Horgan’s handyman stays in Alberta

Chief of staff John Heaney takes up new senior role with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan's senior political staffer is staying on with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan’s chief of staff has resigned to take a senior job with the Alberta NDP government.

Lawyer John Heaney took unpaid leave from his B.C. job in May to serve as acting associate deputy minister for policy and planning for Alberta. Horgan announced Monday that Heaney “is in discussions with the Government of Alberta regarding a senior policy position.

“While I am sorry to lose his talent here in British Columbia, I am not surprised he has proven to be invaluable to Premier Rachel Notley and the new NDP government of Alberta.”

Horgan’s deputy chief of staff Suzanne Christensen will assume the job she has been filling in an acting capacity since Heaney’s departure from Victoria, and any further changes to political staff will be made in September, Horgan said.

Heaney’s jump to a newly created senior administration role with a top salary of $287,000 a year caused a stir in Alberta, with opposition Wildrose Party MLAs accusing Notley of politicizing the civil service.

“Using the non-partisan public service to reward a partisan apparatchik is very dangerous to the ability of the public service to do what is in the best interests of all Albertans,” Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt told the Edmonton Journal in May. “It is the very thing the Tories have done for decades.”

Heaney attracted similar criticism during his days with B.C. NDP premier Mike Harcourt’s government, where he ran a “public issues and consultation branch” that was part of the B.C. public service.