Saturday, January 6, 2007

Shuffle Up & Deal - Analysis

First off, ES Nation, I've been asked to comment on the windstorms and snowstorms that continue to ravage the Lower Mainland of BC. As you might guess, I'm chalking it up to a wrathful, Old Testament God trying to wipe clean the soils that He hath wrought. That's what you get for voting NDP, Vancouver. ;)

Also, you may have heard that MP Wajid Khan has crossed the floor to join the Conservatives from the Liberal ranks. I'll be commenting on this tomorrow, so y'all come back, hear?

Now, on to the cabinet shuffle... I'll only be analysing the changes, from a pragmatic (can they do the job?) and political (can they help Harper win the next election?) point of view. On with the show!

John Baird, Environment - Pragmatic: John Baird has no experience in dealing with the environment. At all. Not federally, and not in his 10 years as an MPP in Ontario. But then, the minister doesn't need to be the smartest person in the room, or know the most about the subject: that's what those highly-paid experts and government support staff are for. If he can communicate government policy to a level even approaching how bad his haircut is, he'll do a fine job. Political: IF he does a good job, it's a feather in the cap of the Tories in a portfolio they need to do well on, and a capable minister from a province they need to do well in. A win/win.

Rona Ambrose, Intergovernmental Affairs - Pragmatic: Rona has worked in Intergovernmental Affairs in Alberta, behind the scenes. This post is definitely a demotion, although her additional duties (eg, President of the Privy Council) soften the blow. Most of the negotiating the public sees between governments happens in the papers and on television, and it's between various local and provincial leaders and the Prime Minister himself. This is a good place to put Rona and let her get her sea-legs back before moving her to a higher-profile portfolio in the future. Political: Rona was a disaster in Environment and had to be moved. Much of it wasn't her fault, and to take her out of cabinet completely would have not only upset Edmontonians, who have shown they'll elect Liberals when they feel a need, but it would also have upset some of the caucus, many of whom are fully aware it could just have easily been THEM in her shoes. This is a safe move, to a portfolio that's hard to mess up in.

Rob Nicholson, Justice - Pragmatic: Nicholson has served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice in the past, so he has experience with the portfolio. Also, as someone who was first elected to Parliament in 1984, he has the vital ability that many Tory MP's lack, namely to recognize, as someone who has sat in government before, what bills are well-crafted and which ones will be torn to ribbons. This skill is especially important in a Minister of Justice. Political: The number 2 man in the Harper government is from Ontario. Anyone who's surprised, put up your hand - this is how it had to be, especially with polling numnbers so low in Quebec, an Ontarian was the only logical choice to sit at Harper's right hand. Making it even smarter is that Nicholson is a moderate, and a former PC member. This choice will appeal through policy to small-c conservatives, and by virtue of pedigree not scare aware centrist voters and disenfranchised blue liberals. A great choice for Justice.

Vic Toews, Treasury Board President - Pragmatic: Vic's pedigree is all about Justice, where he (until Thursday) served as Minister. His socially conservative views weren't a problem in that capacity, and should be even less of a concern in his new role as holder of the federal purse. He has no experience in the role, but with much of the planning likely already completed, the hardest part of Vic's day might be remembering where he put his "yes" and "no" stamps. Political: A valuable Manitoba minister, Vic needed to be kept at the table to satisfy Manitobans and old Canadian Alliance voters. He's in a harmless ministry, and shouldn't hurt the Tory electoral fortunes any.

Peter Van Loan, House Leader - Pragmatic: This appointment raised a lot of eyebrows. The House Leader's main job, in a minority House, is to make sure that the Government doesn't fall due to the numbers game. Ask Joe Clark. It's a huge job, and arguably the most important one on the Government side - and Van Loan has been an MP for 30 months, and a minister for less than 8 weeks. That being said, Van Loan's strong suit is his ability to organize people and campaigns. If he keeps his eyes and ears open, he should do fine at not letting the government fall unexpectedly. Political: Van Loan is Progressive Conservative through-and-through, which will please the old PC's, and yet he also led the campaign for the "yes" side on the party merger into the Conservative Party of Canada in Ontario, which makes him "good people" to the old Alliance members. He lacks in Federal experience, but makes up for it in pedigree and geography, being another minister from Battleground Ontario. A decent choice.

