Ray Novak, Stephen Harper’s gay lover – Principal Secretary in Canada’s PMO – Protégé of Tom Flanagan (U. of Calgary) – Corporate Canada’s Catholic Cabal
Note to readers: Further tips regarding Ray Novak (and, of course, his relationship to and with Stephen Harper, Canada’s current Prime Minister) are welcome at the bottom of this post, in the Comments section. We’re all paying their salaries; we may as well find out what we’re receiving for our money. Thanks! (And do check back for updates.)
Holy smokes… Wherry article that is Conservative-friendly
July 20, 2010 — BC Blue
Aaron Wherry of Maclean’s writes a great profile piece on PM Stephen Harper’s right-hand man Ray Novak here.
July 20, 2010 at 12:13 PM
Readers must be getting bored with Wherry’s juvenile blogs on the long-form census, so he had to throw out a thoughtful piece.
BC Blue says:
July 20, 2010 at 12:25 PM
In another piece, he says that he did a story on Ray during his run for university politics.
Who knows what Harper is really thinking? Ray Novak.
He used to live above Stephen Harper’s garage. Now he may be the second most powerful man in Ottawa.
The class was Political Science 230, an overview of Canadian politics for second-year honours students at the University of Western Ontario, and the professor had just misstated the results of the 1997 federal election, accidentally transposing the seat counts of the Progressive Conservatives (20) and New Democrats (21). One student in the class of 125 interjected to note the mistake. “It’s gutsy to correct a prof,” the professor recalls now, “and I appreciated being called out.” Within a decade, both the professor, Ian Brodie, and the student, Ray Novak, would be members of the Prime Minister’s Office as senior aides to the new prime minister, Stephen Harper.
From that fateful interjection does a minor legend follow. More than a decade after, Novak is one of the most intriguing players in Ottawa, as widely praised by those around the Harper government as he is little known to the public. “If you were building a perfect political aide, you would end up with Ray Novak,” says Jim Armour, a former Harper aide himself. “He’s perhaps a perfect combination of trusted loyalist, strategist, interpreter, and maybe even horse whisperer.” What’s more is how integral he has become to the life and business of Stephen Harper.
Four and a half years into Harper’s reign, Novak has risen to the rank of principal secretary in the PMO, outranked by just the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, and maybe then only in the technical sense. Two weeks ago, as Harper took his place on the world stage at the G8 and G20 summits, Novak was at his side, as he has been for nearly a decade. A week ago, when Harper announced the appointment of a new governor general [David Johnston], it was the culmination of a selection process overseen by the 33-year-old aide. “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,” enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”
In the middle of it all, ensuring the numbers add up, is Ray Novak. “In some respects,” the former member of the PMO says, “he’s the youngest old wise man in Canadian politics.”
Interesting that one man should have so much political influence without ever having to face the electorate.
And all this time I thought HarperCon was having an affair with his stylist and now it turns out it was Ray Ray all along. Will freakin wonders never cease.
– “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,” enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”
– “Ray is the common sense around the table,” says one government official. Adds a former ministerial aide: “He’s one of the least obnoxious people you will ever meet in Ottawa.”
-“Ray will get it done,” says a former member of the PMO. “And he will do so with total discretion.”
Wherry – I read your article last week and thought it was interesting. Had never heard of Novak before your column.
But I was wondering about Maclean’s, or your, policy on granting anonymity to people to provide quotes. I can partly understand why msm protects people’s identity if they have something negative to say and they might get in trouble for saying it but I think it is absurd to allow people to go off record to say Novak is the best bloke ever and that he walks on water.
Great puff piece there, Aaron. When Novak becomes Chief of Staff, I’m sure he’ll return your calls.
I was kind of gaining a respect for this fellow, until I read that he’s good friends with Dimitri Soudas.
Hey has anybody else ever heard that Ray Novak is Harper’s gay lover? Harper’s wife is also gay and currently lives with her lover, an RCMP officer.
I remember Kory Teneycke looking like that when he worked for Harper.
So this guy lived above the garage at Stornoway and ate meals with the Harpers? This a taxpayer expense?
So we have Ray Novak to blame for the jerk we have in the Prime Minister’s office then.
True story: I worked on the Hill years ago – for the Liberals – and I recall walking up to Centre Block from a meeting at Wellington and Metcalfe one day. Chretien and his entourage were just arriving in their vehicles, and I spotted Ray Novak, youthful and bespectacled, standing outside as well. I caught the look on his face as he watched Chretien and other assorted PMO mucky-mucks make their way inside. It was a bit of envy mixed with determination, maybe a bit of longing. But I remembered the look of determination. When I got to my office, I mentioned this to one of my Liberal coworkers. The look on Novak’s face, I told him, said that he was going to get his guy elected PM. My buddy laughed, and said it could never, ever happen. A Canadian Alliance MP as PM? Get real!
I don’t work on the hill anymore.
Saw Chretien with his hand around the throat of Justin Trudeau.
Old habits die hard!
I was startled to read that he regularly works 19-hour days. His photo shows him holding a Blackberry, carrying a coffee, and with dark circles under his eyes. I don’t think I would want to swap lives with him.
I hope that Mr. Harper does not reward his effort and loyalty by wearing him out and then discarding him.
It’s rare for such a one-sided piece to be accurate but in this case it is. Novak really is all that. As a follow-up, Maclean’s should look at the roots of his passion for politics – I remember him as a grade school student delivering passionate speeches at the Canadian Legion on topics like Canadian Unity.
Yep, sounds like Ray all right 🙂 He works so hard he doesn’t even want to talk to Maclean’s to be in the limelight, that tells you something. I’m grateful to have met and known Ray in high school. He is loyal, kind, very smart, humble (doesn’t hit you with his smart-ness!), insightful, conscientious, ambitious. I wish you all the best Ray!
Wherry nails it with this article on Ray Novak. Ray is not only the the nicest guy you will ever meet in politics, he is also the most competent.
This is by far the most interesting and informative Wherry piece I’ve seen. I had no idea there was such a persona in Harper’s inner circle, and not just “inner circle” but by the sounds of it almost the other half of Harper’s brain.
Very interesting. Well done.
Ray Novak is Harper’s gay lover. Harper’s wife is a lesbian and is having an affair with an RCMP officer.
I’m glad to be able to read more about the enigmatic Mr. Novak.
He was always a sweetheart and a gentleman when I encountered him – I couldn’t say anything bad about him if I were hard pressed.
I’ve met Novak through non-political circles, and I’m always surprised he manages to stay in the shadows when the likes of Soudas and The Sparrow are always in the spotlight.
Because Soudas and Sparrow’s jobs are in communications, therefore, necessarily involves talking to the media, and the public, a little.
Novak’s job doesn’t involve any of that.
It’s interesting how prevalent the “BARACK OBAMA IS A COMMIE!” types have become, that I groaned at first when I read the anti-communist bit.
I’m sure he’s a very personable, well behaved fellow.
By Aaron Wherry – Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 11:13 AM
Here, from last week’s edition of the magazine, is a profile of Ray Novak, the Prime Minister’s largely unknown, but decidedly important, right-hand man.
A decade ago, Ray was a fastidious young student politician at Western. At approximately the same time, I was becoming an overly serious young student journalist for The Gazette. I would have, if memory serves, peripherally covered his campaign for student council president. The Gazette editorial board — of which I was a member — endorsed his campaign (overly earnest headline: ‘Winds of change’), our considerable influence apparently just enough to help Ray to a second-place finish.
Of those who would covered that campaign closely, one (John Intini) is a senior editor at this magazine, another (Nina Chiarelli) is now director of communications for Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl. Here is the story from election night — Ray is pictured at top, hiding his disappointment behind a garish shirt. The student to his left, Paul Hong, is now director of policy for Lawrence Cannon.
