Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dion's shadow cabinet

I am not entirely thrilled with the announcement today, but it is better than some of the press predictions. First of all it is not even a shadow cabinet, Dion said in his news conference that he does not like that term because opposition is different from government, all members of caucus are equals and there is no need to match people up with departments because they will not be running them. This is a fair point.

However, an opposition must prove it is ready to govern and the first thing a prime minister has to do is name a cabinet. If the leader of the opposition cannot take on that task, I think it makes him look weak and Dion has made a tactical error.

In all, there are 53 of 100 MPs with critic or caucus leadership roles. Why not give all 100 roles if you are going to give that many? You end up insulting the rest of the bunch.

Denis Coderre, who is the last remaining face of the "corruption wing" of the Liberal Party of Quebec and "genius" behind the nation policy in Ignatieff's platform gets the high profile position of defence critic. In my mind, Coderre shouldn't even be getting his nomination papers signed, let alone a senior critic role. He is a slimey and arrogant character who does the party a disservice every time he opens his mouth.

I am also annoyed by the inclusion of John McCallum as finance critic. McCallum has a finance background and served for a time as junior finance minister under Chr├ętien, however he has served in this role since February and has not impressed me. His arrogance and condecending nature towards other MPs and journalists on television programs make the Liberal Party look arrogant and condecending. Moreover, he is not effective in question period. A good job for John, who I like, would be chair of the Public Accounts Committee, allowing him to use his expertise to hold the government's books accountable.

It is interesting to look at New Brunswick where former cabinet minister Andy Scott has really been left out. Of the six New Brunswick Liberals, 3 of them are given critic roles and Scott is not one of them.

  • Jean-Claude D'Amours of Madawaska-Restigouche is ACOA critic

  • Charlie Hubbard of Miramichi is Rural Affairs critic

  • Paul Zed of Saint John is Cities & Communities critic
Dominic LeBlanc, who many considered a rising star and who I thought should be house leader, has no critic role, nor does Andy Scott. Both however get to serve on the Priorities and Planning Committee which will meet weekly to plan the agenda by viture of other positions they will hold. Brian Murphy of Moncton-Dieppe-Riverview gets totally shafted.

In addition to critics, the caucus will have 5 committees. Four policy committees which are Economic Prosperity, Social Justice, Environmental Sustainability and Canada and the World. Essentially Dion's "three pillars" + foreign affairs. The fifth committee is the aforementioned Priorities and Planning Committee which will be made up of the caucus leadership and chairs and vice-chairs of these committees.

Andy Scott is vice-chair of the Committee on Social Justice.

Dominic LeBlanc gets a seat on Priorities and Planning due to his recently announced role as vice-chair of the party's (not caucus) policy committee.

Brian Murphy is a member of the Committee on Social Justice.

Also named are "caucus mentors", Lawrence MacAulay of PEI gets oversight over NB and NS as well as his home province. Not entirely sure what this role is, but it seems to be comparable to a political minister, I am not sure how keen the NBLA and NSLP will be if this is the case. Their specified role is to mentor new candidates, so I guess it makes sense to have just one for the Martimes as there are only a few unheld seats. Ironically, they are being given this role due to "their wealth of knowledge and experience", yet the mentor for Newfoundland (sic) is Labrador MP Todd Russell who is the newest member of the Atlantic Caucus having been elected in a 2005 by-election.

This is not how I would have done it, but it has potential, so we shall see.

ADDENDUM - Where did the leadership candidates end up?

  • Carolyn Bennett is critic for Seniors, the Disabled and the Social Economy.

  • Maurizio Bevilacqua is critic for Science & Research.

  • Scott Brison is the Industry critic and co-chair of the party (not caucus) Platform Committee.

  • St├ęphane Dion is the leader of the opposition and chair of the committee on Priorities and Planning.

  • Ken Dryden is the chair of the committee on Social Justice.

  • Hedy Fry is critic for Sport and the Vancouver Olympics (which I guess doesn't involve sports?).

  • Martha Hall Findlay is the policy outreach chair (not caucus).

  • Michael Ignatieff is deputy leader of the opposition, vice-chair of the committee on Priorities and Planning and an ex-officio member of all other committees.

  • Gerard Kennedy is the special advisor to the leader on Election Readiness and Renewal.

  • Bob Rae is co-chair of the party (not caucus) Platform Committee.

  • Joe Volpe is Transport critic.
ADDENDUM #2 - My predictions kind of close!

