Thursday, January 18, 2007

The shadow knows...and now we do to

At long last new Liberal leader Stephane Dion unveiled his shadow cabinet this morning. Some interesting choices and some interesting names.

I won’t go over the full list; it's a long one. It's available in full in PDF format.

In addition to the 56 names on the list of shadow cabinet portfolios and responsibilities like whips and house leaders, and a priorities and planning committee, there are also four other committees with a chair, vice-chair and six to nine members. Interestingly, the committee chairs and vice chairs didn't get shadow cabinet roles, so it will be interesting to see the importance placed on these committees and their work.

Particularly since Ken Dryden didn't get a critic portfolio. He'll be chairing the committee on social justice, with vice-chair Andy Scott. John McKay will chair the economic prosperity committee with Massimo Pacetti. John Godfrey will chair an environmental sustainability committee with Geoff Regan, and Bryon Wilfert will chair Canada and the World with Keith Martin.

As I said, besides the committees it's a list of 56 people with critic or officer responsibilities. It's 38 male, 18 female by my count. And by province:

: 23

: 11

: 6

New Brunswick
: 4

and Nova Scotia: 3 each

, Alberta, PEI, Newfoundland and the Yukon: 1 each

What, Alberta you say? Yes, we do still have some Senators there.

Obviously it would have been nice to be closer to gender parity here. Still, we need to work with the caucus we have now, and work to get more qualified women on the ballot and elected in the next election.

Still, many high profile positions went to women, such as both the leader and deputy opposition leaders in the Senate. Plus Lucienne Robillard as Deputy House Leader and Karen Redman as whip, Tina Keeper in Canadian Heritage, Belinda Stronach in Competitiveness and the New Economy, Bonnie Brown in Health, Marlene Jennings in Justice (glad to see her get a high profile job), Sue Barnes in Public Safety, Anita Neville in Indian Affairs and Ruby Dhalla in Social Development.

Joe Volpe
is still around in transport, c'est la vie. An interesting choice is Dennis Coderre for National Defence, not sure how that will work out. No knock on Dennis, I just don't know of his background on the file.

I think Pablo Rodriguez will be interesting going up against poor James Moore in public works. Mark Holland should school Gary Lunn in Natural Resources. Scott Simms should do well in fisheries and Ujal Dosanjh moves to foreign affairs. John McCallum will be fine in finance, and Scott Brison in industry should give him a chance to work on some of the issues he campaigned on. And of course David McGuinty in the environment, that's a great pick.

Overall, some interesting choices. I hope these cabinet committees aren't just make-work projects though, because if they are sidelining Ken Dryden is a big mistake. Same with Keith Martin, he's a very able MP.

While Michael Ignatieff is still deputy leader I'm a bit surprised he wasn't also given a critic portfolio, like foreign affairs perhaps. I'm just not sure how high profile deputy leader is going to be in the HoC, unless Dion plans on being away a lot.

I like the mix of youth and experience though, should be interesting.

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Jason Cherniak said...

It's about 1/3 women. That's what Dion promised.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I wasn't aware of a specific gender promise on the shadow cabinet. That's good then. As I said a good deal of the higher profile posts went to women too.

Anonymous said...

In the 1990's the Reform party put in place a number of "critis" positions in its caucus.This was ridiculed by the Liberal's at the time.Guess Dion thinks Reformers did have some good ideas.

Oh yeah,he already used one before,the Clarity Act.

A BCer in Toronto said...



Anonymous said...

Help me remember what Dion said about Dryden's role when he announced his Dream Team shortly after the convention. Something along the line- Ken will travel with me and be my eyes because he knows Canada.

Scotian said...

Anon #2:

Don't be an idiot please. If he is chairing the committee on social justice then it is very likely he is going to be traveling the country to get our views on just that and reporting this back to the leader. I mean really, if you are going to try to knock/slam a decision at least make it have some sense to it please. Sheesh.


I think Mr. Cherniak was referring to his promise of having a third of women in the next general election as candidates. As I work the numbers he shorted women by 2/3rds of one person from exactly one third. If say he had one more post and given it to a woman it would have been a perfect 1/3rd to 2/3rds ratio. I'd say that he did this with his shadow cabinet indicates he is serious about the commitment for the general election. As you say it is a definite start and has a fairly interesting mix.

It is possible the committee chairs were not given critics positions to increase their flexibility and to not have to worry about how what they are doing could be used against them in government responses to questions posed by the Official Op critics during QP. This also somewhat increases the tactical flexibility of the Opposition in what and how to pose questions in QP as well from what I see. As you say though it is necessary to watch and see what kind of influence/impact they have with Dion and the party overall.

Anonymous said...



In the 90's the Reform party set up a similar shadow cabinet.The party named a number of MP's as critics if various portfolio's,which the Liberal's under Chretien ridiculed.Now we see Dion and the Lib's doing the same thing.

As for the Clarity Act,it's actually based on ideas put forth by Preston Manning and the Reform party.Manning called for legislation putting the rules and clear question into place if there were to be another referendum.

doug newton said...

Hi Jeff
I am enjoying your blog very much I voted for Harper in the last election but I am a small l liberal at heart.
My comment is about the gender quota set by Dion. Since the days of Ronald Reagan, conservatives have gained voters by using the perceived disconnect between a liberal philosophy of fairness and equality and the policies like affirmative action and hiring quotas advocated by some liberal parties. If you want more women to participate in your party why not remove any obstructions to that end rather than using or at least advertising that you are using this kind of discriminatory social engineering.

