In a move being interpreted by Paul Martin supporters as an attempt to soften the PMO's hard-nosed reputation, Prime Minister Jean ChrÃ©tien announced the appointment of popular former journalist Jim Munson as a senior communications adviser last week. Mr. Munson is a veteran journalist who spent 23 years at CTV before being unceremoniously fired last fall as part of a major round of layoffs. Most recently, he did some consulting work on First Nations governance for Indian Affairs. His arrival on the scene comes at a time when the PM is under enormous pressure from pro-Martin supporters within his caucus to step down. It also coincides with widespread speculation that Mr. ChrÃ©tien's inner circle has given up hope that Mr. ChrÃ©tien can win next February's leadership convention during which he will face a confidence vote from rank-and-file members. To make matters worse, several major daily newspapers have called on Mr. ChrÃ©tien to resign, most notably The Ottawa Citizen which published an editorial to that effect last June which led to the firing of publisher Russell Mills by CanWest owner Izzy Asper, a Liberal and confidant of the PM. A senior Martin adviser told Hill Climbers that Mr. Munson's appointment is an attempt by the PMO to get its act together. "It's pretty clear that it's a signal that what been doing so far has not been working," said the insider, adding that the PM's advisers have been having a hard time putting together public events that can make Mr. ChrÃ©tien "look good." While little has been heard from Mr. ChrÃ©tien since the House adjourned for the summer, Mr. Martin has been on a country-wide publicity tour which has all the feel and look of a leadership campaign. Mr. Martin maintains, however, that he is only preparing for the day Mr. ChrÃ©tien decides to retire. The insider also said Mr. Munson, who is popular among his former colleagues in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, will be instrumental in bringing the national media back on the PM's side. He added the PMO has done little over the years to endear itself to Ottawa's press corps. "It's an attempt to reach out to the gallery which have been battered and bruised. You've got a press operation which tries to rule by fear and this is an attempt to shift gears. They're going from fear to sugar. And Jim is definitely that. He's massively well-liked in the gallery. People really like him as a person." CTV's Parliamentary Bureau Chief Craig Oliver acknowledged that Mr. Munson's will make the PMO more approachable. "From point of view, it's a good appointment," he said. "Jim has an immense number of friends in the media. He's an honest guy who can present ChrÃ©tien's views in a better way than they have been presented at times." ChrÃ©tien strategist Warren Kinsella, a former journalist himself, said that Mr. Munson's vast media experience will bolster Mr. ChrÃ©tien's communications team. "Jim is a consummate media guru," he said. "He knows the Hill inside out, and the country, too. The Prime Minister has known him for many years, and knows he's a straight-shooter." Mr. Munson was not available for comment last week. He is expected to take up his new position in the PMO's communications branch, headed by Francie Ducros, on Aug. 6. It is still not clear, however, if he will be a spokesperson or remain behind the scenes. Throughout his reporting career spanning three decades, he became close to Mr. ChrÃ©tien and Peter Donolo, one of Mr. ChrÃ©tien's closest advisers and erstwhile PMO aide. When Mr. Munson was fired last fall, Mr. ChrÃ©tien called him with his sympathies from a trade junket in China. Mr. Munson, 55, began his career at CTV in 1979 and during that time served as senior Parliamentary correspondent in Ottawa, and bureau chief in London, Beijing, and Halifax. He covered the Tiananmen Square massacre in China and the Gulf War. "Jim's long-standing experience in the media, his professionalism and good humour will be a great addition to an already strong team," said Duncan Fulton, the PMO's press secretary. Colbert now at Global Health Minister Anne McLellan's long-time policy adviser, Sharon Colbert, has landed off the Hill at Global Public Affairs, a public and government relations firm with offices in Ottawa, Victoria, Toronto. She's a senior consultant on energy policy, with a specific focus on aboriginal issues. The former Hill staffer started her job last month after a brief hiatus from the workforce. She quit her job after the January shuffle which moved her former boss over to the ministry of justice. Ms. Colbert started working for Ms. McLellan back in December 1997 shortly after completing a law degree at Dalhousie University located in Halifax, N.S. A native of Newfoundland, her first job on the Hill was in the Liberal Research Bureau. As part of her new duties at Global, she'll be filling in for another former staffer-turned-lobbyist who is off on maternity leave. Carolyn Chisholm, who used to work on the Hill for former Liberal Senator Bernie Boudreau -- the Red Chamber's former government leader who resigned his seat two years ago -- also works at Global. Since Ms. Colbert left in January, Ms. McLellan has hired two new senior policy advisers: Paul McKinstry and Lori Stoltz. Mr. McKinstry is the minister's front man on aboriginal health concerns, and used to work up North for Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik. As for Ms. Stolz, who is a lawyer by trade, she's responsible for medicare renewal. Meanwhile, over at Minister for Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Gerry Byrne's office, you can count Corey Hobbs as part of the Newfoundland MP's growing team of staffers. Mr. Hobbs used to work for former MP George Baker, who is also from the Rock. Mr. Baker was summoned to the Senate last March along with former Manitoba MP Ron Duhamel and former Quebec MP Raymond Lavigne. Martin staffers move While their boss has been travelling the country, chatting up Canadians about the future of the country, Paul Martin's dramatically diminished contingent of staffers was busy moving to a new office a couple weeks back. The popular MP lost his perch on the second floor of Centre Block, just a stone's throw from the Commons, and is now toiling from the spacious confines of the Confederation Building -- or "Confed" as it's colloquially called by Hill denizens. The move happened on July 4 and, for the record, his Parliament Hill aides now officially number two in total, and they are scheduling assistant Mireille Bonnerot and assistant ThÃ©rÃ¨se Horvath. Unofficially, of course, that list is somewhat longer. Mr. Martin continues to rely on the competent help of former staffers such as Brian Guest, Melanie Gruer, and Tim Murphy as he continues his tour which should not be confused as an attempt to undermine the PM at next February's leadership review convention. --Paco Francoli's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.