Monte Solberg, Human Resources - Pragmatic: Monte has served as critic for Human Resources while in opposition, so he's somewhat familiar with the issues and the department. That being said, there's a lot of real estate between criticizing the minister and BEING the minister, so we'll see. He's managed not to make too many blunders in the 13 years he's been an MP, so don't expect that cautious approach to change now. Political: Monte hails from Medicine Hat, which is probably as safe a seat as the Tories have anywhere in the country. A Human Resources minister from labour-starved Alberta also shows that Harper is keenly aware of our situation out here... not that many Albertans are likely to vote Liberal because their Big Mac takes a bit longer to come and they can't get a cab. Medicine Hat is Reform heartland, and a notch on the Alberta Bible Belt... keeping Solberg around keeps your core supporters happy, and while it may not win you more seats, turfing him just to make room for someone from BC or the East would have been foolish. He doesn't make mistakes, and keeping him around doesn't smell like one either.

Diane Finley, Immigration - Pragmatic: Diane has a lot of background in administration. As anyone can tell you, no department seems to have more red tape, for better or worse, than the immigration department. Finley won't have to run the department single-handedly, of course - but it always helps to have a boss who understands the sometimes infuriating stacks of triplicate forms that need to be filled out before you can requisistion a new toilet seat. Political: Another Ontarian, which helps Harper. This department also run itself in good times, which will take some of the pressure off Finley while she deals with her recently diagnosed Graves' disease. Of course, when things get bad in immigration they generally get REALLY bad, so Finley's ability to take the heat may be in the spotlight if something goes wrong in the immigration department.

Note: Secretaries of State are not full ministers, but act as Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministers of their departments.

Marjory LeBreton, Secretary of State for Seniors - Pragmatic: You need a Senior looking after Seniors. The long and short of this job is, you need someone Seniors can complain to who can listen and make them feel like they count and you can relate to them. Marjory can do this, so she's a good choice. Political: Seniors are motivated voters. If they feel you're paying attention to them, they'll come out in droves to keep you around. If they feel ignored or unimportant, they'll come out in droves to kick you to the curb. Harper's aiming for option A, and Marjory can help deliver it.

Gerry Ritz, Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism - Pragmatic: A nine-year veteran of the back-benches, this SecState position gives Ritz and Harper a chance to test the waters and see if Ritz is the right fit for a full cabinet post later on. Political: A old-style Reformer with a good sense of humour and a Saskatchewan voice at the table, Ritz could find himself a full minister before too long if he does well in this new job.

Helena Guergis, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade - Pragmatic: Helena doesn't have a whole lot of experience in this regard, so the learning curve will be quite steep for her. She's a good addition to the team, though, as she's being given a chance to prove herself and earn a full cabinet seat after the next election. Those who feel a need to prove themselves generally work pretty hard, so expect her to make the curve. Political: The Conservatives have taken a beating over their perceived attitudes towards women, and the appointment of another female face, even to a minor position, helps dispel this. The hope is that Helena earns a full cabinet seat and becomes a foil to Belinda, so whenever Stronach waxes poetic about the barbarian misoginysts in the Tory party, Helena can bring her exceptionally (EXCEPTIONALLY) photogenic self out to a podium and cut down Belinda's arguments as sour grapes.

Christian Paradis, Secretary of State for Agriculture - Pragmatic: A Quebec Lawyer hardly seems a natural choice for SecState Agriculture, but as with many of the SecState appointments, it's not the experience of the MP that determines their assignment, but rather their ability to learn and thrive with added responsibility that is being tested. It's sort of a "minister-in-training" program, and Paradis is noted for his analytical and strategic abilities. If he learns quickly and well, he could see himself elevated quickly. Political: Harper needs Quebec ministers, and what better way than to train them from within? This is a good gamble, with Chuck Strahl still running Agriculture to keep the Western farmers happy and a sidekick from Quebec to recognize the farmers along the St. Lawrence and their completely different concerns.

