A look inside Jason Kenney’s premier’s office

By Catherine Griwkowsky July 25, 2019

Premier Jason Kenney announced the first of his senior staff hires just days after winning the spring election — but two months into the job a clearer picture has emerged of who is working under his wing.

On April 22, a week before his swearing-in ceremony, Premier Kenney announced that two key staffers would lead his office: chief of staff Jamie Huckabay and principal secretary Howard Anglin

Additionally, David Knight Legg was tapped to head the transition into government. Katy Merrifield was chosen as executive director of communications and planning, and Christine Myatt was named deputy director of communications and press secretary.   

The premier’s office now employs a network of strategists, communicators and managers, many with links to the Conservative Party of Canada and powerful lobbying firms.

With the transition complete, Knight Legg is still in the fold, serving as Kenney’s principal advisor. Originally from Lethbridge, he previously worked for consultancy group McKinsey and Company and as the global head of strategy for the Commonwealth Bank in Hong Kong. 

Amber Griffith is director of talent in the premier’s office, having served in the same role for the United Conservative Party since January (a position she still holds, according to her LinkedIn profile). Prior to working for the UCP, she was a consultant with Global Public Affairs in Calgary.

Former journalist for the now-defunct Alberta Report Paul Bunner is Kenney’s official speechwriter. Bunner is no stranger to speechwriting, having done the job for federal, provincial and municipal politicians, including former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Kenney has retained executive assistant Clancy Bouwman from his opposition days. Bouwman previously worked as a parliamentary assistant to federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

Terri Kemball, special assistant to the premier, comes from the office of ex-MLA Dave Rodney, who gave up his Calgary—Lougheed seat in 2017 so Kenney could run.

Kenney’s tours and scheduling are being managed by Rita Hicks, a long-time staffer for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party, while the premier’s office’s director of operations is former Manning Centre vice-president John Whittaker.

 The office’s director of stakeholder relations is Ariella Kimmel, another former lobbyist by way of Crestview Strategy. She also held staffer jobs in Ottawa under the CPC. 

Casey DesChamp is director of caucus affairs.

Communications OfficeThe premier’s office relies on a separate communications office to provide the steady hands required to get Kenney’s message out, an important task given the amount of legislation his government has brought forward in a short period of time.

In the comms office, Paul Taillon serves as Kenney’s director of digital strategy. This is old hat for Taillon, who also ran Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s social media accounts.

Another veteran from the party side is acting as a special advisor for communications. Harrison Fleming was the UCP’s caucus communications advisor and formerly the Alberta co-ordinator for LGBTory, a group that advocates for the inclusion of lesbian, gay, transgender and other queer groups in conservative politics. Flemming also worked in the House of Commons, including as an intern for Kenney during his time as citizenship minister.

 Edmonton born-and-raised marketer Winston Pon, who previously served on the Edmonton—Whitemud UCP board and on the UCP transition team, joined the communications department as communications co-ordinator in May.

Who’s who in Calgary
Marie Rajic
, former senior vice-president and general manager of Hill+Knowlton’s Alberta office, joined Kenney’s team as a special advisor in the premier’s Calgary office — which is run out of the McDougall Centre — in June. Prior to joining the lobbying firm, Rajic was the director of sustainability and strategy for TransCanada Corporation. 

Rajic is no stranger to political life, having worked for late former premier Jim Prentice when he was an MP as well as for former prime minister Stephen Harper. Under Harper, she was the CPC government’s executive director of regional affairs for Alberta.

Lawyer Patrick Donnelly, who was Kenney’s electoral district association president when he was Canada’s multiculturalism minister, now serves as the executive director of Kenney’s southern Alberta office. Donnelley was also chief of staff for ex-CPC interim leader Rona Ambrose when she was minister of public works and government services.

Siobain Quinton is the manager of stakeholder relations for the Southern Alberta office.