Harper picks Onex executive as his top aide

Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:37pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen a top executive from big private equity firm Onex Corp to be his new chief of staff, charged with focusing on the economy, a government official said on Friday.

Nigel Wright, a managing director at Onex, will replace Guy Giorno at the end of the year. Giorno was in office during a series of policy stumbles this year that helped cut the popularity of the minority Conservative government.

Harper and other government ministers say they want to focus on an increasingly patchy economic recovery.

"The economy is the top priority and the prime minister has recruited someone like Nigel Wright who has the business and finance experience needed to strengthen our plan for job creation and economic growth," the official said.

"His skills and experience are directly relevant to dealing with the economic challenges facing Canada today."

Wright worked as a speech writer and policy analyst under former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for three years in the 1980s.

He may not be in his job long before the next federal election, which many political observers expect in the first half of 2011. Polls show the Conservatives have only a slight lead over the main opposition Liberal Party and would lose seats if a vote were held now.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)