Though recruiting top talent can be difficult for a leader of the fourth party, in an “official position,” Layton will be able to draw on seasoned political staff from past and present NDP governments across the country.
But in the top job, chief of staff, Layton would likely tap his current top aide, Anne McGrath, an Albertan who has brought a steady hand to the office in the past few years and gives such much needed Western bona fides.
Party strategist Brian Topp, executive director of ACTRA Toronto and Globe and Mail contributor, would likely be invited to serve in some senior capacity, his health allowing (like Layton, Topp is living with prostate cancer). Topp has governing experience as deputy chief of staff to former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow.
Relations between the NDP and Robin Sears, ex of Bob Rae’s Ontario government, have warmed recently, so he’s a possible choice for a senior position if willing to leave his consulting job with Navigator. Former MP and past federal secretary Dick Proctor, who is working in the war room, would be asked to emerge from retirement and once more come to the aid of the party.
On the communications side, Layton’s gregarious press spinner Karl Belanger would continue in a similar role, so warm is his relationship with the gargoyles in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Kathleen Monk, who moved from the war room to the leaders’ tour mid-way through the campaign, would be a strong bet to take on a senior comms role.
Watch for Layton to pull in expertise from union economists, possibly Erin Weir with Steelworkers or Jim Stanford of the Canadian Autoworkers. Kevin Dorse, the “socialist banker,” would probably be asked to return from the Credit Union Central of Canada.
Layton may also draw on the knowledge of his former wife, a public servant in Ontario, for help selecting senior bureaucrats to join his office. Matt de Vlieger, former NDP staff economist now in the federal public service, is one name in circulation.
Other troops in contention for key positions: Matt Hebb, who helped run Premier Darrell Dexter’s campaign in Nova Scotia and currently in charge of the party’s “target team,” identifying winnable ridings; Michael Balagus, chief of staff to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger; and Elliott Anderson, a war room vet who famously orchestrated the complaint to the RCMP on income trusts and subsequent release that turned the course of the 2005-06 election.