Jason Kenney's UCP inner circle made up of former Ottawa staffers
'There is a finite pool of political staffers who do from time to time move across the country,' says one
Some key inner-circle Alberta legislature positions filled by United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney were political staffers in Ottawa when Kenney was an MP and cabinet minister.
Those with past connections to Kenney, or former prime minister Stephen Harper, Kenney's former boss, include his chief of staff Nick Koolsbergen, his deputy chief of staff Matt Wolf, UCP caucus outreach manager Dan Williams, and issues management director Peter Csillag.
But in an interview with CBC News, both Koolsbergen and Wolf said many new UCP staffers have roots in western Canada.
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Wolf, who is originally from Saskatchewan, said many conservatives moved to Ottawa to work for Harper.
"There is a finite pool of political staffers who do from time to time move across the country, so it's not surprising that a few of us came back home and moved from federal to provincial," Wolf said.
And after almost 10 years of government under Harper, "there's a great deal of experienced people working there," Wolf added. "So clearly, an aspiring premier would like to tap into experience."
Koolsbergen said the prospect of working again with Kenney brought both men to Alberta. Kenney won the Alberta UCP leadership in October, and coasted to victory in a Calgary-Lougheed byelection in mid-December to gain a legislature seat.
"We are ultimately here because we think he is the best person to really restore Alberta as the economic engine of Canada," Koolsbergen said. "And that's really exciting, personally, for both of us."
Here are some of the key people in the UCP caucus office, some of whom are in Kenney's inner circle:
Nick Koolsbergen, chief of staff::
Koolsbergen is originally from the Niagara region of Ontario, He worked in the prime minister's office in various roles under Harper, including as director of issues management from October 2014 until November 2015. Koolsbergen spent two years as director of issues management with the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party from September 2009 to October 2011. After, he was Kenney's director of communications for a year when Kenney was federal minister of employment and social development.
When the Conservatives were defeated in the October 2015 election, Koolsbergen went to work for the B.C. Liberal government, including a two-month stint as chief of staff to former premier Christy Clark. After the Liberals lost the election last summer and Clark resigned, Kenney asked Koolsbergen to come and work for him in Alberta.
Matt Wolf, deputy chief of staff:
Wolf's resume includes stints working in federal ministerial offices as well as two years as an issues adviser in the PMO under Harper, where he first worked with Kenney. He was also the executive producer of prime time programming with the Sun News Network for four years ending in February 2015.
Wolf says he kept in touch with Kenney over the years. He returned to Alberta in July 2016 to become the director of issues management with Kenney's successful PC leadership campaign, which Kenney won prior to seeking the UCP leadership. Wolf also worked with Kenney's campaign to become UCP leader.
Lianne Bell, director of stakeholder relations:
Bell is one of the Wildrose staffers that survived the purge after Kenney became leader in October. Bell worked in Ottawa a decade ago as an assistant to Peace River, Alta. Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, She also worked in the federal Conservative campaign war room for the 2008 election. Bell has worked in Alberta since 2009, mostly in various roles for the Wildrose Party before it merged with the PCs in July 2017.
Peter Csillag, director of issues management:
Csillag is another UCP staffer who first worked for Kenney in Ottawa. The Calgary native worked for Kenney in three ministries, including a stint as special communications assistant when Kenney was immigration minister starting in June 2012. He then became manager of strategic planning when Kenney was made employment minister in July of 2013. Csillag followed Kenney when he became defence minister in February 2015, appointed as director of issues management and parliamentary affairs.
Csillag also worked for the B.C. Liberals prior to their election loss in the summer of 2016.
Blaise Boehmer, manager of communications and outreach, southern Alberta
Boehmer is probably the best-known of all of Kenney's staffers. He was Kenney's spokesman during the PC and UCP leadership campaigns and is a prominent presence on social media.
Boehmer's roots are in Saskatchewan, where he attended university and later worked with the Saskatchewan Party caucus as director of research and director of operations. Prior to joining Kenney's campaign, he was a senior associate with New West Public Affairs, a Calgary consulting company associated with former Conservative MP Monte Solberg.