Beyond The Commons: Aaron Wherry covers all the goings-on in and around Parliament Hill. Follow Aaron on Twitter: @aaronwherry
Welcome to London (-on-the-Thames), Ontario:
Source: The Gazette (University of Western Ontario)
February 2, 2000
USC needs a watchdog
By Nina Chiarelli
Sharp shootin’ buckeroo and fourth-year political science student Ray Novak said he is running an issue-based presidential campaign so students know he is serious about tackling the issues which affect them.
“This year I’m going to be pushing very hard for a zero increase in student fees,” Novak said. “We cannot continue to raise our student fees and then at the same time, raise our fists in indignation at administration because they’re raising our tuition. It’s just not credible.”
Novak added he would like to see a freeze on student fees, so the University Students’ Council could then move towards targeted cuts. He explained the creation of a USC internal audit committee would help determine where cuts could be made. “I’ve looked into this and it already exists at some other [university student] councils.”
Novak explained the audit committee would act as an internal watchdog and consist of council members, the VP-finance and be chaired by a student-at-large. “[It would] analyze things, take a fee, look at it and call in the people that are dealing with that money. I think it’s very crucial.”
One of the things the proposed audit committee would tackle are non-academic fees, Novak said.
“A major concern I have is non-academic fees. With Western, we face this sort of creep, with fees beyond tuition,” he said.
Novak said he has looked into the three separate fees paid to daycares at Western and stressed the importance of using the USC’s student services committee.
“The student services committee may have been under utilized in the past,” he said. Novak explained the committee has the power to block increases in ancillary fees or propose decreases. “That’s a tool that needs to be used.”
A second tool Novak feels would be of good use is ambition. “If something’s being discussed that I don’t agree with, then I’m not going to just raise my placard and go home. I’m going to follow through with issues,” he said.
Source: The Gazette
(University of Western Ontario)
February 11, 2000
Close but no USC cigar
CLOSE, YET SO FAR. Above Ray Novak discussed the results with attendees, while Dave Brebner and Mitch Chiba shared a moment.
Candidates who came up with the short end of the stick in last night’s University Students’ Council presidential election accepted their defeat with a grain of salt.
“If I didn’t win, I wanted [Dave] Braun to win,” said Dave Brebner, first-year honours business administration student, who said he now planned on running for the position of USC VP-finance.
Jeff Brown, a third-year English student, said he also felt happy for Braun in his victory. Although he decided against running for a VP position, he was satisfied with his effort. “Anything you really want to do takes hard work. Nothing can fall right into your lap. If you want something bad, you need to plan ahead and be dedicated.”
Fourth-year honours kinesiology student Mitch Chiba said he was satisfied with the results of the election. “The results are great. I respect Dave Braun and I think he will do an excellent job,” he said.
Chiba said he was unsure of whether or not he would run for a VP spot. “I’m going to have to sit down for a week and think about a number of things.”
Third-year political science student Fraser Connell was unavailable for comment.
Neil Kapoor, a fourth-year Administrative and Commercial Studies student, said he had some regrets about his campaign, but he looked at the experience as a valuable one. “I wish I’d have run a different style campaign, but I think this was a learning experience and hindsight is 20/20.”
He added he learned a great deal about the mechanics of the USC elections from the experience. He added he was unsure of his USC future. “I’m going to sit down and talk to our newly elected president and see if I can be a valuable member to the group.”
Fourth-year political science student Ray Novak said he was disappointed with the final result, but had no regrets about his campaign. “It’s hard to beat the establishment,” he said after his second place finish. Novak added he hoped a number of the issues which were debated during the campaign would be looked into by the incoming president. He said he would not run for a VP position.
Like Novak, second-year biology student Luke Petrykowski, said he was disappointed with the results. “I think it showed that students want to continue with what’s been going on for years,” he said, adding he had no interest in running for a VP position.
He said if given the chance to run again, he would tone down his approach. “I’d try to be a little less passionate,” he said.
Taylor Pressey, a fourth-year political science student, said he was content to have been a part of the democratic process on campus. “I’m not going to kid myself, I was very happy to be able to participate,” he said.
Although he finished last out of the 10 candidates, he said the final tally sat fine with him. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” he said.
“I’m disappointed by tonight,” said Jeff Sutton, a fourth-year ACS student. Sutton said he spent $1,100 on his campaign which would have been reimbursed if he had won 10 per cent of the student vote.
Sutton said he wanted to commend Braun and Novak for also running admirable campaigns. “Dave’s a great guy. If Dave Braun wants me on his team, then I’d be more than happy to run for another position.”
–Gazette Elections Team
Active Student Politician
University of Western Ontario
University of Calgary
Honours degree, Political Science
University of Western Ontario
Ray Novak is an active student politician at the University of Western Ontario, where he recently completed an Honours degree in Political Science. This spring he placed second out of ten candidates in the election for University Students’ Council President. Prior to that he served as a Social Science Councillor, and was the President of the UWO chapter of a major political party. Ray is attending the University of Calgary for an MA in Political Science in the fall. Ray’s vision for recapturing Canada’s future focuses on innovation, discourse, and freedom.
Who inspires you?
“I am inspired by the values in F.A. Von Hayek’s philosophical book The Road to Serfdom, which is filled with classical liberal and liberating ideas regarding social issues.”
“The As Prime Minister Awards program is an unparalleled forum which empowers young Canadians from all walks of life to ponder the challenges facing Canada and offer their own unique solutions. I thoroughly value the intriguing people I have met through the program. It has brought concerned young Canadians together to affirm their stake in this great country.”
IF I HAD $10,000 DOLLARS: Besides paying off his student loan, Ray Novak has big plans for healthcare.
Credit: The Gauntlet
If I Were Prime Minister
U of C student Ray Novak is a contest finalist
by: Rob South
Ray Novak’s vision of a Canadian government with less control over health care and the Canada Pension Plan won him $10,000. The University of Calgary masters student is one of 10 finalists in the 2000 As Prime Minister Awards, a contest that challenges students from across the country to develop their best ideas on how to improve the country.
“It is a neat contest because you write the essay and if you get to the next step it’s all about how you present your ideas,” said an at-ease Novak.
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 puts the incentive back into the system,” said Novak. “As a consumer, the doctor has more incentive to meet your needs.”
Novak’s system for improving the Canada Pension Plan would work on much the same premise as his vision for health care. Citizens’ required pension payments would be put into a private bank account with a series of regulations about how the money can be invested.
“You would not be able to buy stock in Bre-X or anything,” said Novak. “You would mostly be limited to things such as Treasury bills.”
According to Novak, Chile adopted a similar type of program several years ago and it has been quite successful.
“The rate of return [on investment] in Chile is about 10 per cent,” said Novak. “Whereas here it is very grim for youth, three to four per cent at best.”
Interestingly enough, Novak does not plan to invest his winnings from the contest.
“It neatly covers my Ontario student loan,” explained Novak, who did his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario.
The winner of the As Prime Minister Awards will be announced in an Ottawa ceremony on Nov. 8.
Two Western finalists in ‘As PM’ contest
Friday, October 13, 2000
Two Western alumni have made it to the finals in the As Prime Minister Awards competition.
Prabhu Hariharan and Ray Novak have each won a $10,000 cash prize and a four-month internship with Magna International Inc., valued at $12,000.
The program asks students from across Canada to submit their response to the question: “If you were Prime Minister of Canada, what would you do to improve living standards and unite the country?”
In addition to the cash prize, each of them will have their essay published in the 2000 edition of At Stake: “As Prime Minister, I Would…” book. The book will be launched Nov. 8 at a Chapters bookstore in Ottawa.
Hariharan graduated with a bachelor of science degree in genetics and is currently a student at the Richard Ivey School of Business. Novak is a political science graduate from Western and is currently working on a master’s degree in political science from the University of Calgary.
