen on evenings and weekends one summer to reach out to contacts nationwide.

“That was the code name for transforming the party into a modern party with broad support, where we would build the infrastructure of the party so that it could compete and eventually beat the main parties,” says Lavigne. “We understood at the time that this would be a long game. We would realize success if we were to see this as a long-term project and not one that would come within a year or within an election or even two elections, that it would take much more time, and seeing that project through is something that drives me.”

There is a parallel to be drawn here between Mr. Layton’s rise and that of Stephen Harper: think of the roles played by Doug Finley, Patrick Muttart and Ian Brodie and the similar objectives. Even if the formal line-up in the Prime Minister’s Office has understandably changed over the last five years, there remain individuals like Ray Novak and Jenni Byrne, who have served alongside Mr. Harper for years.