Political leadership: Reflections from a Federal Minister’s Chief of Staff

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For decades the labor movement has said that replacement workers are wrong. That they distract us from the bargaining table and that they prolong disputes. That the use of replacement workers can poison the relationship between an employer and workers for years, we listened. This morning, we tabled legislation to ban replacement workers.  

Hey Paul, hey, how are you? good thanks, how are you? Great! Good. You ready? I’m ready.  

My title is Chief of Staff to the minister of Labor and Minister for seniors, The Honorable Seamus O’Regan Jr. So, I did about 10 years of law, mostly International, working in the private sector and then about the last 20 years doing, working in and around government politics and public policy. Bit of a non-traditional  Chief of Staff, I’ve worked most of my career because in the private sector and  kind of leveraging all of those skills for the benefit of the of this job and working in the public sector. 

 If we focus on the legislative process, number one, building a team, a project team  that is cross functional in nature both  parliamentary Affairs, Communications policy  even operations to a certain extent. Build a plan is second to ensure that   we have developed a piece of legislation that is going to hit the mark but also know that it’s going to go through, be subjected to the vicissitudes if you will of the Parliamentary and legislative process. There are a lot of lot of different factors at play so you want to try to get as close as you can to the final product knowing that it may be watered down, it may be amended and so on and so forth. So, build the team, build a plan and then execute on the plan. That includes not just   the cabinet decision-making process but also through legislative process and implementation. There’s a whole sort of different phases of legislation, so my role is to oversee that that team obviously working hand and glove with the minister.   

My own personal  leadership style is one of a coaching leadership style so I like to build a team coming to the office every day and working with people who want to make a difference again in everyday lives of Canadians and everybody on the team has got strengths and I like to play to those strengths and that’s what I do in terms of  recruiting ,   building,   mentoring,    creating systems and processes that are going to   have a highly functioning team. 

The job of our office is getting the Minister elected, yes to do policy but to do politics and so this is really to have a strategic political   lens that is focused on how are we going to sell, how we going to drive the idea that we’re trying to bring to reality and make a difference in the lives of everyday Canadians. 

Again you have the team, you have the plan you also at the same time know that there going to be events and crises that come up every single day, that’s actually one of the really neat things about this job is that you’re problem solving there’s no day is ever the same and so you’re constantly in problem solving mode so on the one hand you are driving relentlessly the file to get    the legislation or to get the policy decision and outcome that you want on the other hand you’re trying to be flexible and adapting in real time to real life  circumstances  

A major challenge in the labor file is to push for various policy changes and legislative changes that are going to increase and improve labor standards, where there are strikes where there are lockouts  the Big Challenge to is to avoid of the legislative process so we’re talked about legislation we want to avoid legislation whereby having to force workers to go back to work which nobody wants.  

Say there are two main areas of getting Buy in and consensus the first priority is to get an internal consensus more or less amongst ministers that goes to a cabinet committee goes to full cabinet for ratification.  

And then ensuring that their broader support, let’s just say from other political parties, but also broader Society at large, certain groups whether they be businesses whether it be seniors groups whether be whether they be labor unions and trying to again coalesce that    public acceptability knowing that there will be people who are opposing the legislation and knowing how to speak honestly with them meaningfully engage and ensure that at the end you’ve got a bill that is in the in the public interest. 

Political decisions take on added importance as they have a significant impact on the vast majority of Canadians.

A recent example is the adoption by the Parliament of Canada of Bill C-58, the new anti-replacement-worker legislation, spearheaded by Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr. This legislation prohibits federally regulated employers from hiring replacement workers during labour disputes.

Paul Moen, Chief of Staff to Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr, was at the heart of this reform. Law students were interested in the role of these players in Canada’s political system. In this interview, Mr. Moen describes the indispensable role of a chief of staff in building a cohesive team around the minister to support the development of policy strategies.

Mr. Coen’s testimony offers a glimpse into the complex machinery of government and the legislative process. Through collaboration and unwavering dedication, these individuals shape Canada’s trajectory, leaving an indelible imprint on the fabric of Canadian society.

This visual advocacy video was produced by law students Anna Kanellakos, Angelica Mule, Keanna Nola, Gabriella Panayotidis, and Naomi Panetta as part of the Visual Advocacy/Law and Film course offered at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section. 

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