Two other notable contestants from Western include Joshua Morgan, a political science and economics student, and Nicole Nelson, an English literature and physiology student. Morgan and Nelson were among 50 semi-finalists in the contest. They each received $500 and a trip to Toronto during the judging week.
Hariharan and Novak are among eleven finalists hoping to become the national winner. The national winner, to be announced Nov. 8, will receive an additional $10,000 in cash and a one-year paid internship at Magna International Inc., valued at $36,000.
Big Government 101: Canada’s future state planners are honing their skills at a campus near you
By Ray Novak
Deficit financing, debt servicing payments, tax increases, subsidized monopolies, interventionist social programs, and government cronyism – a nightmare from not-so distant Canadian political history? In fact, for today’s university students this grim scenario is a familiar reality.
University students in Canada are suffering from a chronic case of parasitic big government. Not only must students labour under the weight of federal, provincial, and municipal administrations, they must also contend with a dizzying array of entrenched student-run bureaucracy. From umbrella students unions, to faculty councils, independent residence councils and a myriad of paid lobby groups, students have no shortage of ‘leaders’ who self-righteously claim to speak on their behalf. The simple fact is, university students are the most over-governed demographic in Canadian society today.
These student ‘governments’ have moved well beyond their traditional roles of keeping an eye on administration, planning the odd keg party, and generally trying to make newcomers feel at home. The student unions of today hire full time salaried managers, run their own monopolistic corporations, pay lobbyists to communicate with other levels of government, repeatedly run budget deficits, and of course, tax their citizens freely to pay for it all. The state planners of tomorrow have indeed found a lucrative niche in which to hone their skills.
This scandal is perpetrated year after year because these organizations have the power to levy taxes in the form of annual ‘student fees’ that must be paid along with tuition. Most students are taken for anywhere between $50 and $350 a year depending on the institution.  The total haul for a student government at a large university can be four or five million dollars in a single year , a figure that does not include income from sources beyond base student fees.
With this money, student unions embark on a variety of different adventures. A popular option is to subsidize perpetually money-losing student-run businesses. This practice tends to drive away competition and leave students to pay for deficits racked up in the name of interventionist economics.
Student unions also pour money into social spending. At the University of Western Ontario, my alma mater, students are hit with not one, but two separate levies to subsidize different daycare facilities. At the same institution a mandatory bus-pass was initiated, forcing students to cough up $96 a year whether they needed the pass or not. After complaining to officials that I didn’t want the pass (because after three years of university I finally had access to a vehicle) I was told that since I had a car, I could obviously afford to help pay for everyone else’s transport to school as well. Little had I realized that a rickety ten year old sedan would suffice for membership in the bourgeoisie.
Financing narrow political agendas with money expropriated from others, a practice popular at the highest levels of Canadian politics, is also prevalent on campuses. For instance, tens of thousands of Canadian students are forced to pay fees to the notorious Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a radically left-wing lobby group.  Boasting affiliates such as the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and the American Steelworkers Union, the CFS campaigns for ‘free’ tuition and helps send students rioting against the World Trade Organization, among other equally dubious causes.
But isn’t all of this just democracy in action? Student governments are, after all, elected. Well, barely anyway. Student union elections last spring at the University of Calgary witnessed a whopping 14% voter turn-out. Typical turn-out ranges anywhere between 5% and 25% of eligible voters. These levels of apathy are not surprising given the high stress atmosphere and high population turn-over rate that is the university norm.
Indeed, who can fault the poor first year student who, in his haste to purchase the correct textbook and find the right classroom, doesn’t have time to slap the grubby hands of a greedy student union away from his pockets? University students, distracted with the challenges of succeeding at post-secondary education, have become the unsuspecting victims of parasitism on a massive scale.
It is time to blow the whistle on the organized thievery taking place at the hands of campus big governments. Students should have the power to withhold fees, and student unions should be forced to balance their books. Perhaps bloated student governments can be starved into accountability.
With shockingly weak mandates from their citizens, many of these organizations have come to resemble little more than student juntas run by the well connected few, rather than democratic governments with a reasonable claim to levy taxes. Canadian university students need to reclaim their voices and their dollars, and tell the state planners of tomorrow to train somewhere else.
 Non-academic fees paid by undergraduates at the University of Western Ontario exceed this ranging, at more than $400 for the 2001-2002 academic year.
 For instance, the 2001-2002 UWO student council budget forecasts over $8 million in gross student fees, with a net $2.5 million remaining after transfers out.
 I was forced to become a member of the CFS after a referendum last spring among graduate students at the University of Calgary that saw only 14% voter turnout.
Ray Novak is a graduate student in the Department of Political Science, at the University of Calgary.
Canadian Student Review (published by The Fraser Institute) – Vol. 10, No. 4: December 2001
Ray♥Novak, the guardian at the PM’s door. [source]
Ray Novak, a man rarely spotted on the Ottawa social circuit. [source]
Ray Novak, who is Harper’s point man on government-to-government relations. [source]
Ray Novak: A committed monarchist who’s said to have driven the decision to put “royal” back. [see article below]
Source: The Hill Times
All’s quiet in the OLO on Parliament Hill
By PACO FRANCOLI
Published: Monday, 04/08/2002 12:00 am EDT
[…] Also tagging along with Mr. Harper as he makes his way to Ottawa will be Ray Novak. The 25-year-old graduate student, who acted as an assistant to Mr. Harper during the leadership race, is expected to become the new leader’s executive assistant in the OLO.
Novak’s young, staunchly conservative and on a serious roll
Stephen Harper’s executive assistant, Ray Novak, won’t be sitting on the sidelines when the party talks policy
By PACO FRANCOLI
Published: Monday, 05/20/2002 12:00 am EDT
Not too many 25-year-olds can boast to have the ear of the leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Canada, but as Stephen Harper‘s new executive assistant, that’s exactly the position Ray Novak finds himself in.
The bespectacled man, currently on leave from the University of Calgary where he is pursuing grad studies, shouldn’t be all that surprised about his elevated status. His boss, after all, is known for surrounding himself with brainy, academic types for whom ideas and policies come first and politics a distant second.
Indeed, Mr. Novak fits neatly into Mr. Harper’s inner circle, one that includes such luminaries as Tom Flanagan. The University of Calgary politics professor and longtime Reform-Alliance adviser is himself on leave from his academic duties. He took over as Mr. Harper’s director of operations this month.
Mr. Novak is enrolled as a grad student in the same department where Mr. Flanagan teaches; previous to that, he earned a bachelor’s at the equally conservative political science department at Western University in London, Ont. As an undergrad, he was the university’s Reform Club president.
Like Mr. Flanagan, Mr. Novak is a committed neo-conservative and there is strong reason to believe he won’t be a passive observer when the party’s brain trust gets together to talk policy. It was his intellect which initially got him close to Mr. Harper in the first place. His thesis adviser at the University of Calgary, Rainer Knopff, introduced the two last year when Mr. Harper was still head of the National Citizens Coalition, a right-wing think-tank based in Calgary.
Mr. Novak worked on a research project called, “Partisan Report.” It was a sort of “voter’s guide” detailing where each party stands and votes on various issues, said Mr. Novak in a phone interview last week the day after Mr. Harper’s byelection win.
The assignment reinforced the young man’s long-standing position that the Tories are conservative only in theory.
“A lot of people would argue that the Alliance and Tories are 95 per cent similar,” he said. “I would argue, when you look at their Parliamentary performance alone, that there’s quite a gap there. It might mean that the upper echelons of the party might hold quite different ideological views on basic issues. That’s very pronounced in the House.”