I was shocked to find that some of my predictions were actually close. Though I misjudged the general structure of the shadow cabinet/caucus roles, I did get 7/28 (9/30 if I count Dion and Ignatieff) of the people I named matched up to the right portfolios. Three others were in similar portfolios to what I predicted.

Where I went right
Ray Bonin - Caucus Chair
Bonnie Brown - Health
Wayne Easter - Agriculture
Hedy Fry - Sport
Tina Keeper - Canadian Heritage
Anita Neville - Indian Affairs
Karen Redman - Whip

Where I came close
Navdeep Bains - International Trade (I predicted International Cooperation)
Sue Barnes - Public Safety (I predicted Justice)
Marlene Jennings - Justice (I predicted Public Safety)


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that Paul Zed got a critic portfolio.

I think Dion's strategy is more election preparadeness rather than a shadow cabinet -- these people won't be in their critic portfolios for too long as an election this year seems a strong possibility.

nbpolitico said...

Indeed, I was surprised by Zed's appointment. It is also kind of funny that New Brunswick has both the Rural Affairs and Cities critic.

Anonymous said...

Tina Keeper in Canadian Heritage is no surprise.

I guess Borys Wrzesewskj has been forgiven for his earlier comments on Hezbollah.

I figured Hubbard would get something good as he was the only New Brunswick MP to back Dion.

Hedy Fry got a very junior portfolio -- I hear that she may be asked to step aside in the next election for a candidate who is the wife of Dion's campaign manager. Her leadership campaign was definitely a joke.

Anonymous said...

lol, true -- interesting that NB has both rural affairs and cities ;)

Keon said...

"criticDominic LeBlanc, who many considered a rising star and who I thought should be house leader, "

I would say nobody better personifies old time Liberals than Leblanc. Nepotism and a few mil an election have helped keep certain parts of NB from progressing. Politics before progress. How Liberal is that?

nbpolitico said...

Keon, can't say I see where you are coming from.

Certainly Dominic LeBlanc began his political career that way - Fern Robichaud being appointed to the Senate to make room for Dominic, the son of the Governor General and friend of the Prime Minister - but he lost the 1997 election.

He won his election in 2000 honestly and climbed his way up the ranks serving very well as deputy whip and associate deputy house leader from 2004 to 2006, chair of the 2006 convention, etc

JL said...

Not one woman named as caucus chair. Only men.

In light of Dion's 33% female candidate guarantee, this is a surprise. It demonstrates that when Dion speaks of gender equality in the Liberal party, he is talking out of his derrierre.

nbpolitico said...

jl - The #3 position in the party leadership - Senate leader - has gone to a woman.

The Whip, Deputy House Leader and Deputy Senate Leader are all women as well.

Of the "big" portfolios, Heritage, Health, Indian Affairs, Justice, Revenue, Public Safety, Social Development, Veterans Affairs all go to women. Women have also been named as the mentors for new candidates in Ontario and Manitoba.

There is some stuff to criticize here, but I think the proportion of women in high roles is impressive considering the number of women available to Dion in caucus.

JL said...

None of the positions you mention are high profile positions.

My point is that if Dion was serious about increasing the visibility/potency/power of women in the Liberal Party he would have given high profile posts like industry, finance, environment, women. But he didn't.

Why isn't Ralph Goodale the "Deputy" House leader to a woman? Why is no woman leading in any postion in the party?

If he doesn't put women in high profile positions while in opposition when the stakes are lower, how can we expect him to do it if he become Prime Minister?

Keon said...

So you feel that several hundred million dollars thru EI "adjustments",election after election,solely meant to pacify and retain several Liberal ridings,was and is the best use of Federal funds for NB?

nuna d. above said...

Are the three NB critics given roles to prop them up in vulnerable ridings? The others are likely considered to be safer in their ridings.

nbpolitico said...

JL - you're right, Health isn't a major portfolio in the eyes of Canadians. Public Safety (which is essentially foreign minister for dealing with the US) isn't major, Social Development (with a $30b budget by far the biggest dept) isn't major.

Keon - I think a belief that the Liberal govt revised their EI guidelines (making them fair for seasonal workers) as a ploy to elect one MP in a safe Liberal riding is lunancy.

Nuna - interesting theory, I never thought of that. May be true in cases of D'Amours and Zed but I think Hubbard is safer than Scott.

Marg said...

Hubbard's seat is a very safe one. This riding wouldn't go Conservative unless the CON's were to win the whole country by a landslide. In the last forty years, I believe this has only happened once, when Brian Mulroney came to power and Bud Jardine was elected here.

Charlie is very well known, liked, and respected in Miramichi.