May 26 2011 OTTAWA - Luc Portelance, border security chief at the Canada Border Services Agency, is on the inside track for the job of top Mountie, sources tell the Toronto Star.
Fluently bilingual, Portelance was deputy operations director for CSIS before being groomed in his post as CBSA president by his predecessor, Stephen Rigby, who is now Stephen Harper’s national security advisor.
More important, from the rank-and-file’s point of view: Portelance is a former Mountie who understands the RCMP as an insider and can wear the uniform - something Bill Elliott, the RCMP’s first civilian commissioner, could never do.
The knock against him, two sources said, is he just got the top job at the border agency last year, and border security “perimeter” talks with the U.S. are now heating up.
The Toronto Star has learned that months of delays prompted a recent high-level intervention with the prime minister’s office to “fix it,” a policing source said.
Former Harper transition advisor Derek Burney, a past chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, urged Harper’s office to kick the search into high gear.
Yet nearly a year after retiring senior deputy commissioner Bill Sweeney revealed Elliott’s bullying behaviour to deputy cabinet secretary Patricia Hassard in the privy council office, Elliott is still running the RCMP. Six more senior commanders have left since.
Elliott says his departure, announced in February, has now been delayed until September.
In fact, a search committee that is to identify a replacement met for the first time only last week. It will probably take several more weeks to identify and screen candidates, with the help of a headhunting firm and general advertising.
Several sources said the election call slowed the search, though it came two months after Elliott announced his resignation. A senior government source, on background, also pointed to a Harper commitment requiring consultation with a parliamentary committee. The committees are yet to be set up.
The decision has become more urgent with the decision of Elliott’s second-in-command, senior deputy commissioner Rod Knecht, to take the job of Edmonton police chief.
Portelance is not the only new name to surface in recent days. Rob Wright, once national security advisor to Paul Martin, has been named as a candidate under consideration.
Knecht names three who should be on the shortlist: former Edmonton police chief Norman Lipinski, now assistant commissioner running the RCMP’s Lower B.C. Mainland operations; Kevin Brosseau, director of contract and aboriginal policing, previously with the RCMP’s watchdog, the Commission for Public Complaints; and the force’s professional integrity officer Joe Hincke, formerly with the Canadian air force at DND headquarters.
Portelance, who declined comment on what he said was a “highly speculative” story, joined the Mounties in 1979, serving in New Brunswick and in the Quebec region’s security service before joining the fledgling Canadian Security Intelligence Service in 1984.
At CSIS, Portelance moved quickly up the ranks, becoming deputy director of the counter-intelligence branch; director of the Quebec region; and assistant corporate director at headquarters. He was the deputy director of operations when he was recruited to join CBSA in August 2008.
Portelance holds a degree in political science and is media-savvy. He was the face of CSIS operations at a joint CSIS-RCMP news conference at the arrest of the Toronto 18 terror suspects, where he and assistant RCMP commissioner Mike McDonnell revealed the terror plot to Canadians.