Big turnover in Premier’s communications office.

After staff departures, former Ontario-based political operatives hold two top roles in Alberta Premier’s Office.

Last week it was announced that Jay O’Neill is departing his job as Director Communications under Premier Alison Redford‘s. Although Mr. O’Neill only joined the Premier’s office in late 2011, it is not uncommon for individuals to only fill these types positions for a short period of time.

The Tories were hit with a handful of embarrassing scandals in the closing months of 2012 and were caught unprepared, having to spend the fall sitting of the Assembly playing defence against an aggressive Wildrose Party opposition. The Spring sitting of the Assembly will begin on March 5, 2013.

Premier Alison Redford
Premier Alison Redford

Four other staff left or announced their departures from Premier Redford’s communications office over the past few months, perhaps a result of internal pressure to change direction and take a more aggressive approach towards political communications in 2013.

Tammy Forbes left her job as the Premier’s Communications Liaison Manager to become Chief of Staff to embattled Tourism Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli. Minister Cusanelli faced harsh criticism before the Christmas break when she was forced to repay the government $10,600 for expenses racked up in her first five months in office, including a $4,000 airfare charge to have her daughter and mother fly with her to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom.

Before joining the Premier’s office in 2011, Ms. Forbes was director of communications in the Department of Transportation.

Two other departing staff have jumped from their political jobs to roles in the public service. Tracy Balash has left the Premier’s Communications Office to become the Executive Director of Communications Planning in the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB). As noted in a recent Globe & Mail article, the PAB is in a period of transition after the retirement of Kathy Lazowski, its executive director of strategic communications.

Stefan Baranski
Stefan Baranski

The Premier’s Issues Manager Nikki Booth is now the Acting Issues Manager (Communications) in the Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

Kim Misik, the Premier’s press secretary, also announced that she will be leaving her position.

Social Media Manager Mike Jenkinson remains the longest serving member of the Premier’s team, having started in the office during Ed Stelmach‘s premiership.

The new Director of Communications is Stefan Baranski, who joined the Premier’s office as Director of Strategic Communications in September 2012 after leaving his job with the Toronto-based Counsel Public Affairs firm. In Ontario, he served as senior advisor to PC Party leaders Tim Hudak and John Tory, and Premier Ernie Eves.

Mr. Baranski is not the only former Ontario-based political operative in the Premier’s office. While originally from Alberta, Director of Operations Darren Cunningham is a veteran of Ottawa’s political scene, having served in Chief of Staff and communications roles for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and various Conservative cabinet ministers. He started working for the Premier’s office in June 2012. Another Ottawa insider, Lee Richardson left his job as a Member of Parliament to become the Premier’s Principal Secretary in May 2012.

It is suspected that not all of these vacant positions in the Communications office will be filled. Some sources suggest that the Premier’s office may increase their reliance on consultants from outside political and communications companies to fill the gap.

21 thoughts on “Big turnover in Premier’s communications office.”

  1. Dave Prisco, a young turk from the OPCYA, OPCCA, and now defunct Federal PCYA has been spotted working Comms for Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar.

  2. I’ll step up to get this great province back to business, if they need an adviser, matters not where anyone is from, as long as they know where they are going. Alberta has succumbed, temporarily to the stupidity of other Canadian provinces like BC, and taken on idiots. Idiots in opposition, that care not about the business of the province, only that they get their 19 minutes of fame, you have Rob Anderson pimping for all the things he hates now, but voted for then. We have Shane Saskiw pimping anything that pisses a pimp off as long as there is media exposure, then we have Rutherfords favorite speed dial buddy Dani constantly yodeling about the way the most successful province out of 10 is in terrible shape and only her, along with a cape I’m sure, can save it. Well, I quite enjoy Alberta, the drill programs are ramping up because there is now stability in the oilpatch, we are roaring back to the preE.D. levels because of stability, not stupidity. Beware dopes in opposition clothing, Old Chinese proverb I think..

  3. The CRUCIAL necessity for balancing the budget are replacements for these professional Communications types now jumping ship.
    There is no need for thinking-class hangers-on.
    I would recommend some imports from Saskatchewan rather than from Ontario. Natural resources are unfamiliar to Ontarians as they are to the current crew in government.

