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Harper shuffles PMO staff in effort to shake off controversy

Mr. Harper and Mr. Wright pause in the House of Commons foyer following a statement concerning the ongoing crisis in Libya in 2011. “The PM takes Nigel seriously,” says one insider. “He respects Nigel’s intelligence because it’s not ostentatious.”

Jason Ransom/PMO

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is shuffling the ranks of his own office, turning to familiar faces as he tries to move past the Senate spending scandal and begin preparations for the 2015 federal election.

Staffing changes announced internally this week, and confirmed to The Globe by Conservative Party and government sources, have begun to paint a picture of the powerful Prime Minister's Office turning to former staff to fill some vacant positions. Other roles, however, have yet to be filled.

Jenni Byrne, currently director of political operations for the Conservative Party, is moving to the Prime Minister's Office to become a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Harper. She will join Joanne McNamara, another deputy chief of staff to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has had multiple deputy chiefs of staff in the past.

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Ms. Byrne previously served as director of issues management in the PMO and managed the Conservatives' 2011 election campaign, and is known for her partisan style and tight message control. She is expected to keep her volunteer position as the Conservative Party national campaign chair, according to a source – signalling campaign preparations will be a priority for Mr. Harper.

The current director of communications for the Conservative Party, Fred DeLorey, will become the party's new director of political operations, taking over Ms. Byrne's vacated role.

Alykhan Velshi, who previously worked for Jason Kenney while he was Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, takes on a new role in issues management in the Prime Minister's Office. His most recent position was director of strategic planning for the PMO.

Joseph Lavoie, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's former director of strategic communications, recently moved to the Prime Minister's Office to become director of strategic communications. He announced the change on his Twitter profile.

Lanny Cardow will become senior advisor to the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ray Novak. Mr. Cardow previously worked as an executive assistant to Ian Brodie, a former chief of staff to the Prime Minister, but was working in the private sector recently. A source familiar with the staffing changes said Mr. Cardow's position will focus on communications and marketing, and may include market research.

The Prime Minister's director of communications, Andrew MacDougall, announced his departure on August 14. He will join MSLGROUP, a communications firm, and will be based in London. He is due to leave the PMO early next month.

The PMO has also lost press secretary Julie Vaux, who has already left and is moving to Health Canada next month. No replacements have been appointed for either Mr. MacDougall or Ms. Vaux.

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The changes come a few months after the resignation of former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright, who left after it was revealed he'd written a cheque to Senator Mike Duffy to cover housing claims. Mr. Harper then gave the job to Mr. Novak, his longest-serving aide.

Other recent changes include Chris Woodcock's departure from his position as director of issues management last month. RCMP have said in an affidavit Mr. Woodcock was one of three staffers, other than Mr. Wright, who knew of the deal with Mr. Duffy. Another of the three, Benjamin Perrin, also left the PMO earlier this year.

In addition, former PMO staffer Dave Forestell recently left his job as chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver for a position with the Conservative Party, where he is now senior adviser to the leader. In turn, Mr. Woodcock now serves as Mr. Oliver's chief of staff.

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Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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