Mulcair takes up residence at Stornoway

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair moved into Storonoway, the offical residence for the leader of the Opposition, on Wednesday. The move marks another step in his transition to the job he won almost one month ago.

New NDP leader makes his move into the home of the leader of the Official Opposition

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair moved into Stornoway Wednesday, the official residence of the leader of the Opposition.

Mulcair and his wife, Catherine, were handed the keys to their new home by a representative of the National Capital Commission.

"It's a real honour," Mulcair said as he and Pinhas entered the historic house.

The residence, located in Ottawa's Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood, is not far from Parliament Hill and has been the home to Canada's opposition leaders since 1950. The home was built in 1913 and at one time it housed members of the Dutch royal family who fled their homeland during the Second World War.

Mulcair's move into Stornoway marks another step in his transition to the job he was elected to on March 24 at the NDP's leadership convention in Toronto.

His predecessor, Jack Layton, never really had a chance to live in the residence after he won the historic victory for the NDP last May and he became Opposition leader.

Layton had to step away from his duties mere weeks after the election because he was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. Quebec MP Nycole Turmel assumed the title of interim leader, and continued in that role after Layton died in August, serving until Mulcair won last month.

Turmel, whose Hull-Aylmer riding is across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, did not move into Stornoway, using it only for official functions.

Mulcair, MP for Montreal's Outremont riding, had little time to adjust to his new job after the leadership convention. He was elected on a Saturday night and was in his new seat in the House of Commons on Monday. A few days later, he was reacting to the federal budget, and the following week brought the auditor general's report on the F-35 program which produced plenty of material for the NDP to go on the attack against the government.

The NDP has already produced television ads featuring their new leader, trying to define him before the Conservatives can. But otherwise, Mulcair hasn't set out to make any drastic moves.

Some new faces, changing roles

The day after he was elected, Mulcair said there would be "a cascading transition," and that changes to the Opposition leader's office (OLO) and to the NDP caucus would be phased in over a period of weeks.

Mulcair is expected to shift the critic portfolios around in the coming days, likely before the House of Commons resumes Monday after a two-week break.

British Columbia MP Libby Davies, who supported second-place finisher Brian Topp, is Mulcair's deputy leader. She and Mulcair shared the title under Layton.

Several critic portfolios changed hands during the lengthy leadership race due to senior MPs being focused on their leadership campaigns. Now it's up to Mulcair to reorganize the portfolios.

There will be some new faces joining Mulcair's office. Other existing staff have new titles, and some staff have left to pursue other opportunities.

Here are a few of the names:

  • Raoul Gébert was Mulcair's campaign director for his leadership bid and is his new chief of staff. The 32-year-old is finishing up his PhD in Industrial Relations at the Université de Montreal and will start his job in Ottawa on May 14. He's the former president of Mulcair's Outremont riding association and has worked on numerous NDP campaigns. Layton's chief of staff, Anne McGrath, is helping with the transition and will then leave the office.
  • Chantale Turgeon and Steve Moran are now deputy chiefs of staff. They have both worked for Mulcair on Parliament Hill.
  • Karl Bélanger takes over from Brad Lavigne, who resigned as principal secretary to the NDP leader. Bélanger was the senior press secretary under Layton. Lavigne has left the office.
  • Ian Gillespie, who previously worked in the OLO and was a main strategist on Mulcair's campaign, has a new job as special advisor to Mulcair.
  • Steve Foster is joining the OLO as a senior policy advisor, specializing in social justice issues. Foster and Mulcair were in the same law school class at McGill University. Foster is a retired judge from Ontario's Court of Justice.
  • Karin Fortin has been appointed Mulcair's director of communications. Previously she was the deputy director.
  • Ian Wayne is staying in the office as deputy director of media.
  • George Soule was acting as Nycole Turmel's executive assistant and was a former caucus press secretary and is now Mulcair's press secretary.