Last fall, the Ottawa Valley native, who’s only 25, took the opportunity to air his findings in local newspapers. “On almost every bill involving major public spending, the chasm between the Alliance and the PC positions is striking,” he wrote in an opinion piece published by the Calgary Herald last November, adding: “Both the Alliance and the PCs defend their principles with eloquence during these debates. But they are fundamentally different principles.”
The article reads like a clarion call to Alliance members who think their party should unite with the Tories because they share similar concerns.
Mr. Novak has also echoed his boss’ hardline on appealing to soft-nationalists in Quebec. As an undergrad, he wrote a pointed letter to the editor of his school’s newspaper condemning then-Tory-leader Jean Charest and his caucus for not voting for the Calgary Declaration, a tool to building national unity. He accused Mr. Charest of “knowingly tolerating Quebec separatists within his own party.”
This view is consistent with Mr. Harper’s position on Quebec, which is to try to make inroads by remaining staunchly federalist. The new leader made it clear after the Alliance’s convention in Edmonton that he won’t kowtow to sovereigntists or separatists for votes.
“My position on that is clear: We have to be a federalist alternative and that’s the direction I intend to take this party,” Mr. Harper told reporters.
That the Reform-Alliance contends all provinces were created equal is what initially attracted Mr. Novak to the Western-based political movement. He joined the party as a high school student back in 1995, during the last Quebec referendum, and was active on the youth front. In the 1997 federal election, he hopped on the Reform youth bus which toured 30 ridings in 30 days.
“That remains an interesting difference between the two parties,” he said. “There is a wide chasm there and I’m firmly on the side that the other provinces must be granted equality.”
Since those heady days, Mr. Novak has refined his philosophical views somewhat. First and foremost, he said he’s a Libertarian. Last summer he spent 10 weeks at the [Koch brothers-financed] Institute of Humane Studies, an organization in Washington, D.C., that espouses Libertarian values and places individual freedom at a premium.
He used those same Libertarian views to build his case when he applied for the prestigious As Prime Minister Award — a yearly contest for students requiring them to write a 2,500 essay on what they would do if they were Prime Minister. He was one of the ten finalists in 2000 but failed to win the top prize. The program is supported by the Magna for Canada Scholarship Fund. He indicated that he draws inspiration from the Austrian philosopher F.A. von Hayek, a well-regarded defender of the free market among neo-conservatives in the U.S. and Canada.
“I am inspired by the values in F.A. von Hayek’s philosophical book The Road to Serfdom, which is filled with classical liberal and liberating ideas regarding social issues,” he wrote as part of his profile which is posted on the award’s website.
Although Mr. Novak is obviously an ideas-man, he said he’s not just interested in public policy. For two successive summers, he worked on the Hill as an intern for the Canadian Alliance, one year as part of the party’s communications war room and the other with Alberta MP Rob Anders, a staunch supporter of Mr. Harper’s who did a lot of door-to-door campaigning for the new leader during the recent byelection race in Calgary Southwest.
In fact, Mr. Novak is looking forward to putting his studies behind him. This summer he plans to steal away from the Hill to finish his master’s thesis on Parliamentary reform. It focuses on the role debate in the House plays in shaping policy.
“Obviously, it doesn’t play as much of a role as it could or should,” he said.
Ray Novak, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister
By MARK BOURRIE
Published: Monday, 03/05/2012 3:13 pm EST
A powerful workhorse, Ray Novak is officially the second-most important person in the PMO. A committed monarchist, he’s the guy to blame for putting the “Royal” back into the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Mr. Novak when the young Conservative was hired to do research for the National Citizens Coalition. He had cut his teeth as a researcher with the Fraser Institute. Mr. Novak has survived in a revolving-door PMO and has the Prime Minister’s ear. In fact, Novak has more influence than most Cabinet ministers and PMO staffers. Traditionally, principal secretaries have been the Prime Minister’s political assistant.
Mr. Novak has handled some of the PMO’s trickier political files, including the allegations against former Tory Cabinet minister Helena Guergis. After last fall’s honeymoon period and the upcoming fights over federal cuts, expect a tightening of the team in the Langevin Block as top staffers put in late nights.
A look at Harper’s Inner Circle
By F. ABBAS RANA
Published: Monday, 01/23/2006 12:00 am EST
Ray Novak: Mr. Novak, who is in his late-20s, is Mr. Harper’s executive assistant and shadows his boss all the time. He came to Ottawa to occupy his current position in 2002 after Mr. Harper was elected as the leader of the now defunct Alliance Party.
Carolyn Stewart-Olsen: Although some members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery think she’s a bit too protective of her boss, Ms. Stewart-Olsen is an integral part of Mr. Harper’s inner circle. Recognized even by her critics as a staunch Harper loyalist, Ms. Stewart-Olsen and Mr. Novak are known as Mr. Harper’s gatekeepers.
12th Annual Terrific 25 Staffers Survey
By LAURA RYCKEWAERT, JAMES GRIGG
Published: Monday, 07/09/2012 12:00 am EDT
Raymond Novak, principal secretary to the Prime Minister who was voted to the No. 4 spot, is Mr. Harper’s longest-serving staffer. Mr. Novak began working for Mr. Harper as an assistant during his Canadian Alliance leadership bid in 2001. When Mr. Harper became Official Opposition leader in 2004, Mr. Novak reportedly lived in a small loft above the detached garage at Stornoway. Mr. Novak was also voted the No. 2 staffer in both the Most Access to PMO/Cabinet and Most Influence categories.
“Ray has become not only a senior-most adviser, but also a mentor to many within the organization. He is respected through and through – with good cause,” said Yaroslav Baran, a former Conservative staffer who has worked closely with Mr. Novak and who is now a principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group.
The 25 most important people in Ottawa
The Maclean’s 2012 power list
10: Ray Novak
Rarely has a prime minister shown so little interest in surrounding himself with people he’s grown to trust. None of the political aides and advisers thought to be close to Harper from before he won power in 2006 remains in his PMO – except for Ray Novak.
Starting out as Harper’s executive assistant in opposition way back in 2001, Novak basically carried the boss’s bags. Now, he carries some of the government’s most weighty responsibilities and delicate duties. As Harper’s principal secretary, he is, among other things, the key point of contact for foreign governments and provincial premiers. As well, Novak is the guy Harper trusts most to advise him on where he should travel and when.
He is rivalled inside the PMO only by Nigel Wright. While the chief of staff might have more to do with managing the day-to-day affairs of government, the principal secretary manages the moment-to-moment movements of the PM. And there’s history to consider. How to assess the fact that Novak once lived, when Harper was Opposition leader, above the garage at Stornoway? In a regime where personal attachments rarely add up to power, Novak is the standout exception.
Team Harper Leadership and the RCMP: They’re not the Royal Canadian Media Police, guys.
At least we now know which member of the PM’s entourage was responsible for siccing the Mounties on the media in Surrey earlier this week:
“Keep them out,” Harper aide Ray Novak shouted at the RCMP security detail as journalists approached Dona Cadman.
CTV’s Rosemary Thompson was literally yanked aside by one Mountie as she approached the retreating group – which did not include the prime minister.
Ray Novak is, of course, the PM’s executive assistant Principal Secretary – although it’s not clear whether he is currently working on the campaign – like, as a political staffer – or in his official capacity. All ministers – including the PM – are allowed to have one exempt staffer travel with them during an election, at taxpayer expense, whose job is to stay in touch with the minister’s office — even during an election, a minister is still a minister, with all the accompanying ministerial responsibilities. So is Novak on the plane to liase with Langevin on the PM’s behalf? We’ll let you know when we hear back from the campaign. If he is, presumably he was only acting out of concern for the Prime Minister’s personal safety – although since Harper had already left the building, it’s difficult to see how he would have been in danger, given that the marauding media were armed only with pointed questions for Dona Cadman. [More here.]
Source: Toronto Star
PM draws on monarchists in hunt for next Gov. Gen.