Ed King said...

In the 90's the Reform party set up a similar shadow cabinet.The party named a number of MP's as critics if various portfolio's,which the Liberal's under Chretien ridiculed.Now we see Dion and the Lib's doing the same thing.

So now the Reform Party invented shadow cabinets, eh? Are you serious? No wonder you post anonymously!

The Reform caucus was constantly ridiculed because they were a ridiculous bunch. Having little or no respect for our great insitutions like the Westminster system, they were usually ill-prepared for Question Period and made fools of themselves on a daily basis (Stornoway as a bingo hall!).

A View From The Left said...

Anon: what are you smoking? Shadow cabinets have always been a part of the Westminster system, which is long before the idea of the Reform party was even thought of.

Anonymous said...

You guys know how to read???

I said the Reform party named a large number of MP's to critic positions,like Dion has done today.

Shadow cabinets are a part of Parlimentary history,its the large number of critic positions thats unusual.The Reform party did the same thing,naming a large number of MP's critic's to gain exposure.Dion said the same thing today about the large number of critics he named.

Chretien said it was a joke when the Reform Party did it,so just seems to me must be a joke now.

Penny said...

What's the difference between "critics" and shadow cabinet members?

Ed King said...

You guys know how to read???

I said the Reform party named a large number of MP's to critic positions,like Dion has done today.

That's what I get for answering anon trolls. My reading skills are fine, thank you. You did not say "a large number", both times you said "a number". That could mean "a number" of things (though not necessarily a large number), I suppose. There are "a number" of ways you could've made your meaning much clearer, if it really was your intent to say a large number.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between "critics" and shadow cabinet members?

The same difference as a cabinet minister and critic.How many cabinet ministers are in Harpers government?

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper expanded his cabinet in January, 2007, from 27 to 32 positions, as five new junior cabinet positions were created and eight ministers were shuffled"

My apologies.I meant to say a large number of critics.Chretien mocked them quite a bit for having so many critics.Just wonder if he feels the same now that it's the Liberal's doing it.

Jason Bo Green said...

The Shadow Knows! Nice one Jeff!

(PS - Holy sh*t, did you know the Coens and Sam Raimi are doing a whole new Shadow movie?? It's true.)

(Can't wait! I dig The Shadow, cool concept.)

Anyhoo - to be honest, I do think that Dion could have done better on women, giving out more prominent positions. I wish he had, and I'm disappointed he didn't. True, MHF isn't available (yet), nor Anne McClellan, but come on! Still, 18 out of 38 is a good number.

Anon is right - his meaning of "a number" was perfectly clear, and is only being twisted around for "I'm party-whipped and I can't think for my own self" purposes.

Penny said...

I don't want to be dense, but I thought the job of a shadow cabinet minister was to be a critic of the Minister whose job he was shadowing.

Someone straighten me out, please.

Anonymous said...

"I don't want to be dense, but I thought the job of a shadow cabinet minister was to be a critic of the Minister whose job he was shadowing."

You are exactly right,each shadow cabinet minister has a portfolio the same as one of Harper's own cabinet ministers.It's the extra 20+ MP's Dion made critics.Its kind of like calling a garbage man a waste management consultant.It's a nice title but really irrelevant.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Chretien mocked them quite a bit for having so many critics...

I don't recall any mocking, although I wouldn't be surprised. But I do recall Preston appointing a large number of critics in 93, all of them focused on issue clusters rather than shadowing a specific ministry. It quickly proved unworkable, with the media not knowing whom to go to, and the MPs unable to become experts in the workings of a ministry in order to oppose it, so Manning reversed course and moved to align his critics with specific ministries.

While Dion's list is very large, I'm not sure it's totally the same thing. Nearly everyone is aligned along a specific ministry to criticize. Some of them have just been divided in two, that's hardly unique. It allows them to better specialize so as to better hold their minister to account on their respective issue responsibility. Also helps keep everyone happy.

I don't want to be dense, but I thought the job of a shadow cabinet minister was to be a critic of the Minister whose job he was shadowing.

Essentially, a shadow cabinet member and a critic are the same thing. The term shadow cabinet goes back to the early Westminster Parliamentary days. In essence, the Official Opposition is supposed to be the government in waiting, ready to take over government should it be called on to do so by the crown. The shadow cabinet would be the cabinet of that government in waiting. In practice, though, they follow the workings of their shadowed ministry and question them in question period.

It's unlikely that a potential Dion cabinet would look anything like this shadow cabinet. For one thing, it won't be anywhere near as large.

Penny said...

Thanks guys. So perhaps the point of shadows and critics is that more people develop expertise, get to know each other and also so that the Dear Leader can find out who's good at what?

I don't suppose they get paid extra, though, the way the newly-enlarged CPC cabinet does?

Budd Campbell said...

I find it hard to believe that you think the appointment of Marlene Jennings as Justice Critic is some kind of step forward. Jennings is the woman who, along with PEI Liberal MP Shawn Murphy, was a major impediment to the workings of a parliamentary committee on the sponsorship scandal in the 2004 to 2006 parliament. Gee whiz, I wonder what they were trying to avoid dealing with?

Putting a low rent rendezvous partisan like Jennings into the Justice field is going to nauseate every conscientious lawyer in the country.

As for the risk Dion is running on this front, note that Harper has put Toews out to pasture and installed the much more moderate Nicholson into that portfolio.