Too much overtime owed may have saved former PC staffers’ jobs as UCP purged their Wildrose counterparts

Posted on November 03, 2017, 1:38 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Nick Koolsbergen, new chief of staff to United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney. (Photo: Lorian Belanger/Radio-Canada.) Below: UCP Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Wolf (Photo: Linkedin), UCP communications staffer Blaise Boehmer (Photo: Twitter), and Jamie Mozeson, former candidate to succeed Rona Ambrose as MP for Sturgeon River-Parkland (Photo: Jamie Mozeson Campaign).

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney has been known to joke on social media about how his political staffers work so hard it’s lucky they don’t have a union contract with overtime in it.

But according to a little birdie of your blogger’s acquaintance – a canary in a coal mine? – time off in lieu of overtime (TOIL) was one of the principal reasons all but one of the 21 political staffers sacked by the UCP immediately after Mr. Kenney became the leader last Saturday came from the Wildrose Party.

Former Progressive Conservative staffers were not only better paid, the little bird chirped, but since their contracts with the PCs included TOIL, and some of them had accumulated weeks of vacation for time they’ve already worked, it was going to be too expensive to turf them to make way for Mr. Kenney’s higher-paid incoming hires.

So 20 of the 21 skidded this week were former Wildrose Party political staffers, who were paid less and didn’t get TOIL – and were therefore cheaper to fire on both counts.

It was a point of pride among Wildrose Caucus members that none of their political staffers were paid enough to make the provincial “sunshine list” of government employees who earn more than $126,375.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney is bringing in new senior staff – many of whom he knows and trusts from his days in Ottawa and some of whom, like the staffers from other parties, don’t have much connection with Alberta. It will be interesting to see if mainstream media covers this aspect of Mr. Kenney’s political staff with as much enthusiasm as they did NDP political advisors who came from out of province.

It will also be interesting to see if Mr. Kenney’s new hires make next year’s sunshine list, as seems likely.

The new UCP hires include Nick Koolsbergen, late of Ottawa and Victoria, as Mr. Kenney’s chief of staff. Mr. Koolsbergen worked as executive director of communications and research for former B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark, as director of issues management for former prime minister Stephen Harper, and as director of communications in Mr. Kenney’s Ottawa office.

While working for Mr. Harper, the CBC has reported, Mr. Koolsbergen was criticized for contributing to a memorandum asking government staff to develop enemies lists for use by incoming Conservative ministers. The Harper Prime Minister’s Office also faced questions about what Mr. Koolsbergen was up to in 2015 when he was seen in the hall of an Ottawa courthouse dressed in a bunnyhug while engaged in a conversation with a witness in the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.

The list also includes Matt Wolf, of Ottawa and Toronto, as deputy chief of staff. Mr. Wolf was issues management director for Mr. Kenney’s leadership campaign, rapid response advisor of the federal Conservative campaign, and Sun Media executive producer of prime time programming, which included the Ezra Levant Show.

These two are official, as both have now appeared in the Alberta government’s online staff directory.

Other new staffers whose presence has not yet been made official by an appearance in the government’s list of employees but who are reported by folks familiar with the operations of the UCP to have been hired include:

Blaise Boehmer, best known as chief social media attack dog of the Kenney campaign, as manager of the UCP’s Calgary office. He will also likely continue to have a communications role.

Annie Dormuth, formerly of Regina, more recently a Kenney campaign spokesperson, as communications director.

Jamie Mozeson, in the news recently as the unexpectedly defeated frontrunner in the contest to become the Conservative Party of Canada’s Sturgeon River-Parkland by-election candidate to replace former Opposition leader Rona Ambrose. She grew up in Spruce Grove and worked as a policy advisor for Conservative premier Jim Prentice and as an intern in Mr. Harper’s PMO.

Daniel Williams, a former Ottawa aide to Mr. Kenney when he was minister of defence.

Peter Bissonnette, Ottawa legislative aide and data management co-ordinator to Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan MP Garnett Genuis, who like Mr. Kenney is well known as a vocal social conservative.