  4. Perhaps Redford is taking the show Murphy Brown to heart. My opinion is that Redford is more like the weakest link lady. YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK….GOODBYE

    Wade

  5. Its sad that guys like Fartinsky dont believe in accountable govt that is honest. Fartinsky hopes enough will be stupid enough to fall for the joke. The ire of the People will be something to be dealt with they are getting fed up with the mountain and pile of pee see lies. Fartinsky ascribes to a type of thinking where it should be ok to take voters and people for granted and politicians and bureaucrats and whitecollar transgresssions go unquestioned and unchallenged. Sadly he fails to realize Sask Conservatives got jail sentences for way less than this. We should do what ever it takes to have another party in office. Even if it means all opposition parties form a temporary coalition.

  6. Yes Alex, I am clueless, I realized that long ago. I should’ve been a government worker, or a unionist NDPeer, a University prof, journalist etc you know the ones that know everything, instead I chose the free market system, bought land, started and run 3 companies, stupid am I, why did I not think of Occupy or Glowball Warming or another way to get easy money instead of 40 plus years of hard work Alex. Other than pride, that is what I have, it’s called pride of ownership Alex through hard work with a hardworking wife also, that is something for you metrosexuals or whatever the dork du jours are called this week to contemplate. And Accountable, your leftie heros have a long litany of failure you should aquaint yourself with through a little reading of history, Alberta is successful because of stability of government, we have so far stayed away from clowns like the NDP/Liberal coagulations or whatever governing, sure worked well for Sask and Manitoba and BC having those NDP/Liberals etc didn’t it sore loser.

  7. You need to pick up some literacy skills, bartinsky. You don’t do your fellow conservatives any favours by writing silly screeds like that.

  8. Yes jay I need those skills to do BUSINESS, sorry. I realize this board is full of overeducated taxi drivers and doormen of NDPee/Liberal persuasion and I will “someday” conform and enroll myself into a re-education camp at the “School of Political Correctness” right after I sell out and enjoy all the years of hard work. My fellow conservatives are what gave you, sir, the latitude to be so dull and get by, carry on writing for Move On with your literary skills.

  9. Fartinksky says “Alberta is successful because of stability of government”

    No, I call BS on you. Its because the Dinosaurs and plant life left us lots of oil and crude in the ground. The world needs and we got it. It has nothing to do with politics of this province or the Tories. Even simpleton drunks would have done a better job of saving a few bucks.

    Thank God for the Dinosaurs and the vegetation of the time and millions of years of geological processes. They allow self righteous Archie Bunkers like Fartinsky to shoot off their trap. More mouth than brains. The dinosaurs in their infinite wisdom could not fathom their legacy to be left to morons.

  10. I will now leave this board, all you Beta males are to hard to do business with, I’m sure your hairdressers say the same. Remember though, the success of Alberta has been because of a stable government, not the constant shifts that have plagued the other provinces in Canada. Answer one question, why are you in Alberta? If you came from Ont. or Quebec you Alberta detracters, why? You should have stayed with your beloved Dulton or Pauline, better yet see if there is a vacancy on Victoria Island beside the other malcontents, Alberta is not for you.

  11. Why are dinosaurs usually found 15 to 50 feet under the surface of the earth, wizard? Other provinces have more oil and resources than Alberta, Oh I forgot Sask/Man/BC etc have had those ever successful NDPee/Lieberal governments for the last 60 years, they have been so helpful to their business climates. 60 years ago Alberta Sask and Man had the same 1 million population, today Sask is surging in popuation because of Albertas mini-me Brad Wall, funny how opportunity and a good government creates wealth. Manitoba is still around a million, they seem to love NDPee, and Alberta is around 3.5 million, because of only, dinosaurs you say. Alberta has enjoyed stability for business, E.D. screwed it up temporarily, but it looks like we are back on track, and that drives the” occupy, someone elses bank” account crowd, like you, crazy, hating success and stability is a mental problem that should be addressed. Numbers and math are hard for you NDPee’rs, but embrace them, because they never lie.

  12. I find it difficult to understand why supposedly mature adults call other adults names and act condenscendingly to people who have a different point of view. Grow up, you guys!! If you had to use your real names here, you’d think a little more about what you say.

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