Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guy Giorono takes the heat, and Rahim Jaffer makes an appearance

Very interesting that stories have appeared from two different media sources telling of internal Conservative dissatisfaction with Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Guy Giorno.

The Conservative caucus rank and file seems to be displeased with the way things have gone in the party of late, from the fiscal update crisis that nearly cost them government to the campaign against Brian Mulroney, and some very concerning polling. He's also being tapped by some as a factor in the departure of Kevin Lynch as head of the Privy Council Office.

First up was this piece from CP:

Depending on what side of the Giorno fence they sit, Conservatives either say he's made the PM's office more open and collegial or else sent the "bunker-like" operation into complete disarray.

His critics inside government and within the party ranks, who spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity, say the former lawyer and Queen's Park operative has alienated a growing number of senior public servants, the powerful lobbying world, party brass and some caucus members.

"It's a question of experience and judgment," said one senior Conservative. "Tact, diplomacy, are all missing."

"He's a smart guy who will actually do work," said one Ontario Conservative. "The problem comes when he has to manage people or he has to make a judgment call."
The Globe and Mail also had a piece:
It has been a long 10 months since the day Guy Giorno won over the Conservative Party's backbench with a rousing speech at its summer conference.

Since then, the government has almost fallen, the party has been split over its relationship with Brian Mulroney, and now the head of the civil service is quitting. Mr. Giorno, Stephen Harper's chief political operative, has become the lightning rod for a lot of it.

About a month or so after taking over as chief of staff of the Prime Minister's Office, the 44-year-old lawyer was given a standing ovation by MPs after promising to open the lines of communication and provide a new respect for backbench MPs. Today, though, that early promise appears to have been replaced by controversy.
Rightly or wrongly, Giorno seems to be the lightning rod for the dissatisfaction within the Conservative camp over the style of the Harper PMO and some of the less than stellar strategic calls it has made.

Is that fair? I don't know what happens in the corridors of Conservative power. But the public angst with Giorno does remind me of a lot of the criticisms many had of Ian Brodie, Harper's last chief of staff. While Giorno's appointment after Brodie left over NAFTA-gate was supposed to signal a new era of political attackdogness from the PMO, within the family it was supposed to herald a new togetherness for the party. Instead, things seem to have come full circle.

I just wonder, at what point do the people who are kvetching about Giorno, and had issues with Brodie, begin to say to themselves maybe it's not Brodie or Giorno, maybe it's Harper? A good CoS does take the heat for the boss, but there is one common denominator here. Could be they're not ready to speak out against Harper yet, even anonymously, and the CoS is a convenient proxy. But there is a heavy sense of deja vu around all these Giorno stories.

And speaking of these stories, interesting to see Rahim Jaffer pop-up:
“You get different perspectives depending on who you talk to, but there are some concerns that some of the things that were said last summer have not been implemented,” said Rahim Jaffer, the former MP who stays in close touch with his colleagues and who acted as the party's caucus chairman at the time.

“I think that there's definitely not the same sort of interaction that a lot of MPs would have hoped.”
Jaffer walks a line with his comments, but interesting to see him as a sort of proxy spokesperson for the caucus faction that has issues with Girono. With the CPC ensuring he won't be able to run for the party nomination in his old riding and with a recently former PMO staffer going for the one open Conservative nomination in Alberta instead, Jaffer clearly has little to fear by going on the record here and being a voice for those in caucus that do still have things to lose.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on Jaffer in the next little while, and see what he has to say. Because as much as some may wish he would, he may not be going gently into that sweet goodnight.

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RuralSandi said...

The real fact is that Harper sets the tone - he blames everyone else when things don't go right.

Harper doesn't take responsability for anything - not leadership material, a weak man.

It won't matter who Harper has, they will get the blame.

Remember, Harper said so himself when he put Sparrow on leave - he sets the tone.

WesternGrit said...

That's Jaffer in Con Blue, but isn't that former Liberal candidate Nicole Martel from Edmonton in the background (in Liberal Red)?

Must be some kind of celebrity event...

Wonder if Rahim would run as an independent?

Robert McClelland said...

Giorno seems to be the lightning rod for the dissatisfactionSurely you mean distraction. I'm absolutely flabbergasted that the Cons are successfully getting everyone to forget about the fact that we're in the midst of the worst recession since the Depression with all of these distractions.