As Prime Minister Jean ChrÃ©tien gets closer and closer with each passing day to his retirement in February, 2004 -- some 14 months away and still three long months after a new party leader will be elected -- the speculation about the future plans of senior PMO staffers continues to intensify in Hill circles. Hill Climbers is no exception, especially after Francie Ducros, the PM's director of communications, was overheard calling U.S. President George W. Bush a "moron" at a NATO meeting in Prague last week. Liberal sources say that the Prime Minister's "fiercely" loyal director of communications would likely stay until the bitter end. An indication of this is she offered her resignation on Friday Nov. 22, after the "moron" incident but her boss refused to accept it. Before last week's story hit the National Post, these sources, warned that Martinites would be happy if Ms. Ducros left early because "the fewer the number of fiercely loyal ChrÃ©tienites in the PMO at the time of transition, the smoother the transition will be." Ms. Ducros, 40, a lawyer by training was in the federal public service before she was first hired by then fisheries minister Brian Tobin as his executive assistant. Later on, she moved to Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs StÃ©phane Dion's office as his executive assistant and was hired by the Prime Minister's office as director of communications in 1999 after the departure of Peter Donolo. Prior to last week's story, Ms. Ducros had been very successful in keeping her future plans secret but a senior Liberal strategist claimed that she hadn't yet finalized her plans. "Francoise hasn't made a decision about her future. At this time, even she doesn't know what she will do after she leaves the office but one thing is for sure that she will leave with Mr. ChrÃ©tien," said the Grit strategist who was interviewed before the 'moron story' hit the newspapers. Ms. Ducros, however, recently had been rumoured to be looking for a job as an assistant deputy minister in a government department. Other Liberals claimed that if she is interested she would not encounter any difficulty in getting a diplomatic nomination abroad as the Prime Minister knows she is one of his most loyal staffers and deserves to be rewarded in any reasonable way she likes. It will now be interesting to see where she lands. "The PM knows he owes her a lot. She crossed the line numerous times in defending him in the leadership review although it's a different thing to determine whether she did more harm than good in defending her," said the source. There has been past precedents where communications people from the PMO have been given diplomatic postings abroad. Amongst others Peter Donolo, the PM's former director of communications who was liked by the press gallery as well as by the majority of the Hill community, was appointed by the PM as consul-general in Milan, Italy, after he decided to leave the PMO. You may also recall that former prime minister Brian Mulroney appointed his outgoing communications director Mark Entwistle as Canada's ambassador to Cuba. Meanwhile, Hill Climbers talked to some Liberal insiders last week to find out what options other senior PMO staffers may be exploring for their future jobs. The insiders spoke to The Hill Times on condition that their name not be mentioned. Eddie Goldenberg, a long-time friend of the Prime Minister and also his senior policy adviser, according to Liberal insiders, will stay at his current position until Mr. ChrÃ©tien's retirement from office since Mr. Goldenberg is not only helping his boss in pursuing and promoting the agenda, but will also play an instrumental role in the transition, to a new Prime Minister especially if Paul Martin is elected the next leader of the party. Mr. Goldenberg, sources say, is as close to Mr. Martin as he is to Mr. ChrÃ©tien so his presence will help smooth the transition. As for his life after the PMO, a senior Liberal strategist said, "he will get what he would like and the PM can't and will not say no." Asked to elaborate, the Liberal strategist said: "I don't need to stress how close he is to the Prime Minister but if someone has any doubt, I will say this, except for sleeping with him, he advises the PM about every conceivable thing that happens in the PMO. So, if he wants to get a government nomination, he will get it from ChrÃ©tien and if he wants to go to the private sector, he won't have any difficulty in finding potential employers." Another source said Mr. Goldenberg has no interest in going to the Senate or to any other government position, but will likely head to the private sector and could possibly return to an Ottawa law firm. He and Jean ChrÃ©tien both worked at Lang Michener together in the years when Mr. ChrÃ©tien stepped out of politics. One of the reasons why Mr. Goldenberg would be staying in Ottawa is due to the fact his new girlfriend, Caroline Weber, is a DG at Health Canada in Ottawa. "You have to keep a couple of things in mind while thinking about what his future move will be. Eddie doesn't have a lot of management experience but he does have extensive experience on the policy side. So, any private firm dealing with policy or a law firm will be glad to hire him," said the source. "Secondly, his girlfriend is in Ottawa so this will play role in Eddie's future plans. I think he will remain in Ottawa." Meanwhile, Raj Chahal, the 34-year-old native Calgarian who holds an LLB from the London School of Economics, is currently working as a special policy adviser to the Prime Minister and is widely expected to join the leadership campaign of Industry Minister Allan Rock as national campaign director after he decides to leave the PMO. According to a senior Liberal strategist, Mr. Chahal may be the next PMO staffer to leave and assume his responsibilities in Mr. Rock's campaign. "Raj will probably be the next to leave PMO and go back to his law firm in Calgary. He will get paid from his law firm but will work on the Rock campaign and his pay will be considered as in-kind contribution towards the Rock campaign." David Miller, director of operations and senior adviser to the Prime Minister, is also amongst the PMO staffers who is expected to leave the office with Mr. ChrÃ©tien. Mr. Miller, a Saskatchewan native, was brought into the PMO earlier this year after he spent nearly a decade with Hill & Knowlton. He is expected to go back to H&K after he decides to leave his current job. "David joined PMO with an understanding that he will go back to Hill & Knowlton." Liberal insiders say the PM Chief of Staff Percy Downe, a native of Prince Edward Island, will stay in the office as long as Mr. ChrÃ©tien is the PM, and will eventually go back to Prince Edward Island. It is, however, unclear if he will join the private sector or will work for a government department. Mr. Downe came to Ottawa shortly after Mr. ChrÃ©tien was elected as Prime Minister in 1993 and his first job in Ottawa was as the executive assistant to then-veterans affairs secretary of state Lawrence MacAulay. He worked in numerous positions on the Hill since 1993 but last year he was named as the successor to the PM's outgoing chief of staff Jean Pelletier. PMO staffers and former ministerial staffers suggest that Bruce Hartley, executive assistant to the Prime Minister, is "like a son to the PM" and will be the last person to leave with Mr. ChrÃ©tien. "Bruce will turn off the lights, lock the door and hand over the keys of PMO and 24 Sussex to whoever the next leader of the party is and both will leave in the same car on the last day of the job whatever Mr. ChrÃ©tien chooses this day to be." Mr. Hartley, 37, came to the Hill in 1988 with then leader of the opposition Herb Gray. After working on different positions as a Hill staffer, Mr. Hartley became the Prime Minister's executive assistant in 1995 when he replaced Michael McAdoo. Liberal sources say that Mr. Hartley will definitely be rewarded generously with a private sector job. These sources further add that should Mr. ChrÃ©tien choose to join a law firm or any other organization, he may choose to take Mr. Hartley with him again as EA or as a colleague. F. Abbas Rana's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.