Andrew Griffin, late of Calgary and Ottawa, a former constituency assistant to Mr. Kenney in his days as MP for Calgary-Midnapore.

The status as UCP employees of the latter six reported new staffers has not yet been confirmed.

Meanwhile, former PC and Wildrose MLAs alike are dealing with the new reality of a party caucus run the Kenney way. The days when they had political staff to help with social media posts and other duties as assigned are now over. If they want that stuff done now, they’re learning, they’re going to have to do it themselves.

This is said to have resulted in a degree of dissatisfaction – always a management problem in a small caucus. Party Whip Ric McIver will have some work to do to lash them into a team.

Meanwhile, I’m told, former Wildrosers who used to complain about how former Opposition leader and unsuccessful UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean controlled their lives are finding that Mr. Kenney takes that inclination to a whole new level.

Write your own questions for Question period? Fuggedaboudit! Here’s your question. Thou shalt read it!

Who knows, before things have settled down, more than one UCP Opposition MLA may wish it had been them who got the marching orders Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney was handed – step aside for the leader or face unpleasant consequences!

19 Comments to: Too much overtime owed may have saved former PC staffers’ jobs as UCP purged their Wildrose counterparts

  1. Harebell

    November 3rd, 2017

    Remember when Conservatives slagged off the NDP for hiring out of Province?
    “What? Are there no worthwhile people in Alberta? How dare Notley import ideologues from outside Alberta?”

    Not only is the UCP hiring staff from outside AB but they ejected a leader who is from Ottawa too.

    They are a bunch of dysfunctional delusional dissonance ridden hypocrites

    • Bob Raynard

      November 3rd, 2017

      I agree. After 44 years of Conservative rule, the NDP could legitimately make the case that Alberta did not have EXPERIENCED political operatives without some kind of Conservative connection. What is Kenney’s excuse?

  2. November 3rd, 2017

    How does the provincial riding of Calgary-Lougheed map against the municipal vote?

    Because it was so recent: Will the municipal results transfer in that riding level in a by-election?

  3. tom in ontario

    November 3rd, 2017

    “Party Whip Ric McIver will have some work to do to lash them into a team.”

    Ric could start by sticking bridles in their mouths, hitching them up like Stampede chuckwagon horses and whipping them around the track at breakneck speed until they collapse from exhaustion. They’ll learn that the supreme leader brooks no backtalk or insolent behaviour and miscreants will undergo the same training exercise again.

  4. jerrymacgp

    November 3rd, 2017

    I note that of the eight staffers you profiled in your piece, all but two are male. I wonder how many of these “boys” will wear short pants …

    • Expat Albertan

      November 3rd, 2017

      I hate to take personal shots, but this Nick Koolsbergen guy looks the classic basement dweller who spends his time as an internet troll.

    • Farmer B

      November 4th, 2017

      Actually, in reading the article I see 3 of the 8 are female. I certainly would agree that it is wrong that his top 2 hires come from out of province.

  5. Death and Gravity

    November 3rd, 2017

    The neo-fascist bully boys come running from all over Canada. I refuse to call these agents of subversion “Conservative”. The media will be just fine with this, I predict. The meme IOKIYR (It’s OK if you’re republican) applies in the Canadian corporate media, I expect we will learn.

  6. J.E. Molnar

    November 3rd, 2017

    Importing conservative sycophants to ratchet-up misinformation and fearmongering to help generate dog whistle politics is right out of the Jason Kenney/Stephen Harper playbook. The turn towards ugly, American-style, Trump-like propaganda to further enhance their electoral prospects will likely be met with resounding disapproval and voter rejection come 2019.

    Hard right, “Back-to-the-Future” conservatism has reached its best before date. The recent Calgary mayoralty race proved that point quite succinctly.

  7. brett

    November 3rd, 2017

    No surpise.

    The only surprise is that they they left one standing.

    This is about command and control.

    Kenney will follow in Harper’s footsteps. Absolute loyalty, no elected UCP member will be permitted to say one word in the Legislature without having those words vetted and approved by the unelected hired help in Kenney’s office.

