John Edward MacDonell is the longest serving Chief of Staff for a Minister of National Defence in Canadian history. Over seven years he was the right hand of the Hon. Peter MacKay during the Stephen Harper government, six of those at DND.
Defence saw its share of heavy lifting in his tenure, the height of the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan.
John began his career getting his Law degree from Dalhousie University in 1994. He articled Stewart McKelvey and went on to become a Partner in 2001. He is currently a partner at Spiteri & Ursulak working out of their Ottawa office.
MacDonell is well known in Nova Scotia through his connection with the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. He served as president and is also known as one of 12 original petitioners to establish the Conservative Party of Canada.
In 2006, MacDonell took leave of absence from his partnership at Stewart McKelvey to become Peter MacKay's Chief of Staff serving in the portfolios of Foreign Affairs, National Defence, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
In 2012, MacDonell was inducted into the Order of St. George as a Knight Commander and was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Lieutenant-governor of Québec.
One of John's proudest accomplishments with Minister Mackay was the establishment of the Halifax International Security Forum, an annual gathering of the some of the world's top security, military and political minds.
I met him at the annual event held at the Westin in Halifax. In our conversation we talk about his Antigonish roots, his role as Chief of Staff to Minister MacKay and he offers some thoughts on the leadership race of the departure of Jamie Baillie as the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.