Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cabinet pontification

So as the press reported last week, Conservative sources (the press has Conservative sources these days?) say that when a cabinet shuffle comes, it will be no one in, no one out. That is my instinct as well, notwithstanding Stephen Taylor's musing that Carol Skelton will leave the cabinet. Though she is not reoffering, Tories now seem to be operating on a plan for an election more than two years from now (in October 2009) and there is no reason to remove someone who isn't reoffering. Moreover, most suspect David Emerson will not be running either.

My sources tell me the shuffle will be either Monday (the 13th) or Tuesday (the 14th). It is also my expectation that none of the new Secretaries of State will be elevated to full ministers.

Because I just can't resist, and because it is just a game of musical chairs and theoretically easier to predict, here are my predictions and my thoughts behind them.

Those who were shuffled already this January are the least likely to be shuffled again, they are:

Rona Ambrose (Intergovernmental Affairs)
John Baird (Environment)
Diane Finley (Immigration)
Rob Nicholson (Justice)
Monte Solberg (Human Resources)
Vic Toews (Treasury Board)
Peter Van Loan (Government House Leader)

Additionally, any movement of David Emerson (International Trade) or Michael Fortier (Public Works) would create unwanted negative press; they'll stay put. Senate Leader Majority LeBreton also has no where to go. I also expect Chuck Strahl (Agriculture) and low key Quebeckers Jean-Pierre Blackburn (Labour) and Josee Verner (International Cooperation) will remain unmoved. All of the remaining 13 ministers will move.

A lot of talk focusses on National Defence. Gordon O'Connor has become this shuffle's Rona Ambrose. It is all about moving him out. If no one leaves the cabinet, the only other portfolio one could imagine O'Connor in is Veterans' Affairs. The general consensus is also that a Francophone will need to be Defence Minister while the vandoos are in Afghanistan, some have suggested this would be Maxime Bernier, I disagree. First, the minister will also need good command of English as the war is a major issue in English Canada as well, Bernier doesn't have that. Moreover, the Prime Minister seems to go through favourite Quebeckers like he does foster kittens; even before he won office it went from Verner to Cannon and then during the campaign shifted to Fortier and now in office Bernier has become the favourite. Harper will not want to put Bernier in a potentially suicidal portfolio, so Lawrence Cannon, whose grandfather was coincidentally defence minister in Mackenzie King's war time cabinet, will get National Defence.

Though the furor has died down somewhat, Peter MacKay has been a disappointment in foreign affairs, he will become Minister of Public Safety. Taking over for him will be cabinet rock star and new Minister of Foreign Affairs Jim Flaherty, whose only possible replacement in finance is Maxime Bernier. This makes room for Stockwell Day, who has been a tremendous success in public safety, to take over the important job of industry minister.

Jim Prentice, who has been an important player behind the scenes (he chairs both the operations committee of cabinet and the special cabinet committee on energy and the environment), will continue his job as de facto COO of the government in addition to taking the complex and higher profile job of health minister. Outgoing health minister Tony Clement, will take the job of transport minister, a post he held in Ontario and one that would be freed up by the move of Cannon to defence.

Taking over Prentice's job in Indian Affairs would be Carol Skelton, a relative moderate and pragmatist who is required on such a touchy file. Her low profile job of revenue minister will be assumed by Bev Oda who has been a disaster in her current job. Loyola Hearn, the soft spoken but hard working Newfoundlander, will become heritage minister, a position for which he was once PC critic. Gary Lunn gets Hearn's old job of fisheries minister, while this finally leaves New Brunswick's own Greg Thompson, who has been a great steward of the veterans file, with Natural Resources - which co-owns the climate change file with environment - and possibly ACOA which Peter MacKay may or may not give up.

Thems my thoughts for what they're worth. I will standby to be wrong again early next week, or even more wrong if that isn't when the shuffle happens!

UPDATE: If this story from Monday's Globe & Mail is correct, it looks like my predictions won't even be close:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled Tuesday to unveil a smaller cabinet that he hopes to lead into the next election.

A government official, speaking anonymously, said there will be few, if any, fresh faces in the lineup, with Mr. Harper deciding instead to both promote junior ministers and to expand responsibilities for others to include portfolios that departing ministers will leave open.

“It's highly unlikely that backbenchers will enter cabinet, and it's likely that certain members of the current ministry will not be in this ministry,” the government official said.


Stepehn said...

I enjoyed reading your speculation. Very interesting thoughts.

I must emphasize Skelton's departure from cabinet as it's been reported that she will not seek re-election:

Stephen Taylor said...

oops, that was me above. I can't type and I accidentally hit ENTER.

Stephen Taylor said...

and here's a URL to the story that I posted in my first post. Really, I ought to get better at this commenting thing...

Stephen Taylor said...

and now I see that you originally acknowledged Skelton's plans re: re-election.

sorry for filling up your comments here.

Again, great post. I shall return more often.

Anonymous said...


Yeah Lawrence CANNON in Defence would be quite appropriate ;) Would make for some good satire on 22 Minutes as well!

nbpolitico said...

No problem Stephen, thanks for visiting the blog!

Anonymous said...

Curious about your comment that Cannon's father was a former war-time defence minister. Don't see any Cannons listed as such. What's your source?

nbpolitico said...

Not his father, his grandfather, on his mother's side. Sorry a typo on my part. Correcting the error.

Here he is: Charles Power.

nbpolitico said...

An here is the family link.

Anonymous said...

Power and Cannon in Defence -- good combo ;)

900 ft Jesus said...

I'm looking forward to comparing your predictions! Cannon for Defence...I hadn't thought of that, but it seems to fit.

Hearn for Heritage though...I think Stevie will want to keep a woman for that portfolio because, even though no one seems to be mentioning it lately, Oda's demotion will also leave Status of Women without a Minister. Maybe they will be split, but I doubt it.

What do you think will happen with S of W?

nbpolitico said...

Very good question about SofW I had honestly overlooked. It is part of Heritage but, like Sport, is often delegated to another minister so I guess one of the ladies will pick up "Secretary of State (Status of Women)" in addition to their duties.

Hearn would be the first ever male minister of Heritage though so maybe it is a stretch.

Anonymous said...

Remember, certain ministers were moved BECAUSE they were believed to be skilled enough to put out fires in other departments.

See John Baird (replacing Ambrose) for a more agressive approach on the Environment file and Rob Nicholson (replacing Towes) for a less socially conservative approach on Justice.

Truth is, there are very few naturally gifted politicians on Harper's team. Contrary to your "they moved once, they will not move again" prediction, look for one or more of these previously-shuffled, more gifted ministers, to shift into priotity areas.

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