Published on Monday, June 28, 2010
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Ardent monarchists close to Stephen Harper are helping to pick the next Governor General, who is likely to be more of a Buckingham booster than recent representatives of the Queen, insiders say.
Conservative sources say Ray Novak, the prime minister’s principal secretary, and Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen, have been involved in the search. They say both men are strong supporters of Canada’s links to the monarchy.
“Only a few people in government care about it, but they care about it fiercely,” said one source.
Harper’s office has been canvassing widely not just on who should be the next Governor General, but also on what makes for a good one. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff revealed that even he was approached for his view.
An announcement on Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean’s replacement could come as early as this week, during the Queen’s visit.
The guessing game is already in full swing. Some Tories are betting on a famous athlete, others a respected military man or someone with ties to the North — all backgrounds that gel with Harper’s interests, and the government’s policies.
“It would be somebody to compliment the government’s approach, and has an understanding of that relationship (with the monarchy),” said one senior Conservative.
Tories note that there has been a feeling by some in government that Rideau Hall has sometimes forgotten its place within this constitutional monarchy.
That debate was laid bare last fall, when the Prime Minister’s Office and the Office of the Governor General butted heads over Michaelle Jean’s characterization of herself in a speech as Canada’s head of state. In fact, Jean is the representative of the head of state — the Queen. Her website was subsequently changed to better reflect that reality.
MacLeod’s appointment by Harper to the full-time role of secretary to the Queen last year was seen by some as a balance to the power of Rideau Hall. The job hadn’t always been filled by previous governments.
MacLeod, from Cape Breton, was once chief of protocol in the Department of Canadian Heritage, and managed royal visits through the 1980s and 1990s. He wrote a book through the department about Canada’s relationship with the monarchy, “Crown of Maples.”
“That was a huge move to restore the relationship (with the Queen),” a source said of MacLeod’s appointment.
Harper himself is said to have a “profound respect” for the monarchy as a student of the Canadian system of government. And respect for the monarchy fits with the Conservative view of the Canadian identity.
His office put out a series of media talking points to Conservatives on Monday about the Queen’s visit.
“Esteemed throughout Canada and around the world, her majesty not only plays an important role as Canada’s head of state, she is an enduring symbol of the history and traditions which help to bind Canadians together from coast to coast to coast,” the internal memo reads.
But Tories are also careful to emphasize that Harper did not have a bad relationship with Jean. On the contrary, they say, the two get along very well.
Jean did not stand in Harper’s way when twice in the past two years he approached her to prorogue Parliament.
Former Harper adviser Tom Flanagan, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, said Jean and her predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson, exceeded Conservative expectations.
“Part of the job is to be commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces, and both women have shown some genuine interest in that,” said Flanagan.
“They did not meddle in government. Conservatives would naturally be a little suspicious because of the Liberal tradition of appointing CBC journalists, but really I think people seem to rise above their backgrounds when they get in that job and carry out their responsibilities.”
Source: Toronto Life
June 29, 2010
Canada has ardent monarchists? Yep, and they are helping the PM choose the GG
Through most of Canadian history, the Governor General has basically been a non-entity. That’s changed with the last two GGs, thanks to a series of minority governments and constitutional brinksmanship. So it’s no surprise that Stephen Harper is taking the search for Michäelle Jean’s replacement seriously. What is surprising is that so is the small coterie of ardent Canadian monarchists. Conservative sources say Ray Novak, the prime minister’s principal secretary, and Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen, have been involved in the search. They say both men are strong supporters of Canada’s links to the monarchy. “Only a few people in government care about it, but they care about it fiercely,” one source told the CP.
It’s a relief that only a few people in government care about this kind of thing — or so might say most citizens. A recent poll showed that 49 per cent of Canadians have a negative association with the word “monarchy.”
The prime minister could save everyone some time and energy by staying with the traditional pick: a CBC broadcaster. Rick Mercer turned down Sun TV, but for the chance to be the guy who accepts Harper’s eventual resignation, we think he might reconsider.
• Tight circle of monarchists helping Harper pick next Governor General [Winnipeg Free Press]
• Canadians lukewarm on monarchy: poll [Montreal Gazette]
Le rebranding de l’année: l’État canadien
La monarchie britannique s’est immiscée partout au pays en 2011 sous le règne de Harper
31 décembre 2011 | Hélène Buzzetti | Le Devoir
[…] On dit que le moteur de cette transformation [du Canada en État régalien] se nomme Ray Novak, le secrétaire principal et ami de Stephen Harper. Ray Novak est si proche qu’il a habité au-dessus du garage de Stornoway, la résidence officielle du chef de l’opposition, pendant les quatre années où les Harper y résidaient, partageant souvent leur table. M. Novak est un farouche monarchiste, dit-on. À Ray Novak, pour avoir remporté le prix du rebranding de l’année 2011, il faut donc dire «Chapeau!» À moins que ce ne soit «Couronne!»…
South Park Royal Wedding (Canada) [rude]
“As is, of course, the tradition. What a wonderful day for Canada – and therefore of course, the world.”
Harper’s single white males
Paul Wells takes an inside look at where the power really lies in Ottawa
For a loner, Stephen Harper works surprisingly well with others. The Prime Minister won his job by earning the loyalty of the old Reform party even though he used to be Preston Manning’s most persistent internal critic. He ended a decade’s rivalry with the Progressive Conservatives after doing more than almost anyone to fuel the rivalry.
He has wooed former Liberals into his caucus, sent New Democrat Gary Doer to Washington as Canada’s ambassador, and even put the occasional former Bloc Québécois member on the government payroll. No premier except Newfoundland’s now-retired Danny Williams has seen any political profit in antagonizing him. Harper drives his political opponents so crazy that it’s less frequently noticed how often he makes allies.
But the flip side of that coin is that his alliances rarely last. He hardly talks to former advisers like Tom Flanagan. He is on his fourth chief of staff, sixth communications director, and fifth foreign minister since he became Prime Minister. Jean Chrétien kept Eddie Goldenberg at his side for nearly 40 years. Paul Martin kept his 1990 Liberal leadership team around him until the day he retired. Harper‘s team is like George Washington‘s axe in the old joke, its blade replaced three times and its handle 26. All that remains is the ability to chop down opponents.
So the Harper team we are telling you about this week is this week’s Harper team, or this season‘s. It reflects the political landscape, the boss’s agenda and personality, and the kind of year the Conservatives think they will have. But for this crucial time in Harper‘s career, when he enjoys a firmer grasp on power than ever before, here‘s the starting lineup.
The first man on our list, Nigel Wright, is new to Ottawa and the spotlight. The Harvard-educated lawyer and Bay Street business executive is Harper’s chief of staff. He replaced Guy Giorno on Jan. 1, then stepped back again, taking a secondary role during the spring election campaign. Wright runs the Prime Minister‘s Office and, with the odd phone call, will yank the steering wheel in any minister’s office that needs it. Harper retains much of his fondness for governing from the centre, so Wright matters because he is now running the centre.
The other three are cabinet ministers. That in itself is new: interviews with several senior Conservatives suggest Harper‘s PMO is already less overbearing than the versions that endured constant minority government uncertainty, and that at least a few ministers have more latitude to take strong initiatives.
The oldest of the ministerial trio is just 43, and Jason Kenney is also the likeliest to charge into a fight like a bull. The minister of citizenship and immigration has already picked a fight this year with Amnesty International over his plan to enlist the public‘s help in identifying and rounding up fugitives suspected of hiding in Canada from their alleged past behaviour as war criminals. He fancies himself the guardian of small-c conservative orthodoxy in the Harper government, and the autonomy he enjoys within Harper‘s government has no match.
