Memo to the new chief of staff, poor sod

A few words of wisdom for the Prime Minister’s new right-hand man



In the news: Nigel Wright, a prominent Bay Street executive, has been hired to run the Prime Minister’s Office.

Dear Successful Applicant:

Congratulations on being named chief of staff to Stephen Harper. You follow in a line of individuals who have occupied this important position until growing weary of the time commitment and spankings. As a general rule, Mr. Harper does not wish to be spoken to, looked at, thought about, drawn by children or otherwise disturbed—except in the event of a national emergency or the guys from Loverboy wanting to jam.

Before attempting to contact the Prime Minister, therefore, please consult this list of frequently asked questions:

What is the role of chief of staff?
The chief of staff is a critical buffer that shields the Prime Minister from painful ordeals, such as being reminded that his cabinet includes Stockwell Day.

What is my authority as chief of staff?
You have been granted sweeping authority to be slyly assigned with much of the blame for the Prime Minister’s future failings. Also, at staff meetings you get first pick of muffins (a.k.a. the Giorno Directive).

What’s clutching onto my leg?
That’s Tony Clement. He’s been trying to get a private meeting with the Prime Minister since 2007.

What should I do?
Get it off. GET IT OFF!

Where can I find the PMO staffers responsible for communications?
Mr. Harper’s spin team can be found on the first floor of Langevin Block. And on the second floor. And writing editorials for the National Post. There are additional aides stationed on a Canadian Forces transport that is kept airborne at all times to ensure that, in the event of imminent nuclear holocaust, Canadians can be informed that Mr. Harper invited the Barenaked Ladies up to Harrington Lake and it was delightful.

Where can I find the PMO staffers responsible for policy development?
The what now?

What is expected of me as chief of staff?
You are expected to instill discipline, improve legislative efficiency, ensure the government’s survival in a fragile minority . . .

Wow, that’s an awful lot to—
. . . enhance electoral prospects in urban centres, balance the divergent ideologies and priorities of Reformers and Progressive Conservatives and convince Canadians that Mr. Harper has within his chest a beating human heart (his own, preferably, but no one’s a stickler).

Anything else?
Whatever you do, don’t be bad at your job and get criticism or it will reflect poorly on Mr. Harper for hiring you. And whatever else you do, don’t be good at your job and get credit or it will reflect poorly on Mr. Harper when he gets jealous and bites you. There’s also the media: you must at all times keep the media wholly focused on the Prime Minister’s agenda.

How am I supposed to do that?
Whenever reporters start to have thoughts of their own, just send out a minister to claim that Canadian sovereign territory has been infringed upon by a Russian fighter jet, a dangerous Tamil freighter or a Harvard professor with hilarious eyebrows. If you can’t decide which “threat” to go with, there’s a wheel you can spin. (It’s just a matter of time until “expansionist Greenlanders in rowboats” finally comes up.)

I don’t know if I—
Oh, and Peter MacKay likes to challenge new chiefs of staff to a wrestle. It’s just an excuse for him to “accidentally” rip open his shirt.

Yikes. Why was I even picked for this position?
Your job at Onex Corp. was taking damaged assets, sprucing them up and trying to foist them on a skeptical marketplace, right? Same deal here.

One last question: I am suddenly regretting my decision to leave a lucrative Bay Street career where I had authority, money and happiness. What should I do?
I’d love to answer, but I think I hear a Russian jet.