Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The New Cabinet

Before we look at the new Cabinet, the answer to the question on everyone's mind:

No, Maxime Bernier didn't bring a date to the swearing in.

With that out of the way, a look at the new puppets in the Stephen Harper Theater:

Robert Douglas Nicholson: Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Marjory LeBreton: Leader of the Government in the Senate
Peter Gordon MacKay: Minister of National Defence
Vic Toews: Minister of Public Safety
Rona Ambrose: Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women
Diane Finley: Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
Beverley J. Oda: Minister of International Cooperation
John Baird: Minister of Foreign Affairs
Tony Clement: President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario
Stephen Joseph Harper: Prime Minister of Canada
James Michael Flaherty: Minister of Finance
Peter Van Loan: Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Jason Kenney: Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
Gerry Ritz: Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board
Christian Paradis: Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)
James Moore: Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
Denis Lebel: Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
Leona Aglukkaq: Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
Keith Ashfield: Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway
Peter Kent: Minister of the Environment
Lisa Raitt: Minister of Labour
Gail Shea: Minister of National Revenue
John Duncan: Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Steven Blaney: Minister of Veterans Affairs
Edward Fast: Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
Joe Oliver: Minister of Natural Resources
Peter Penashue: Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
Julian Fantino: Associate Minister of National Defence
Bernard Valcourt: Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) (La Francophonie)
Gordon O'Connor: Minister of State and Chief Government Whip
Maxime Bernier: Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)
Diane Ablonczy: Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)
Lynne Yelich: Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)
Steven John Fletcher: Minister of State (Transport)
Gary Goodyear: Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)
Ted Menzies: Minister of State (Finance)
Tim Uppal: Minister of State (Democratic Reform)
Alice Wong: Minister of State (Seniors)
Bal Gosal: Minister of State (Sport)

There's a Seinfeld episode where George is trying to get fired by the Yankees but, no matter what he does, Steinbrenner refuses to axe him. Suffice to say, someone trying to get fired from a Stephen Harper Cabinet would likely have very much the same experience.

Which explains why Bev Oda is back. And it explains why certain Cabinet Ministers continue to lumber along without really doing anything (fun fact: despite all evidence to the contrary, Rona Ambrose is actually still an MP).

It also means we should pay close attention to this Cabinet because odds are it won't change significantly over the next four years, outside of some tinkering every August. So let's look at some of the more notable moves:

1. Younger Ministers who might have been in line for a promotion, like Jason Kenney or James Moore, stay where they are. Some will interpret this as Harper trying to keep down would-be-successors, but I tend to see it more as Harper actually wanting to keep ministers in portfolios they're handling well.

In the case of Kenney, it seems obvious he's far more valuable to the Conservatives in Immigration than anywhere else, so I never really put much stock in the rumours he'd be moved.

2. Tony Clement goes to Treasury Board to make the "tough cuts". Yes, that's the same Tony Clement who took the art of pork barrelling to new heights during the G20 and found a way to make the Census more expensive.

3. John Baird goes to Foreign Affairs, presumably to add stability to a portfolio that has seen 5 Ministers over the last 5 years. Despite this, we can still expect Baird to answer questions in the House of Commons on behalf of the 37 Ministers Harper does not have confidence in.

4. In total 39 MPs wound up in Cabinet, tying Mulroney for the record of the largest Cabinet ever. Among the new positions created is "Associate Minister of Defence", confirming that Harper wants Julian Fantino in Cabinet, but doesn't want him doing anything more important than being Peter MacKay's wingman.

5. Among the rookies are Tim Uppal, Alice Wong, and Bal Gosal. More diversity in Cabinet is a good thing, even if the motives behind it may be political.

6. Maxime Bernier is back in Cabinet, albeit only as a Minister of State. Sadly, we'll never know if Harper put Max back in because all was forgiven, or because he had no other options in Quebec. It will be interesting to see whether Bernier remains the Minister Of Keeping It Real, or if he starts toting the party line.

7. Joe Oliver seems to be the only new Toronto MP who grabbed a spot. Which is somewhat surprising given the buzz around Chris Alexander, Mark Adler, Kellie Leitch, Eve Adams, and others. Mind you, if you're not going to fire anyone (besides Rob Merrifield and Rob Moore) and you want to ensure a "trim" 39 member Cabinet, you need to draw the line somewhere.


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