John Baird, 42, doesn‘t want autonomy. Since he moved to federal politics from a career in Ontario‘s legislature in 2006, he has promoted himself, in public and in private, as Stephen Harper‘s fiercest defender. “There‘s nobody more loyal,“ one adviser to a Conservative cabinet minister said on condition of anonymity. “He will dive into any controversy, no matter how ugly, and defend the PM down the line. That‘s been noticed.“ Now, after stints as environment minister and government House leader, Baird has the job his friends say he long coveted: foreign minister for a Prime Minister who increasingly sees foreign affairs as an area where this government can make a mark.
The youngest of the quartet we‘ve selected faces a balancing act. James Moore, 35, is the heritage minister, which puts him in charge of institutions (the CBC) and activities (dancing in public) some Conservatives aren‘t sure they like. Moore is a committed advocate for the arts. His Canadian movie nights have become a regular highlight of the Ottawa social calendar, and he‘s planning to expand the concept with songwriters‘ circles, but that only shows that one of his most skeptical audiences is the caucus he sits with in the Centre Block.
The four men contrast in their styles and priorities, but they also have a few things in common. All four are bachelors, which means only that they can devote truly extraordinary amounts of time to their roles. Moore flies home to B.C. every weekend and, as lead political minister for a province that has increasingly become a Conservative bastion, logs a lot of road time up and down the coast.
Kenney left the Conservative war room in this spring’s campaign after spending three campaigns helping to run the joint, in part because it was impractical to hope he would ever match a campaign‘s rise-and-shine schedule. Kenney is a champion night owl, rarely up before 11 a.m., but often sending emails to colleagues long past 4 a.m.
Which means Kenney usually gets to bed at about the same time Nigel Wright is hitting the pavement for a morning run that often covers the length of a half-marathon. “Driven“ is the adjective most often used to describe Wright, along with “modest.” “He could be sitting in that chair over there,“ the Conservative ministerial staffer said, “and you wouldn‘t notice him.“ Together, Kenney the night owl and Wright the morning runner ensure essentially round-the-clock alertness for this government, as though it were outsourcing part of its workload each night to India.
This is not the same as saying Harper has a firm policy of hiring only armies of bachelors to do his bidding. His previous communications director, Dimitri Soudas, and his wife had three children during his nine years on Harper’s staff; he made a point of resigning in time to walk his daughter Georgia to her first day of school on Sept. 6. Young Conservative staffers have, on balance, been likelier to marry off and start families at a young age than their Liberal predecessors a decade earlier.
But infinite flexibility and a bottomless appetite for work do help one get ahead in Harper’s Ottawa. Both will be needed this autumn and in the years ahead. Nobody is entirely sure how the new majority government will change things, but no Conservative is expecting a free ride.
“A majority government does not mean easy sailing for our government,” Moore wrote in an exchange of emails with Maclean’s. “We have an ambitious official Opposition, a smaller but experienced Liberal party, a base that expects results, and the general public who is anxious about the economy.”
Harper made it clear during the campaign that he needs to balance the budget, though he was relentlessly unclear about how he’ll do it. “Choices will be made that won’t be popular to some,” Moore wrote, “so ministers will have to know their files, defend their choices, and communicate our decisions.”
The main forum for those choices will be the little-understood cabinet committee structure of the Harper government. In a conscious decision to reduce the procedural confusion that characterized Paul Martin’s tenure as prime minister, Harper cut the number of cabinet committees drastically in 2006. Two central steering committees, operations and priorities and planning, control most of the business. At first only four policy committees met occasionally to feed ideas and proposals to the central committees. Now there are six.
Only four ministers – Kenney, Moore, Transportation Minister Denis Lebel and the government’s Senate den mother, Marjory LeBreton – sit on both the operations and the priorities and planning committees. The full cabinet almost never meets. So if you want to find power in Harper’s Ottawa, read those committee lists.
The operations committee meets on Mondays. It’s for crisis management and hot topics. It is also where parliamentary strategy and the government’s public communications plans are discussed. In fact, one staffer said the PMO communications director often makes suggestions on communications plans to “ops,” which then decides whether to proceed as the nominal communications boss wants. It was the ops committee that met during the 2008 coalition crisis to figure out how Harper should handle the most dangerous threat he has yet faced to his hold on power.
Traditionally in Conservative governments, the deputy prime minister has been chairman of ops. Harper doesn’t designate deputy prime ministers, but he made Jim Prentice his ops chair from 2006 to 2010. Now that Prentice has left Ottawa to be a vice-president at CIBC, the new ops chair is Jason Kenney.
Priorities and planning, the so-called P&P, meets on Tuesdays, with the Prime Minister at the head of the table and LeBreton to his right. It tries to take a longer view. Its 13 members, several sources said, constitute “the real cabinet.”
It’s a mark of Harper’s governing style that even at this level of functional microcosm, he maintains a certain balance among the Conservative movement’s constituent factions. The de facto deputy prime minister is Jason Kenney, one of Ottawa’s most ardent social conservatives. But Moore, who has repeatedly voted to support same-sex marriage and who snubs SunTV News for the CBC, is cast as a near-equal. LeBreton, a Brian Mulroney appointee who used to send reporters long emails detailing Harper’s shortcomings when she and he belonged to different parties, is always on hand to temper the youngsters’ enthusiasms with the lessons of experience.
Wright has been chief of staff for less than a year, and since April a series of interruptions has kept him from putting a clear imprint on the PMO. But many of the people he works with expect his PMO to be a less dominant force in Conservatives’ lives than its predecessors.
Harper’s first chief of staff, Ian Brodie [who has been a political science professor at the University of Western Ontario, where Ray Novak studied], was a long-standing friend of the PM’s who imposed strict message discipline on the entire government, often telephoning MPs directly to warn them when they were getting out of line. His successor, Guy Giorno, gave the government a more sharply partisan edge and maintained firm control as the government weathered the partly self-inflicted coalition crisis, the global economic upheaval of 2008-09, and the massive spending stimulus that followed.
Giorno’s record speaks for itself. When he was done he chaired the campaign that won Harper a majority. But Conservatives now recall the extraordinary attention he sometimes devoted, perhaps to blow off steam as much as anything else, to trivial details like staffers’ job titles. Wright, by contrast, “has more of a sense of what’s important and really needs his involvement. He has a vision of where the country should be in 2015.”
Wright was managing director of Onex Corporation before coming to Ottawa. His business background and the svelte figure he cuts in a tailored suit have led many observers to assume he’s an old-style Bay Street Tory with no particular interest in social matters. Big mistake. “He’s an Anglo-Catholic,” one former Hill staffer notes. “There’s a certain cabal in our government of Vatican II rejectionist Catholics,” which includes, but isn’t limited to, Kenney and much of his own ministerial staff. [Is the implied alternative that we’re all supposed to genuflect to a cabal of Vatican II affirmationist Catholics?]
“Let’s put it this way,” the former staffer said. “Nigel is not going to pick up the phone and berate a minister for being too right-wing. That will never happen.”
But this can be stated more generally. Many Conservatives expect Wright to spend less time berating ministers for anything. Indeed, a lot of the strong personalities who shaped Harper’s early years have gone from the PMO. The list includes Patrick Muttart, his most important electoral strategist; communications kingpins Soudas and Kory Teneycke; Jenni Byrne, who used to be in charge of “issues management” (putting out fires).
In their place are “pleasant people who don’t really push hard,” the former staffer said, including policy director Rachel Curran and Harper’s principal spokesman, Andrew MacDougall. The heat of minority-government combat made some of the old crew into household names, at least in Ottawa’s geekier households. “Now, most cabinet ministers wouldn’t recognize these names,” the former staffer said.
