David Alward shakes up senior advisers

Premier David Alward has shaken up his inner circle by bringing new advisers into his office a year out from the provincial election.

Roger Clinch takes over as Alward's chief of staff from Nancy McKay

Premier David Alward announced several changes to his senior advisers on Thursday, hours after a new poll showed his party stuck in a statistical tie with the NDP. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Premier David Alward has shaken up his inner circle by bringing new advisers into his office a year out from the provincial election.

Alward announced late on Thursday that Nancy McKay, his chief of staff, would be leaving his office to take on a new role in the civil service. And Darell Fowlie, the deputy minister responsible for communications in Alward’s office, was returning to the private sector.

The premier announced that Roger Clinch, a former Progressive Conservative MP in the Brian Mulroney government, would take over as his chief of staff and Daniel Allain, the president of NB Liquor, would take on a deputy minister’s position in the premier’s office.

The shake-up inside the premier’s office came on the same day that Corporate Research Associates released a new political poll showing Alward’s Progressive Conservatives stuck in a statistical tie with the NDP and 24 percentage points behind the Liberals in popular support.

The Tories do not have a lot of time to make up that ground. The 2014 election campaign will be in full swing this time next year.

Alward made New Brunswick political history when he defeated Shawn Graham's Liberals in 2010. It was the first time that New Brunswickers did not elect a government to a second term.

The CRA poll also showed only 38 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the Alward government’s performance.

The Halifax-based polling company has never witnessed a provincial government re-elected when that satisfaction level was below 50 per cent.

Deputy ministers moving

While McKay will be leaving the premier’s office, she will not be leaving the bureaucracy.

She is the new deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs and secretary to the policy and priorities committee. The cabinet committee helps set the government’s internal policy agenda.

That position was opened up for McKay when Greg Lutes left to become the deputy minister of tourism, culture and heritage.

Alward also shuffled some of his senior civil servants into new positions.

The departments of Natural Resources, Economic Development and Environment and Local Government all have new deputy ministers.

Those portfolios will be key on three important issues for the Alward government in the next year: job creation, the west-east pipeline and shale gas.

"Creating jobs and strengthening the economy requires the right kind of experience in the right place at the right time," Alward said in a statement on Thursday night.

"I am confident that these changes to the senior ranks of the public service will allow us to continue moving toward our goal of rebuilding New Brunswick."

Judith Keating, the deputy minister of justice, is also leaving her position. She will take on a new position as the chief legal adviser to the premier on aboriginal and intergovernmental affairs and related issues.

Allain's replacement as president of NB Liquor will be chosen by an external search firm.