Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cabinet update(s)

The cover of some editions of the Globe & Mail have big above-the-fold pictures of Maxime Bernier, Peter MacKay and Jim Prentice. The paper reports that Bernier will go to foreign affiars, MacKay to defence and Prentice to industry. Which would make me 0 for 3.

Watch here for updates and the names break and the shuffle occurs.

UPDATE #1

From the PMO press office:

Public events for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Tuesday, August 14th are:

3:45 p.m. – Prime Minister Harper will attend a swearing-in ceremony of new Members of the Ministerial team.

Rideau Hall
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON

5:30 p.m. – Prime Minister Harper will deliver a brief statement concerning his new Ministry.

Prime Minister’s Residence
24 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON
So the shuffle will begin at 4:45 Atlantic, so shortly after you start your supper you'll know the answers ;)

UPDATE #2

A new record! Almost every single prediction was wrong!!!! Hooray for me. Skelton did infact leave the cabinet. All of my ministerial guesses were wrong. The only area where I was right was that no one who moved in January was re-moved.

In case you've not seen it elsewhere...

O'Connor moved out of Defence to Revenue while Revenue minister Carol Skelton moved out of the cabinet.

MacKay moved to take Defence, while Bernier took his job at Foreign Affairs and Prentice took Industry, Strahl took Indian Affairs, Ritz (a junior minister) took Agricutlure and Diane Ablonczy finally, sort of, joined cabinet as junior minister for small business and tourism (Ritz's old job).

Finally two ladies did the old switcharoo with Oda going to International Cooperation and Verner to Heritage.

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.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Of interest

So here is the situation.

The opposition has elected a leader who lacks charisma, who was not a frontrunner in the leadership campaign, and who emerged as the consensus candidate not with enthusiasm but because the party simply could not stand the other candidates.

He has shown to be less than a natural fit for the role of leader and, in fact, the government party has taken to running ads saying "a leader must be a leader" and other messages telling Canadians that the opposition "leader" just isn't up to the job as prime minister.

Though the government and opposition parties stand relatively close in opinion polls, with the edge usually to the government, the prime minister enjoys leadership numbers far in excess to that of the opposition leader thus giving the government an extra edge. Indeed, in some polls the leader of the NDP fairs better than the opposition leader in terms of leadership quality numbers.

Worst yet? The opposition caucus is bleeding members with a combination of long-time MPs with great experience and newcomers thought to be the future of the party resigning, forcing by-elections from coast to coast.

Jeez, those Tory delegates must really be regretting electing Joe Clark back in '76, he's got no hope to win the '79 election. They should have picked Wagner or Mulroney or even Macdonald...

h/t Tory blogger Le Politico who gave me the idea when he commented that this many opposition MPs resigning "at mid-term is unprecedented". In fact, we are looking at 5 Liberals (out of 102) stepping down today, while in Joe Clark's day it was 7 (out of 95).

Sources: Wikipedia page on the 1979 election, Wikipedia page on the 1976 Tory leadership and the Parliament of Canada page on 1977 and 1978 by-elections.

Best politico vid ever

Now I am far, far away from being a supporter of Sam Brownback for the U.S. presidency but I have to post this video which is the best amatuer political vid I have seen to date.



h/t Jonathan Martin / The Politico

Nuclear part deux

After a good debate on the announcement over the past few days, there are two very good and informative news articles in the Telegraph-Journal today, I will quote from them...

When it came online in 1983 Lepreau's Candu 6 reactor was three years behind schedule and, at $1.4 billion, nearly $700 million over budget. This deal shields New Brunswick taxpayers from cost overruns.

Patrick Lamarre, president of SNC-Lavalin Nuclear, said the private companies will generate project financing by tapping different companies and pension funds, should the project proceed. The New Brunswick government will have the ability to opt into as much risk as it believes it and NB Power can sustain.

"If the study is favourable, the funding for the project will be organized by Team Candu and by private investors and not by New Brunswick taxpayers," Lamarre said.
and

Duane Bratt is a policy studies professor at Mount Royal College in Calgary with expertise in the Canadian nuclear industry. He doesn't see a downside for the province, considering the private sector's lead role. Alberta has been examining a similar financial arrangement.

"This should address many of the critics that have been out there about cost overruns and delays, that nuclear power is uneconomic," Bratt said. "This is very significant. This is the most significant aspect of this deal."

...

Mount Royal's nuclear expert said getting out early is giving New Brunswick the potential for a serious economic jolt.

"They are ahead of everybody," Bratt said. "In the case of Alberta they haven't even made their site selection yet." Keir called Wednesday's announcement a "no-brainer." The difficult decisions will come after examining the business case.
and

Also up for negotiation is the involvement of NB Power. David Hay, NB Power's president and chief executive officer, said it makes sense for his nuclear division to be the operator. But Keir said if NB Power balks at signing on, there is a possibility Atomic Energy and its partners could solicit an outside operator.
and

Atomic Energy would not disclose how much a new generation reactor would cost. Outside estimates place the cost at more than $3 billion. Graham floated a $5-billion total value of such a project, pointing out the second reactor would create 4,000 jobs in trades, engineering and information technology over six years, 500 permanent jobs at the reactor, and roughly 300 jobs at the two centres of excellence.

"It is time to bring our New Brunswickers back," Graham said at the news conference.
and

the $2.5-million feasibility study must demonstrate a solid business case. In the coming months, Atomic Energy will be pushing interested U.S.-based utilities to sign statements of intent, the first step toward buying power generated from a future reactor.
In the comments on the earlier thread, the main concerns seemed to be the viability of markets and risk for the province. According to this, there is no committment now. If we do decide to go ahead we will have a cutting edge centre of excellence in New Brunswick, the builders will take on as much risk as we want (including the potential to take all of it on and we would not get cash to pay down debt but would get 800 good, permanent jobs) and so on and so on.

Now, can't we all just get along? Agree this is worth a look and celebrate a bit of innovative thinking and forward moving direction coming from our government for the first time in a long time?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Excuse me, Mr. Kettle? There is a pot calling for you...

My least favourite MP and Conservative attack dog Pierre Poilievre is on the front page of The Hill Times this week, in reference to the number of Liberal MPs resigning saying as follows:
  • they are "breaking their word" to their constituents;
  • "St├ęphane Dion is not a leader, so they're resigning because they don't want to be part of a failed effort";
  • they "are responsible for millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded byelections"; and
  • if they were going to resign early, "why did these Liberals run to be elected to Parliament in the first place?".
Several others are quoted about how Poilievre is right and how horrible these Liberals are.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of people retiring early without a very good reason. You are elected to serve a term and if people put your trust in you, you should respect that. However, there is an old saying about throwing stones when you live in a glass house.

I would ask Mr. Poilievre, have these individuals also betrayed their constituents for resigning in the middle of their terms:

  • Current Conservative campaign chair and former interim leader of the Canadian Alliance John Reynolds who resigned in 1977 because he could not support Joe Clark as leader.

  • Reform Party founder Preston Manning who resigned in 2002 as he found it uncomfortable to sit in a caucus which he did not lead.

  • Or perhaps our current prime minister, Stephen Harper, who resigned in 1997 to take up a job with the National Citizens Coalition and due to disagreements with his leader.
So Pierre, are Messrs. Reynolds (in charge of getting you re-elected), Manning (the founder of the better part of today's conservative movement and one time mentor to your current leader) and Harper (your current leader) just as bad as these Liberals? If not, please explain how that is exactly.