Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another unelected Harper minister?!

The intrepid Sean Holman at Public Eye reports an intriguing rumour that Mary McNeil, the Conservative (*nomination, see update) candidate in the as yet uncalled Vancouver-Quadra by-election, may be elevated into cabinet as an unelected minister in the upcoming Harper cabinet shuffle:

Meanwhile, we're hearing suggestions Vancouver-Quadra nomination candidate and former BC Cancer Foundation president Mary McNeil should be given a seat at the big table.

This is rather interesting actually. It would address Harper’s problem of weak female bench strength, discussed in the Globe this morning. And it would give McNeil a boost (should she become the candidate) in a tough by-election battle against former B.C. cabinet minister Joyce Murray in a riding won handily last election by outgoing Liberal MP Stephen Owen. Campaigning as a minister is a plus for sure.

And it’s not entirely without precedent to have someone in cabinet before being elected to the HoC: Stephane Dion provides a handy example. And Harper broke even that convention (that the minister runs immediately in a by-election to win a seat) with the Michael Fortier Senate/Cabinet appointment, so don’t put it past him.

Of course, there are downsides. For one, Harper would fly flat in the face of past statements like this:
…you need to be elected to the Parliament of Canada to become a minister.

Not that Harper has been adverse to flip-flopping and completely reversing once deeply held principles in the past, mind you.

But such an appointment would also smack of desperation. Dion came into cabinet after a near referendum loss to fight for Canadian unity; I’m not sure low Conservative polling numbers equate to a national crisis. It would also be a smack in the face to the women in Harper’s caucus passed over for cabinet spots.

And then there’s the risk if she loses the by-election (which he’ll delay calling as long as possible) and is forced to resign in embarrassment. Even as a minister McNeil faces an uphill battle against Murray.

Anyway, a fun rumour for a slow summer day. Other B.C.-flavoured cabinet speculation from Holman:
Well, some party members are wondering whether Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Chuck Strahl will be shuffled out of his portfolio or lose his post as the province's political minister in favour of Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn. Not surprisingly, perennial rumours of a promotion for Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam parliamentarian James Moore are also blossoming. And some say Abbotsford parliamentarian Ed Fast could also be named to cabinet.

Since when did Lunn become a star, did I miss a memo? I've always felt it was rather the opposite. And the wheatboard shenanigans aside I’ve always liked Strahl, he’s just carrying the bag for Harper there anyway. Ed who? And I agree with Kady, let’s not get Moore’s hopes up. Every time I read this quote from James, back when Harper was about to announce his first cabinet, it breaks the heart a little. Poor kid:

A few words seared into my brain that I've been saying for about 2 weeks now: "Mr. Harper will announce his cabinet on Monday. I have nothing more to say." Where is Superman when you need him to spin the globe a little faster so Monday arrives sooner?

UPDATE: I'm reminded that McNeill hasn't even won the Conservative nomination for Quadra yet, but is running against business professor Deborah Meredith. One presumes Harper would give her an appointment or force/encourage Meredith to drop out before the cabinet appointment. Would be weird to put her into cabinet and still have a nomination race, wouldn't it?

But what adds another layer to this story is the dynamics of the nomination race, which is shaping-up as a battle of Harper insiders (i.e. John Reynolds) behind McNeill versus old Tories (Senators Pat Carney and Gerry St. Germain) behind Meredith.

Reynolds et. al. would certainly have the juice to pull off an appointment/cabinet slot for McNeil, but at what price to party unity?

While anything is possible, and I've learned to put nothing past Harper, one wonders if these McNeil cabinet rumours have a lot more to do with nomination race spin and positioning then anything else.

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Anonymous said...

The Fortier appointment has become a bit of a millstone around Harpo's neck. He is unwilling to throw Fortier into Outremont against Coulon and Mulcair, or even in Roberval when Gauthier steps down. What makes the PM willing to do this to McNeil in Quadra?

Is Harper willing to go big or go home? His forays in Quebec show otherwise.

900ft Jesus said...

Gary Lunn's success is not so much success as averting personal disaster. He has managed the NR portfolio - a tricky one considering the public interest in climate change and Stevie's refusal to do anything effective in that area - without making embarassing headlines. He sticks to the scripted messages, doesn't overdo appearances that could get him into trouble, and looks the part of a serious, solid type.

Has he done anything good for Canada through NR Can? Not that I know of, but his quiet, near secret business dealings with the US follow CPC agenda. He runs NR Can like a businessman. So if selling off our natural resources is equated with success, then I guess that has scored him some points.

Anonymous said...

Note that Jay Hill is a minister without portfolio as Government Whip. He is due for a promotion for being Harper's bully boy.

jml said...

Concerning the Minister Michael Fortier and his brother-in-law, see the site:

You will be stunned by hypocrisy and apparent conflict about Groupaction and Sponsorship scandal. Is there an iceburg part?