Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hey, there was a cabinet shuffle today!

I'd totally forgotten until a colleague came by my cube aghast that Peter McKay has been given the defence portfolio. She was concerned about his lack of military experience; I mentioned prior experience didn’t work out too well for the last guy. We do both feel somewhat less safe with the news; however if Stock had gotten the job I'd be building a bombshelter.

So, what to make of the shuffle? First, here’s the moves:

Chuck Strahl: To Indian Affairs from Agriculture
Peter McKay: To National Defence from Foreign Affairs, and he keeps ACOA
Gordon O’Connor: To National Revenue from Defence
Bev Oda: To International Cooperation from Canadian Heritage
Jim Prentice: To Industry from Indian Affairs
Maxime Bernier: To Foreign Affairs from Industry
Jose Verner: To Canadian Heritage (and Status of Women) from International Cooperation
Gerry Ritz: To Agriculture from Secretary of State (small business and tourism)
Diane Ablonczy: To Secretary of State (small business and tourism) from the backbenches
And Carol Skelton is out.

Analysis

Some quick hit reactions without having read any spin or media analysis:

*Ablonczy finally makes it into cabinet to help Harper maintain the same number of female ministers, even if it is in a more junior role than the departing Skelton. Still no love for James Moore though.

*I’ll miss being able to make fun of Bev Oda during the Junos, but I’ll I’m sure she’ll provide opportunity for entertainment in her new portfolio.

*Given the speculation of Harper’s petulance in recent days I was semi-wishing he’d keep O’Connor in defence, if only to make the opposition’s jobs easier. He did have to go though.

*But McKay in Defence? I’m not exactly filled with confidence. If Hillier is to stay on the job as CDS he needs a minister with a firm hand that will make clear who is the boss. Is that McKay? I could have seen Prentice, but not McKay. Will be interesting. Expect QP performances with more bellicose and less substance.

*And speaking of Prentice, Industry? He’s Harper’s go-to guy, and I’ve never thought of Industry as a particularly high-profile job. John Manley had it for years, but it wasn’t until he moved to Foreign Affairs that anyone outside of Ottawa knew who the heck he was, despite being very competent and accomplished, doing an excellent job and earning the respect of stakeholders. The move would make sense, however, if Harper is planning a major push around the economy and industrial competitiveness, having Prentice in place to quarterback it would be smart.

*I like Strahl, hopefully he’ll do better in Indian Affairs, as perhaps a few face in Gary Ritz will help in Agriculture (although not if they keep the same policy).

*Bernier was rather low-key in Industry so I can’t really comment much on his move to Foreign Affairs. Perhaps they’re hoping he’ll help sell Afghanistan in Quebec.

*O’Connor stays in cabinet, but with a demotion. Credit that up to Harper’s aforementioned brassiness, he didn’t want to be pushed into moving him out all together, which is what he deserved. But then it’s always tough for a PM to dump a minister from cabinet for the first time. It took Chretien awhile to do it. But, like many things, it gets easier after the first time.

*It’s tough for the Con backbenchers though that have watched O’Connor perform so consistently badly and still have a car and driver while they ride the little green bus.

*And Stock stays put, contrary to the rumours. Maybe the Arar news tarnished his halo? I’m just glad he’s being kept away from the tanks myself.

More later, as they say.

UPDATE: And it's later, so here's some more. If this shuffle was ever going to be big move Harper would have had to shuffle himself out, since he's really the guy running the show and the face of this government. Failing that he'd have had to dump some ministers to make it interesting, but he only dropped someone that wasn't running again anwyay, as is custom.

So really this is just shuffling the deckchairs (do a shot!) with little substance behind it. O'Connor had to go, Harper had little choice, but he still stays in cabinet. That and Skelton's departure set the wheels in motion. So needed fresh faces on defence and agriculture, a Quebecer in Foreign Affairs to sell Afghanistan, and a higher profile Industry minister for a possible policy push.

Besides Prentice, most of the major moves seemed to revolve around political and optics consierations, with the other moved following as a consequence of those dominoes.

So, at the end of the day expect lots of media and blog coverage but really, it's a minor shuffle designed to address a few (admitted) deficiencies ahead of the election that is always possible anytime in a minority government.

No fresh look, no sending messages, no bold new direction. Just housekeeping.

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1 comment:

ktr said...

When you are looking for aces, and your deck is full of 2's, you can shuffle all you want and it doesn't matter.
I do want to send out some condolences to Betty Hinton, James Rajotte, and Mike Lake.
I thought Betty Hinton was in the cabinet. Betty Hinton thought Betty Hinton was in the cabinet. Poor lady. She should just keep telling people she is in the cabinet I think.
I cant believe Rajotte isnt in cabinet just because he plead guilty to aggravated assault and hid it from the public and Harper. Common, can't a guy who accepts a conditional sentence for aggravated assault, and then criticizes the Liberals for letting people convicted of violent crimes escape with only conditional sentences, cant Harper let one more hypocrite in cabinet?
And finally condolences to Mike fLake. Perhaps he can get a nice big hug from the saskwatch he protects with his petition. At least they take him seriously.