Probably some of the PM’s current staff, including his soft-spoken chief, will discover iron in them that few suspected as the government navigates the next half-dozen crises. But in the meantime, a calmer centre means new opportunity for “the boldness of an individual minister really sinking his teeth into a file,” as one source put it. Kenney, Moore and Baird have some of Ottawa’s sharpest teeth. [And grossest guts?] It will ensure they make their mark.
Well, probably. “Our focus will continue to be on the economy,” Moore said. “However, we’re always mindful of what Harold Macmillan said when asked what the greatest challenge is for a prime minister: ‘Events, my dear boy, events.'”
Five more who matter
Of course, even for someone who plays things as close as Stephen Harper, it takes more than a team of four to run a government. Here are a few others to watch in Ottawa.
Marjory LeBreton: She knows what a government can get away with and when it must move boldly.
Tony Clement: He wanted to be liked. Now he’s head of Treasury with a mandate to cut.
Ray Novak: A committed monarchist who’s said to have driven the decision to put “royal” back.
Diane Finley: Minister plays key role in policies that appeal to parents and drive leftists crazy.
Denis Lebel: Transport Minister enjoys more low-key influence than more well-known Quebecers.
Air India inquiry a ‘personal project’ for Harper and principal secretary
Ottawa — The Globe and Mail
Last updated Monday, Sep. 10 2012, 1:14 PM EDT
An untold story in the Prime Minister’s Office has been that of Ray Novak, the young principal secretary, who has been working quietly as Stephen Harper’s “envoy” to the Air India families.
He has made sure that the Prime Minister went to all of the annual memorials of the deadly terrorist attack. He has pushed hard for a high-profile national monument and pressed, too, for a formal inquiry.
So he should take some satisfaction today when the Prime Minister meets with the families and the report is released.
Mr. Novak, who has been with the Prime Minister since the Canadian Alliance days, has been engaged in the Air India file since then, according to former long-time Harper chief of staff Ian Brodie.
Mr. Brodie, who is working in Washington now at the Inter-American Development Bank, says that Mr. Novak has been “the long-time activist in the Conservative Party for the inquiry.”
Bespectacled and serious, Mr. Novak stays very much in the background. He is not well known to Canadians but has the ear of the Prime Minister.
He knows the stories of the families and the victims; he knows the details of the existing memorials.
But not just for Mr. Novak, Mr. Brodie said this is also an important day for the Prime Minister.
“This has been a long-time personal project for Stephen Harper,” says the former chief of staff. “It speaks to all his core concerns and motivations for going into politics – a horrific, terrorist attack on innocent civilians, compounded by colossal government incompetence and followed by a long refusal by Canadian governments to confront the issue squarely.
“We all hope the report brings some sense of justice to the families and to all Canadians who remember the attack 25 years ago.”
In Memory of Vlastimil Novak 1939 – 2009
Life Story for Vlastimil Novak
Vlastimil R. Novak
Passed away at the Pembroke Regional Hospital following a long illness on Sunday February 8, 2009 at the age of 69 years. Vlastimil Novak of Golden Lake, beloved husband of Susan Novak (nee Canham) and loved father of Raymond Novak of Ottawa. A refugee from communist Czechoslovakia, Vlasta arrived in Canada in 1968. He worked as an engineer and a teacher, and enjoyed numerous adventures around the world, including many return visits to his now free homeland, the Czech Republic. Along the way, Vlasta enriched the lives of those he met with his spirit and his generosity, and he demonstrated by courageous example how to live fully and with dignity despite a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Respecting Vlastimil’s wishes, cremation has taken place with internment at a later date. Donations to the Parkinson’s Society or the Marianhill McCloskey Centre [founded in 1954 by the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception; sponsored since 1997 by the Catholic Health Corporation of Ontario (CHCO)] in Pembroke would be appreciated by the family. Arrangements in care of the MURPHY FUNERAL HOME, Pembroke.
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division
“The Queen Is Dead” – The Smiths
Is this Calgarian our next PM?
By the Calgary Herald
June 19, 2004
Inside the covers of a 1978 yearbook for Richview Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke, Ont., 19-year-old Stephen Harper penned words he would live by.
“Good luck,” Harper wrote to high school buddy Raymond Zenkovich in his meticulous handwriting. “I’ll see you on the election trail.”
Twenty-six years later, millions of Canadians are watching Harper on the campaign trail as he strives to become the country’s 22nd prime minister. If polls are to be believed, he has a 50-50 shot of winning the June 28 election.
It’s been a remarkable transition from teenage political junkie in suburban Toronto, to neophyte policy adviser in an upstart Prairie movement, to leader of the Official Opposition on Parliament Hill.
But the final destination, possibly breaking the Liberals’ 11-year lock on power, surprises even those who witnessed his interest in politics bloom.
“He wasn’t what I would call one of the opinion leaders in high school,” recalls classmate John Tait.
Yet, the casual remarks written in a high school yearbook provide an early glimpse into teenage ambition.
While other youngsters in the late ’70s partied, Harper joined friends at young Liberal meetings — an unlikely starting point for a man who’s now become synonymous with Canada’s new conservative ideals.
And at 45, he still considers a night in front of PBS’s The McLaughlin Group — “TV’s original political talkfest” — time well spent.
The journey from basement political meetings to the House of Commons doesn’t mean Harper openly longed to be a Parliament Hill lifer.
“I certainly don’t intend to be a career politician,” Harper told reporters in March 1996, as he contemplated whether to seek a second term as a Reform party MP.
In fact, those who know him best say if he ever dreamt of becoming Prime Minister, he never mentioned it.
“Does a guy go out and run for a party 16 years ago that had no opportunity to elect members?” asks Robert Harper, his younger brother and campaign director.
“That’s not the route one usually takes … being prime minister isn’t what it’s about.”
Friends say Harper resorted to public life in order to advocate his libertarian ideals and, if elected, to overhaul government based on the small-c conservative principles of lower taxes, smaller government and fiscal responsibility.
Harper, who carefully guards his private life, declined to be interviewed for this article and rarely talks about himself, preferring to discuss policy.
But friends and colleagues say he isn’t the enigma the press makes him out to be.
Harper’s life in Alberta, where he has lived since graduating high school, is remarkably ordinary for a man who could, potentially, be unpacking at 24 Sussex Drive, the elegant Prime Minister’s residence. He lives with his wife, Laureen Teskey, and their two children in Tuscany, a new suburban community on Calgary’s northwestern fringe.
The Harpers own a grey-stucco home that, predictably, has a Conservative election sign planted on the front lawn.
“They’re very down to earth,” offers Anne McCauley, a friend and neighbor.
Harper’s friends say he’s a sports fan who enjoys organizing hockey pools. He also likes Chinese food, something he made a staple during his bachelor days in Calgary, and bakes a mean pizza.
His one-time fiancee, Cynthia Williams, says Harper loved the Beatles and books. “He read anything he could get his hands on,” she says.
The couple split because they wanted different things, she says.
Williams, who introduced Harper to Laureen, described her ex as inherently shy, counter to the A-type personality that Ottawa typically attracts.
Behind the curtain, however, Harper has an ego like most political leaders, according to Reform Party founder Preston Manning, who worked closely with his young protege for years.
“There’s a certain presumption in saying ‘I know the direction to go and follow me,'” says Manning. “On the other hand, I don’t think he has an ego to the extent that it is dangerously overblown.”
Born in Toronto on April 30, 1959, Stephen Harper is the oldest of three boys. His mother Margaret, a homemaker, lives in Calgary. Her husband, Joe, was a chartered accountant who died last year.
Family friend Gordon Shaw worked with Joe Harper at Imperial Oil and remembers the Harpers as intensely private people who didn’t relish attending large company parties put on by Canada’s biggest oil company.
Their eldest son attended Richview Collegiate Institute, a public high school in a tony area of ultra-conservative Etobicoke.
Friends found Harper reserved and thoughtful, a strong student.
