Now that I’ve vented about the national media, I should probably comment on what they were at Rideau Hall to cover yesterday: a minor cabinet shuffle by the Harper government. And while the media coverage seems to be focused on John Baird’s move to House leader, I’m more interested in having Chuck Strahl replace him in Transport.
Actually, the media focus on Baird is unsurprising, and telling. Besides being a more provocative personality, focusing on Baird’s move to House leader allows the media to engage in their favourite past-time (while the rest of the country tunes-out): ponder what this means for the likelihood of an election.
Frankly, I think Baird’s appointment could go either way. He’s apparently a very collegial guy behind the scenes. He turns on the bombast for political effect at times in public; it’s just part of the game. House leader is often more of a behind-the-scenes role (how high-profile was Jay Hill?), and Baird’s bombast is just for the cameras. So, what tone will Baird take? It remains to be seen, but quite simply he’ll take whatever tone Stephen Harper wants him to take.
Then there’s John Duncan to Indian and Northern Affairs. Duncan is the MP for my riding in BC, so I’ve been familiar with John since he was first elected as a Reformer back in 1993. I’ll have more on him in a future post, as there are some interesting things that haven’t made it into the coverage yet.
What I found to be the real news out of this shuffle though was moving Strahl to Transport. This is the portfolio, of course, that has responsibility for the stimulus program. Obviously, the Conservatives are winding-down the program and are (supposedly) shifting to austerity mode. But the shoe has yet to drop on this file because soon, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General will be crawling all over the stimulus program with magnifying glasses and calculators. And given the sheer amount of dollars involved, it’s inevitable there is going to be some shenanigans of some sort discovered.
Certainly, this will be a portfolio that will soon be generating a lot of heat, and will be requiring its minister to be running a lot of aggressive defence, both within the House and in the media. Frankly, were I in central casting, I’d have picked Strahl, by all reports a good guy and competent minister, to run the program and then brought in pit-bull Baird to run defence. Harper is doing the opposite, and I’m not sure Strahl is the right guy for that role at all. If nothing else, it will be unfortunate to see him having to answer for the mistakes of Baird’s tenure, but that’s how the system works.
With a fall election highly unlikely (no matter what our media friends like to say), the stimulus fall-out and how Strahl handles the file is what I’ll be watching for going forward.
Finally, there's one other major angle to this minor shuffle that the press pack missed. Before the shuffle, they were all speculating on Shelly Glover's likely elevation to the cabinet. Why? Because in dumping Helena Guergis, Harper was low on female representation and it seemed clear Glover was being groomed for bigger things. Of course, Glover didn't get into cabinet yesterday, and neither did any other women. That's worth noting.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers