Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shadow Shuffle

Although opposition critic portfolios aren't necessarily the most important thing, today's shadow cabinet shuffle was one of Ignatieff's first visible moves as party leader. So it's probably worth paying a bit of attention to his choices.

1. Ignatieff’s two leadership rivals clearly wound up with the portfolios they wanted - Rae to Foreign Affairs and LeBlanc to Justice. And with no deputy leader named, Rae pretty much becomes the de facto number 1.

2. But benevolence to the vanquished is to be expected. What’s really surprising is how well Rae supporters were treated. Of the 10 confirmed MPs backing Rae’s leadership bid, 5 wound up with posts (Savage, Kennedy, Volpe, Neville, Mendes).

3. I know this is being portrayed as a "lean and focused line-up" but with 34 critics and 4 whips/house leaders, half the MPs still got something. So, with that in mind, seeing who's out is as telling as seeing who's in. And, at first glance, the most obvious exclusions would appear to be Stephane Dion, Irwin Cotler, and Ujjal Dosanjh. Any of the three would have had a critic spot if he'd wanted one, so I take this to mean that the nomination battles have unofficially begun in St. Laurent Cartierville, Mount Royal and Vancouver South. (And, just like that, Martin Cauchon's ears perk up)

4. Ujjal's exclusion is a shame, if only because it leaves Western Canada with little pull. Goodale is back as house leader but Neville, Bagnell, Dhaliwal, and Martin wound up with smaller portfolios. Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray both found themselves on the outside looking in - somewhat surprising given the lack of female and western representation. Still, Iggy deserves some credit for standing up for Alberta au Quebec of all places.

5. Remember Ignatieff's talk of having a "succession plan" in place? Well, it's fairly obvious that, unlike his hero Pearson, Ignatieff does not plan to be followed by a Trudeau. A pair of Quebec rookie MPs found their way into today's announcement - Marc Garneau and Alexandra Mendes (yes, THE Alexandra Mendes) - but the Trudeau name was nowhere to be seen. I'm all for making Justin earn his way up the ranks, but his star power and usefulness in QP do make the exclusion a bit surprising.

6. As mentioned above, Garneau blasts off to Industry a few months into his MP career.

7. Denis Coderre is, not surprisingly, in as Quebec Lieutenant. Say what you will about Denis Coderre and his suitability for revitalizing the Liberal brand in Quebec, but at least he said yes when his leader asked him to take on a post this important for the party's future in Quebec.

8. By my count, 10 of the 38 positions were filled by women. Now, obviously Ignatieff plays with the hand he's dealt, but for what it's worth 11 of the 38 Harper Cabinet Ministers are women. What's more, with the exception of Carolyn Bennett and Martha Hall Findlay, none of these women are taking on what I'd call high profile positions.

9. "Ken Dryden will take on the new role of National Outreach Advisor, Working Families & Poverty, reflecting his long-standing commitments to these issues, and will also act as Special Liaison, National Fundraising." That kind of looks like a title you'd get by randomly tossing together magnets from a political fridge poetry set. Still, it sounds like the kind of thing Ken Dryden would be good at.

10. John McCallum replaces Brison in Finance. Again, not a huge surprise, but noteworthy given the importance of economy as an issue right now.

11. Fun matchups: Holland versus Van Loan, and Easter versus Ritz.



  • Don't want to belabour the point but Brison, Dryden, Bennett and Bevilacqua all supported Rae in 2006 as well. So clearly, for the first time since Turner, it seems that memories are decidedly short regarding leadership camps and shows of loyalty. And that is obviously a very good thing.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 10:38 p.m.  

  • I have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for Michael to start making changes. I have to admit I am impressed with Michel's decision making today.

    Gerard, while working his butt off in Industry, and losing it, is far better a choice and more in his element as Infrastructure, Communities and Cities critic. He should make mincemeat of former Queen's Park adversary, Infrastructure Minister John Baird.

    Biggest surprise is to see Navdeep out. I would have kept Navdeep in International Trade and given Scott Intergovernmental Affairs. Otherwise, very well done Michael.

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 11:06 p.m.  

  • I stopped contributing to the party last year when all of the Ignatieff supporters kept going to the press as "unnamed sources".

    With the exclusion of Ujjal and Justin, I'm happy I'm not wasting the 11 monthly payments of $100.

    Granted with their new fundraising guru, they'll more than make up the loss of my money, but I can now go to Vegas.

    So long as Ignatieff is at the reigns, and so long as all of these cliquish liberals remain at the helm, I won't be involved.

    I may go to the convention, just to vote against him being leader though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:12 p.m.  

  • How you put Pablo Rodriguez in and keep Irwin Cotler out is mind boggling!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17 p.m.  

  • Where is Vancouver in all of this? Again, The Liberal Party of Toronto demonstrates its complete lack of understanding of the West.

    Hedy Fry (1993)?
    Joyce Murray (2007)?
    Ujaal Dosanjh (2004)?

    Keith Martin is now the Critic for the Olympics. Great, except that someone forgot to tell Iggy that the Olympics aren't happening in Victoria.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:00 a.m.  

  • You know what? No matter who Ignatieff chooses - someone with bitch about it.


    Justin Trudeau has only been an MP for a few months - with parliament out a lot in that time. Don't you think it's better that he get some experience? It would look rather obvious otherwise, that he's riding on his family name. I think Ignatieff has done Justin a favour here - let him earn his stripes, just like Justin wanted to do when he ran for MP.


    PS: Anon 11:12 - who the hell cares? Really, what a pathetic attempt to trash and bash.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:27 a.m.  

  • "no deputy leader named, Rae pretty much becomes the de facto number 1."

    Since the leader is from Ontario, does this mean the Quebec lieutenant is de-facto no. 2?

    "Biggest surprise is to see Navdeep out."

    Nav was appointed the caucus chair of the Renewal Committee. More important role than asking questions and attacking the Harper government.

    No Bryon Wilfert in Shadow Cabinet either. Does this mean the diehard Dionistas are being freezed out, aside from Jennings in a ceremonial role as Deputy House Leader?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:43 a.m.  

  • It looks like overall he's picked experience where he could. The only rookie MPs with critics positions are Kennedy, Garneau and Mendes. Don't know much about Mendes, but Kennedy is an easy pick and hardly a "rookie" and as for Garneau, I like what Aaron Wherry said at Maclean's: "The science file now pits an astronaut against a chiropractor."

    As for Irwin, Fry, Dosanjh: you can't put everyone with experience in if you are trying to show a fresh face. A lot to balance. For example, LeBlanc got Justice which leaves what for Irwin's expertise?

    Can't please everyone and it would have been good to have more from BC, but the most striking two things about this to me are:

    1. Prior loyalty to the leader in his leadership bids is not a big factor: former candidates and former Rae supporters all have not just portfolios but prominent portfolios. Chretien for example only gave Martin a role but none of his supporters and Martin shut Chretien supporters out altogether so it is very very encouraging that Iggy is focused on bringing people together.

    2. There is an abundance of experience and talent. The shadow cabinet, not even in government yet, makes the real cabinet look like a real B team.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 10:08 a.m.  

  • Marc Garneau, a rookie in governmental affairs ? Hum! You may want to check your notes... As for Justin Trudeau, you're right, he'll have to earn his way - and he will eventually, no doubts. But if there is somewhat of a Trudeaumania in the rest of Canada (ROC), He certainly IS NOT an asset in Quebec. First, there is still a lot of resentment toward the Trudeau name by a vast majority of French Quebecers. Moreover, Justin's vivid opposition to the recognition of the Quebec nation certainly would be no help for Grits to gain back any sits in La Belle Province.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:02 a.m.  

  • Only meant that Garneau is a rookie MP, not a rookie in governmental affairs.

    As for Trudeau, we should remember that Iggy was appropriately left out of Bill Graham's shadow cabinet for the same reason - you have to earn your stripes and prove yourself as a performer in Parliament, otherwise you can be not just ineffective but a real liability to the party.

    There are only three exceptions in this shadow cabinet: Kennedy who has plenty of equivalent legislature experience and media handling; Garneau and Mendes.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 11:18 a.m.  

  • I must agree with most comments. On the face of it, this would seem to be a set of substantive rather than political decisions and therefore appointments. And that is refreshing change. (The one exception in my view is the Vancouver error; here I think ILMI should have been more political: 12-14 from the GTA; 5 from Montreal, even 2 from Halifax and none from Vancouver?).

    It may preface some other attitude changes as well. Let's keep an eye out for the Committee assignments...that could also tell an interesting tale. Committees are where MP's should be able to play their most substantive and deliberative role; they are (should be) also excellent training grounds for the rookies.

    By Blogger Quixotique, at 11:45 a.m.  

  • Yeah, on the whole, it's not bad. I like that the Rae supporters were taken care of.

    The only major knock I have is Vancouver being shut out.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:19 p.m.  

  • For once, nobody knocks volpe?
    I bet he is as surprised to be back in as anybody. I would have thought Iggy would avoid getting an earful for including volpe, but kudos to him for trying.

    By Blogger kenlister1, at 1:34 p.m.  

  • NO ONE from Vancouver? Harper wanted a Vancouver MP in Cabinet so bad he lured Emerson across the floor. If the Liberals are going to grow anywhere west of the GTA, it's in Vancouver and yet Iggster snubs the city completely.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:44 p.m.  

  • Big IG is doing it again, what aloof. Liberals lost my support with this guy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:01 p.m.  

  • "Say what you will about Denis Coderre and his suitability for revitalizing the Liberal brand in Quebec, but at least he said yes when his leader asked him to take on a post this important for the party's future in Quebec."

    He said Yes this time, he turned it down when Dion asked him. That combined with the near total freezing of Dion supporters make me think that all the Grit talk of putting leadership battles behind is wishful thinking.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:50 p.m.  

  • I am surprised nobody is asking the obvious question - what does this mean WRT the future of the coalition?

    Is this what an Iggy government would look like? Or would he make big changes (he would shuffle if he took power, but change few portfolios so his team could hit the ground running)?

    I think the omissions are telling in that respect: Dosanjh and Dion are two strongly pro-coalition politicians (Dosanjh committed strongly to voting down Harper's next budget in his post-election rant).

    Moreover his economic team (in a time when the economy is the top issue) is slanted to the right: McCallum in finance, Brison in trade and Garneau in Industry. Does that sound like an economic team that could work with the coalition?

    Rae's guys were treated well, but were pushed into portfolios unlikely to be high profile in the short term.
    Rae - foreign affairs
    Kennedy - Cities
    Neville - Status of Women

    It is a sensible division of labour - the right wingers put forth a centrist vision of the economy, while the left wingers can still bash Harper for hating women, and being Bush III, etc. However, it does not look like a coalition team.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 4:00 p.m.  

  • "(yes, THE Alexandra Mendes)"
    Dan, please explain this comment.

    Irwin is not retiring as MP, don't know about Dion. Martin still has Outremont to keep him busy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:37 p.m.  

  • Anon - I was just kidding about how her name recognition is noticeably lower than Trudeau's. But I'm sure she'll handle her role well - her bio is solid.

    Cotler's exclusion if he ISN'T retiring is weird. Not as weird as Dosanjh's, but it still stands out.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:54 p.m.  

  • I wouldn't expect Ig to leave this team in place very long.

    After all, in November, he was saying the Conservatives weren't spending enough. In early December, he said the Government was spending too much. In early January, he claimed the spending was too little and too late. Today, he's saying it's too quick, too long, and too much.

    He says that he told Harper to get the facts out in front of the people. And as soon as Harper does so, Ig goes on TV to say that Harper shouldn't have said anything yet.

    Do we know where Ig actually stands on any issue yet? Other than, maybe, motherhood is a good thing except when it's not.

    And now he has 38 names telling contradictory stories on where the LPC stands?

    By Blogger Paul, at 5:07 p.m.  

  • "Ken Dryden ... will also act as Special Liaison, National Fundraising."

    Because this guy has been S-O-O-O good at raising money to pay off his leadership debts ????

    By Blogger jad, at 5:27 p.m.  

  • Ontario 16 47%
    Maritimes 8 24%
    Quebec 6 18%
    West 3 9%
    Terr 1 3%

    34 100%

    And are Quebecers really happy that there are more critics from the Maritimes than from Quebec, let alone that almost half the critics are from Ontario ???

    "Keith Martin is now the Critic for the Olympics. Great, except that someone forgot to tell Iggy that the Olympics aren't happening in Victoria".

    Right on, Steve, because the best way to win back support in Vancouver is to appoint an MP from a suburban/rural riding on Vancouver Island to be your Olympics spokesperson.

    By Blogger jad, at 6:00 p.m.  

  • Ted, I recall Brison moving to Iggy on the final ballot. Only one.

    In Oct 2008, Robert Fragasso and the executive of the LPCQ voted to abolish the Quebec Lieutenant position. It has now been given to Denis Coderre. What the?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:12 p.m.  

  • Yeah, the Vancouver thing is a problem. A bigger problem may be Coderre. In spite of what the so-called “experts” from Quebec say (I am looking at you Chantel Hebert) , whenever we put the soft-nationalists in charge of the Liberal Party in Quebec, we lose! When Martin elevated Coderre, Lapierre, and Frulla in Quebec, all strong autonomist, Bourassa liberals, what happened? We lost. Why vote for a soft nationalist when you can vote for the real deal. There is a federalist vote in Quebec up for grabs. I am sure Dion won back some of it due to his Clarity Act efforts; but I am equally sure that he lost potential gains by supporting the BS Quebec is a “nation” clause. If we want the federalist vote in Quebec, we need to run strong federalist candidates. There is nothing wrong with politicians who want to focus on provincial powers in Quebec, but they will have a hard time winning unless they are part of the Bloc Quebecois.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:18 p.m.  

  • Iggy gave no shadow critic post to Navdeep Bains and put two other Indo-Canadian MPs in stereotypically "multicultural" posts -- Ruby Dhalla in multiculturalism and Sukh Dhaliwal in Asia Pacific.

    Way to stereotype and marginalize minorities Iggy!

    By Blogger Babar, at 7:21 p.m.  

  • For all the sniping and bitching, does anyone really think voters are that concerned with who was appointed to what SHADOW cabinet role? I mean, this is red meat for political geeks, but I don't think even comes close to blipping on the average Canadian's radar.

    I use my fiancee as a sounding board for these types of things. She's completely apolitical. I can see her eyes beginning to glaze over as I discuss the intricacies of who Michael Ignatieff chose to ask what specific types of questions in Parliament.

    By Blogger Independent, at 9:16 p.m.  

  • this is red meat for political geeks

    ... and I think it's a little overdone now.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 10:26 p.m.  

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