Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has a few new faces in his office as official opposition leader, including new lead writer Paul Oleniuk.
Mr. Oleniuk has spent the last almost five years tackling legislative and communications work for Conservative MP Cathy McLeod, who represents Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, B.C. During his time in her office, Ms. McLeod served as the Conservative caucus’ critic for Indigenous affairs, northern affairs, forestry and mining, and Crown-Indigenous relations, her current critic portfolio.
Before joining Ms. McLeod’s office at the beginning of 2016, Mr. Oleniuk was a part-time communications assistant to former B.C. Conservative MP John Weston, who lost his seat as the MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country to now-former Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones in 2015.
Mr. Oleniuk has a bachelor’s degree in communications and media, with minors in biblical theological studies and philosophy, from Providence University College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne, Man., and a master’s in communications from the University of Ottawa. During his master’s degree studies, he served as a research assistant and as a teaching assistant, and completed a research paper comparing the use of social media by politicians in the U.K. and Canada.
He’s working as part of the caucus services side of the team that supports Mr. O’Toole and will be reporting to Josh Gilman, who serves as manager of written products. Jordan Matte continues as Mr. O’Toole’s speechwriter.
Keith Poulson is another recent addition to Mr. O’Toole’s team, stepping in as the leader’s new regional adviser for Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Mr. Poulson replaces Emily Gilroy, who was promoted to manager of special projects and caucus services in November.
Ms. Gilroy first joined the OLO in April 2019. She studied political science at the University of Lethbridge, during which time she served as president of the school’s Campus Conservatives association and as president of its model UN club. Ms. Gilroy previously interned in then-Conservative MP Kevin Sorenson’s constituency office in Battle River-Crowfoot, Alta., over the summer of 2016, and, amongst other past experience, interned on Lethbridge, Alta., Conservative MP Rachael Harder’s successful 2015 election campaign, which saw Ms. Harder elected with roughly 56.8 per cent of the vote.
In her new role, Ms. Gilroy reports to Kieran Moloney, associate director of the Conservative research bureau—a.k.a. Conservative Caucus Services (CCS)—and oversees special projects officer Leah Young, a recent graduate of Carleton University who interned with Abacus Data over the summer of 2020.
In other office news, Quebec regional adviser Aude Cauchard has left the OLO to become a political adviser to Conservative MP Michael Chong.
In her new role, she’ll be focused on supporting his work as the official opposition’s foreign affairs critic. Mr. Chong has two other assistants currently supporting him on the Hill: Peter Clarke and Denise Gaudet.
“I always wanted to work for foreign affairs and Mr. Chong got the file four months ago and he was looking for someone, so we talked and, yeah, we figured out that we’d be a great collaboration,” she told Hill Climbers.
Ms. Cauchard, who studied political science and international relations at the University of Montreal, started in Mr. Chong’s office on Jan. 11.
She first joined the OLO in 2018 under then-leader Andrew Scheer, starting out as an assistant to Martin Bélanger as the then-senior Quebec adviser to Mr. Scheer. Ms. Cauchard became a Quebec regional adviser a few months later, and was part of Mr. Scheer’s leader’s tour team during the 2019 election.
Other regional advisers currently at work in the OLO include: James Mitchell, who covers B.C.; Arundeep Singh Sandhu, who covers Alberta and the Territories; Dan Muys, who tackles Ontario; and Angie Zinck, the regional adviser for the Atlantic.
Bryce Talsma has also joined the OLO as a new media monitor, joining fellow media monitor Kyle Simpson.
An Afghanistan war veteran, having served with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry First Battalion, Mr. Talsma was until recently busy as vice-president of the Wayfinders Wellness Society in Cochrane, Alta., a non-profit focused on promoting health and wellness for first responders and veterans in Calgary and Southern Alberta.
A past project manager of environmental services with Tervita Corporation, Mr. Talsma has also been a manager with Glencore E&P (Canada), a project execution co-ordinator with Caracal Energy International, and a project manager with Penn West Exploration. He previously served on the board of the Banff-Airdrie, Alta., Conservative riding association—a riding currently represented by Conservative MP Blake Richards.
While he’s evidently returned to the Conservative fold under Mr. O’Toole, Mr. Talsma resigned from the Banff-Airdrie Conservative riding association in 2019, ahead of that year’s federal election, to instead support the local People’s Party of Canada candidate, Nadine Wellwood. According to Cochrane Now, his resignation letter to the board cited “significant compromises and adoption of policies that, I believe, has made the CPC no more than a ‘Liberal-Lite’ party in blue.”
As with other opposition parties, the Conservative research bureau works hand in hand with the (separately funded) leader’s office, and for practical purposes, can be described as part of the official opposition leader’s office (OLO) team.
Tausha Michaud is OLO chief of staff, supported by deputy chiefs of staff Steve Outhouse, who’s tasked with overseeing caucus services, and Mr. Bélanger.
The CCS has a House-allocated budget of $3,001,500 for 2020-21, with another $4,870,930 allocated to the leader’s office.
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