    • jerrymacgp

      November 5th, 2017

      It’s called “message control”, and as our host well knows, it is an important principle of strategic communications. If it hobbles the autonomy and freedom of speech of members of a party caucus or political staff, IMHO part of the blame can be laid at the feet of the media themselves. Political actors at all levels have learned, often to their peril, of the pitfalls of going “off-message”or putting forward any hint of independent thought. Questions about the speaker’s commitment to the cause—questions about the leader’s effectiveness—hints of a leadership revolt, at times made up out of whole cloth—all of this, and more, has been seen in political coverage over the years.

      In my view, if a political party selects true believers, that is longstanding committed members & activists, as candidates, or as staff, then as long as they stay in line with the broad strokes of party policy (which is, after all, developed by party members themselves), they should be allowed to think for themselves, or even think out loud or speculate or discuss possible alternatives to “established wisdom”, without calling into question their loyalty or their political allegiances.

  8. David

    November 3rd, 2017

    Good news for former Federal Conservative staffers, relief for some former PC staffers and lay offs for some former Wildrose staffers. There was probably no shortage of eager refugees from Mr. Harper’s former Conservative government, as like Mr. Kenney they now see Alberta as their best hope to get back into power. The Ontario PC’s who a year ago who looked like a sure thing to win now seem to have some problems and Premier Wynn while still behind is narrowing the gap and has not given up fighting.

    However, unlike the NDP, who had to initially bring in some senior people from outside of the Province, because the party did not have many people with experience in senior levels of governing, there are a lot of experienced Conservatives in Alberta. Either Kenney didn’t want them or they didn’t want him, or perhaps both in some cases.

    Some of Mr. Kenney’s pals also obviously bet on the wrong horse in the recent BC provincial election, so perhaps they have moved from being political refugees to nomads in search of any good opportunity. I was wondering why Ms. Clark in BC was not a bit more flexible, contrite and less arrogant in her campaign. I wonder if it had something to do with the former Ottawa Conservative advisors who came to help her. They don’t seem to do flexible, or contrite well and they seem to have a touch of arrogance. At least, they should fit in well with Kenney’s approach.

  9. November 3rd, 2017

    I love that you said “bunnyhug.” Are you secretly from Saskatchewan?

    • David Climenhaga

      November 3rd, 2017

      I was born on Vancouver Island. Saskatchewan, however, was “the old country,” whence came my parents to B.C. It’s my mission to ensure “bunnyhug” is universally understood and used by all Canadians to describe the garment in question. (Calin de lapin in Quebec, of course.) DJC

      • K. Larsen

        November 4th, 2017

        Now here in the land of the free between highway two and the Rockies we called them Kangaroo shirts because of the pouch on the front. I know, properly speaking they should have been called Marsupial shirts, but we’re straight talkers out here. Now if I could just get the tongue out of my cheek I could say Calin de lapin.

        • tom in ontario

          November 5th, 2017

          Judging by the vapid looks on the faces the blogger has chosen, decking the four of them in bunnyhugs might make them appear less in need of some TLC.

        • Anne JW

          November 6th, 2017

          And between the Saskatchewan border and Highway 2 (at least my very small corner of that beautiful prairie!), we called them kangaroo jackets.

  10. WorkAdvocat

    November 4th, 2017

    There are two concerns that arise. The appointments are not political staff. The appointments are GOA employees. The overtime is an issue and compliance with the Employment Standards Code is required. Overtime is a protected workplace standard. It can be waived by substituting time off in lieu of overtime and if the workday extends beyond a 12 hour day a special arrangement must be signed by all parties.

    Secondly, Mr Boehmer’s company is entitled Revolver Strategic. Have we not learned our lessons about arms and ammunitions references.

  11. Candace

    November 4th, 2017

    Ever question if these employees were let go for known to be leaking party info?
    I wouldn’t be surprised if every one that was cut loose was for a good reason.

    As for the people he brought in, I can stand with it for be knows these employees, and he doesn’t have to question their ability to get the job done the first time.


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