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Who is Ray Novak, Harper’s new chief of staff?

Ray Novak

Ray Novak

Who is Ray Novak, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new chief of staff?

The Globe and Mail reports:

– “Mr. Novak worked as a researcher at the National Citizens Coalition when Mr. Harper was the organization’s president, and he moved to Ottawa to serve as his executive assistant when Mr. Harper became the leader of the Canadian Alliance in 2002.”
– “Mr. Novak became like family in the Harper household during their time in opposition, staying in a loft above the garage at Stornoway.”
– “Once Mr. Harper took power in 2006, Mr. Novak stayed by his side and moved up the ranks in the PMO, being named to the number-two position of principal secretary in 2008. He has sat in on bilateral meetings with world leaders and has been the lead on a number of key files, such as evacuating Canadians from Middle East countries during turbulent periods and selecting a new governor-general.”
– “Mr. Novak is specialized in issues dealing with foreign affairs and defence, and will now have to add economic and financial matters to his plate.”

The Canadian Press adds:

– “Honours degree in political science from the University of Western Ontario, master’s degree in political science from the University of Calgary.”
– “Interned in former Reform leader Preston Manning’s office and later for then-Reform MP Rob Anders.”
– “Known as a monarchist.”

And Maclean‘s magazine notes:

– “Originally from the Ottawa Valley, Novak was president of the campus Reform club at Western.”
– “During his post-graduate years at the University of Calgary, he met, among other key players, Tom Flanagan, a professor who would serve as chief of staff to Harper and who led Harper’s Canadian Alliance leadership campaign.”
– “During the G8 and G20 summits, he listened in on the leaders’ meetings and sat in on Harper’s bilateral discussions with individual leaders. …He has ensured the committee charged with advising the Prime Minister on the next governor general was able to go about its quiet work.”
– “He is described as a populist, a monarchist and a libertarian with a sharp anti-Communist streak…”
– “Novak was a finalist in Magna’s ‘If I Were Prime Minister’ essay contest in 2000—his submission called for pension and health care reform…”

On that last point, the Gauntlet adds, “Novak is attentive in how he defines his vision for health care, stressing that it is not privatization. ‘Every person would have a portion of their taxes put into a savings account’, said Novak. ‘And every person would have the same amount put aside.’ Every citizen would then pay for their own health care from this account, with the government providing an insurance policy for those who have ‘catastrophes’ such as heart attacks.”

It should also be noted that the former chief of staff Nigel Wright was investigated by the parliamentary ethics officer for meeting with Barrick Gold officials who were concerned that statements made by the prime minister might damage their ability to get needed permits for the Pascua Lama mine from the Argentine government. At a meeting on May 23, 2012, someone from Barrick met with Wright as well as Novak, then Harper’s principal secretary, and Andrea van Vugt, Harper’s foreign policy adviser.

And yesterday, Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson commented, “(There is a) growing perception that the Conservatives can’t think of anything particularly interesting or important to do. Trade deals aren’t getting signed; pipelines aren’t getting approved; Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s last budget was ho-hum. There is little law and order left to impose. …(Is Novak up to the task of chief of staff, is he) the man to advise the Prime Minister on which cabinet minister should be shuffled where? Can he offer a solid opinion on whether the final terms of the proposed Canada-European Union trade agreement are in Canada’s interest, or whether Mr. Harper should walk away from the deal?”