“He wasn’t the coolest, wackiest kid in class,” says Zenkovich, a Toronto real estate developer.
Harper, the class valedictorian, graduated from high school with honours. According to his words in the Richview yearbook, he planned to go to the University of Toronto to study commerce and then law. Instead, he moved West for a job in Edmonton before enrolling at the University of Calgary in 1981.
His younger brothers, Robert and Grant, followed in their father’s footsteps and became chartered accountants. Stephen studied economics and obtained a master’s degree.
“One of (Stephen’s) funniest lines is, ‘I didn’t have the personality to become an accountant, so I became an economist,'” says former Reform-Alliance MP Deborah Grey, who Harper once worked for as a legislative assistant.
Upon starting his masters thesis, Harper asked one of his professors which classic economic texts he could read in his spare time.
“The prof said, ‘I’ll let you in on a secret, Stephen. No one really reads that stuff,'” says John Weissenberger, a long-time friend.
Undaunted, Harper read the books anyway, according to Weissenberger.
His master’s thesis examined whether incumbent governments spent money to buy votes as elections neared.
“I thought that maybe we could have persuaded him to become an academic,” says Frank Atkins, a U of C economics professor. “But he was very clear where his sympathies were.”
By that time, Harper was chief policy adviser for Manning’s Reform Party.
In the early 1980s, Harper began dating Cynthia Williams, now an advertising writer and producer at Calgary’s A-Channel.
Even in his college days, he shunned big parties and opted instead for watching movies with friends. While never the life of the party, Harper was a “great boyfriend,” she says.
After the couple parted, Williams introduced Harper to Laureen, who was struck with the young policy wonk after seeing him speak at a 1991 Reform Party convention in Saskatoon.
The couple married in 1993, the year Harper first won a seat in the House of Commons. They have two children, Ben, 8, and Rachel, 5.
Like Harper, Laureen shuns the spotlight. Media access has been limited to observing her from afar during the campaign. But those among the Ottawa press gallery view Laureen as funny and one reporter went as far as to describe her as “cool” — good cool.
While Harper has been accused of being standoffish, the same can’t be said for Laureen, who door knocks on her husband’s behalf.
“She’s the likeable one,” Harper acknowledged as he opened his campaign office last month in Calgary. “We’re trying our best to be warm and fuzzy, but I can’t outclass my wife in that category.”
After moving to Alberta, it didn’t take long for Harper to become enamoured with Calgary’s conservative tradition.
In the 1980s, the city was battered by gyrating oil prices, and Pierre Trudeau’s reviled National Energy Program set most of the province against the federal Liberals.
Jim Hawkes, the Conservative MP for Calgary West, was impressed with Harper’s volunteer work during the 1984 federal election campaign and hired the young student as his parliamentary assistant in Ottawa.
The job was Harper’s first political post, but after a year he fled Ottawa, later referring to those days as: “my tortured political past.”
Like other disillusioned Western Canadians, he abandoned the Progressive Conservatives. Harper complained that Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney pandered to Quebec, while denying the West its long-awaited Senate reform.
“The Mulroney government has failed to change the basic direction of the country or make the West a full partner in Confederation,” Harper said. But he soon found a new object for his political affections, the Reform Party.
Colleagues say he was drawn in by talk of transforming government. At Reform’s founding assembly in Winnipeg in October 1987, Harper gave an address, called Achieving Economic Justice.
As fire-brand speeches go, it left a lot to be desired. Oddly, people who were about to leave the convention returned to the room, pulling their friends along, says Gordon Shaw, a family friend and Reformer.
“He was under 30 at that point and he gave this speech that just had the crowd on their feet,” says Shaw.
Harper became the party’s chief policy officer, a key adviser to Manning. Within a year, Harper was convinced to run in the 1988 federal election under the Reform banner, against his one-time boss, Jim Hawkes.
“Anyone with ability was expected to carry the flag,” says Manning.
The battle against Hawkes was hardly a political slugfest, with both men friendly towards the other, and Harper came second to Hawkes in Calgary West.
Reform placed second in nine Alberta ridings that year, and Harper’s political ambition began to show.
“Unless some of the Tory MPs change their style of representation, we could be a very big threat next time,” Harper predicted after the loss.
Harper proved the truth of those words four years later, beating out Hawkes and capturing a seat as a Reform MP in Calgary West.
Arriving on Parliament Hill with 51 other new Reformers that year, he played the part of the reluctant outsider. “I’ve never thought of myself as a politician. Obviously I am now,” he said.
He wasn’t in Ottawa for long, before encountering some of the frustrations that had left him disillusioned years earlier.
One year into his term, Harper had an ugly blowout with Manning. The younger politician, along with a handful of other MPs, publicly criticized the leader’s $31,000 expense account.
He might have held the high moral ground — reasoning that Reform couldn’t attack other politicians’ spending without accounting for its expenses — but the move was politically naive. The Reform Party’s executive council struck back, circulating a stinging memo expressing “disappointment” with Harper who, in turn, wasn’t apologetic.
“What transpired here has put us in an embarrassing situation, and it shouldn’t happen,” Harper told reporters.
By 1996, now in his mid-30s, the Calgary MP hinted he wanted to spend more time with Laureen, who was pregnant with his oldest child, Ben. In October, he practically snuck off Parliament Hill and announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
From the House of Commons, Harper headed to the National Citizens Coalition, a lobby group that promotes “more freedom through less government.”
At the NCC, he mounted a highly-publicized legal challenge of the so-called election gag law that restricted how much money non-political organizations could spend on election advertising.
During drawn-out policy sessions, Harper would sometimes break into an impression of Joe Clark or Jean Chretien. His Chretien accent was so bang-on, “it was scary,” says Gerry Nicholls, NCC’s vice president.
His new career was going well — the gag law challenge received considerable media attention — so Nicholls was surprised when Harper left in 2002 to seek the leadership of the beleaguered Canadian Alliance Party.
The Alliance, carved out of the old Reform Party, was in shambles under then-leader Stockwell Day, who led a disastrous election campaign two years earlier.
Harper threw his name into the hat and, in March 2002, easily won the leadership race.
Once at the Alliance helm, Harper accomplished what his Reform and Alliance predecessors had failed to do, brokering a deal to unite Canada’s two conservative-leaning parties.
It was a remarkable feat for someone partially responsible for its division more than a decade ago.
Friends and observers say Harper also returned to politics for another reason — to have a direct hand in changing public policy.
“If you are an idea person, a policy person, your first ambition is to get those ideas implemented,” says Manning. “In order to do that, you have to run for Parliament or you have to become leader … that is the root of Stephen’s desire to get 155 seats.”
Harper’s return to politics wasn’t always easy. Publicly chided for being aloof and wooden, internal critics complain his leadership style verges on being autocratic.
“He has been so dismissive and so patronizing in the way that he is looking at this whole business,” Audrey Cerkvenac, former Calgary Southwest riding vice-president, said last year after Harper ignored complaints about a predecessor’s campaign finances.
Harper is also a man who demands loyalty. Prior to the election call last month, all Conservative candidates were required call to sign a gag order, marked “private and confidential,” not to criticize him.
His actions, whether power brokering a deal to unite the splintered right or keeping his troops in line, suggest a degree of political acumen for a man viewed as a reluctant politician.
Despite Harper’s evolution from introverted teen to potential prime minister, high school classmates would never have predicted that such an innocent off-hand remark — see you on the election trail — penned in a high school yearbook would foretell his future.
“He was very shy and quiet and all of a sudden he has become an extremely public figure and quite opinionated,” says Tait, his Grade 13 chum.
“It’s hard to believe it’s the same person.”
Interview with Neil Fenton, Laureen Harper’s “ex” – Chairman and Founder of 10Duke – Social media – Rachel Phillips, Technical Director, E2.0, Oracle
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