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Editor's letter: The elusive millionaire behind Stephen Harper

Nigel Wright, chief of staff for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, gave Conservative Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 so he could repay improper expense claims.


It's been an explosive week politically, from Christy Clark to Mike Duffy to Paul Godfrey. And, of course, Rob Ford, a political cartoonist's lifelong friend.

But of all the names in headlines this week, the one that may have surprised most is Nigel Wright. Mr. Wright, who turns 50 on Saturday, has for decades been a master of avoiding headlines.

So little is known about Mr. Wright that about six months ago we started a reporting effort to help readers understand the most powerful aide in the country. He's behind most major decisions in Canada over the two-and-a-half years since he left his Bay Street job to become chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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Spend any time in Ottawa and you will hear stories about Mr. Wright's reach. He has helped place Harper loyalists in key ministerial offices and holds what some nickname "off-campus" meetings with those aides, to keep tabs on policy and politics.

Mr. Wright is also something of a fixer. If there's a problem – from international trade negotiations to staff troubles – he keeps things on an even keel for the Prime Minister. He is even known to pull strings to get private movie showings for the PM and staffers, including a viewing of Lincoln.

In those ways, Mr. Wright is the best chief of staff many Ottawa-watchers have seen in the PMO for many years. But all that came into question this week with the extraordinary revelation that Mr. Wright, a millionaire many times over, had reached into his pocket to bail out the disgraced Senator Mike Duffy to the tune of $90,000. For the best look yet at Mr. Wright – and why he's nicknamed DPM, or Deputy Prime Minister – read our weekend profile by senior Ottawa writer Steven Chase and get a sneak peek of rare pictures of the elusive chief of staff, exclusive for Globe Unlimited subscribers Friday before they're published for everyone Saturday.

Video pick

It's the long weekend, and barbecues in back yards across the country will be firing up. Here's one way to take grilling beyond burgers.

In Godfrey they no longer trust

Paul Godfrey's ouster at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation was less of a surprise. Senior Ontario officials began whispering to our political staff a couple of weeks ago that they did not see a future for Mr. Godfrey as the OLG chairman.

Premier Kathleen Wynne was furious at compensation levels among OLG's executive, published recently by The Globe. Mr. Godfrey seems to think this is what cost him the OLG job, and even went so far as to say on CBC Radio Friday morning that our coverage was "wrong."

His point: The top 10 positions are not the same as they were in the base year. He's saying people didn't get 49 per cent compensation increases. We're saying a band of executives got that increase. The point is, the OLG is paying a lot more for executive compensation, and that's what matters to taxpayers.

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But more critically, Ms. Wynne and Mr. Godfrey did not see eye-to-eye on casinos, especially when it came to Toronto. Ms. Wynne is not a fan of casinos at all, and would prefer they be away from major centres. Mr. Godfrey, who can't help himself when it comes to selling anything, paid little heed to the change in political winds this winter in Ontario and continued to sell, sell, sell. Now he's out, and the Ontario Liberals may soon wonder if they did the right thing. As Adam Radwanski writes, they have no obvious successor and no clear strategy for gambling.

Until this week, they could at least blame Mr. Godfrey. Now it's Ms. Wynne's problem to wear.

Enjoy the weekend,

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