Jay Hill, Secretary of State & Chief Whip - Pragmatic: Hill has been an MP for 13 years, earning the respect of his colleagues first as a Reform MP, then through all the incarnations of the party up to today's Conservatives. His primary responsibility will be as Chief Whip, which just requires that he be able to enforce party discipline - a big priority in this "loose lips sink ships" approach that the Harper Tories have, out of necessity, taken. If Hill can keep some of his old running mates from the Reform days under wraps, he'll excel here. Political: Jay Hill is the MP for Prince George, which (if we believe Hedy Fry) has crosses burning on lawns "as we speak". A BC voice at the table helps in one of the only provinces to elect Liberals, NDP members and Tories. One can't help but wonder how much longer Hill will stick around, but this seems like a reward rather than a chance to prove himself capable of ministerial responsibility.

Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity - Pragmatic: Nothing says "multiculturalism" more than a guy descended from Irish immigrants who lives in the West and went to a french-immersion catholic boarding school (and hockey factory) in Saskatchewan (Notre Dame - Never Lose Heart, You Hounds!). In truth, this surprised me, as Kenney had been performing well as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. This very well could be an audition for a bigger post later on, but Kenney's social conservatism limits the number of ministries that Harper could safely put him in. Political: Want a lifetime job with the Liberal party of Canada? Get a microphone, a table at a local restaurant, and invite one of Jason's immediate relatives in particular to lunch. You might ensure a Liberal majority with the ensuing recording, as the family member in question has social views on multiculturalism and inclusion that make Rob Anders look like a Nobel Peace Prize winner. This keeps the Tories strong where they were already their strongest, Alberta, and Jason himself, as one of the brightest bulbs on the Tory tree, isn't likely to do ANYTHING to embarass the party in this position. A safe pick.


Anonymous said...

Look at the hypocrisy! This Alberta scandal compared to the 2003 Ottawa scadal when Sheila Copps assistant Charles Boyer spent $31,000 on lunches... Mark Norris' Executive Assistant spends $29,000 of taxpayers dollars in Vegas and the Alberta Tories get the soft treatment by the media! look at the reaction of the media in 2003:

Sept 18, 2003 - CTV Copps accused of letting aide rack up huge tab

Sept 18, 2003 - CBC Former Copps aide big spender at posh restaurants

Sept 29, 2003 -Link Byfield on Boyer. Where is the Cizitzens Centre for "Freedom and Democracy" on the Vegas $29,000?

From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation: 6th Annual Teddies Waste Awards

"Worst Adaptation of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s: ”This is the story of Charles Boyer, a young public servant in Ottawa, who is kept by a prominent, older woman. Mr. Boyer dinged taxpayers for almost $30,000 over a two-year period while his boss, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps was seeking the Liberal leadership. One memorable scene has Mr. Boyer rushing from restaurant to restaurant on June 12, 2002, charging taxpayers for two separate dinners. (The first for $102 at an Ottawa-area Japanese restaurant and a second $397 meal in Little Italy.)"

It's a sham that the media treats the wasting of taxpayers dollars in Ottawa as a massive scandal, yet barely pays any attention to the same waste and irresponsibility in Alberta as not news.

Albertans deserve better from their media and their government.

We got rid of the corrupt Liberals in Ottawa, now it's time to do the same to the Tories in Alberta.

Enlightened Savage said...

I don't disagree that the MSM coverage on this issue has been substandard... personally, I think the person in question should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and fired, along with anyone else who was party to his actions. People make mistakes, but whether he charged a pizza or a Vegas vacation to that card, it was *our* money, he was using it without permission (which is, as I recall, THEFT), and is not only a violation of the law but a gross violation of the public trust. I suspect this government employee is held to the same standards of conduct that I am as a government employee, and these actions would be a blatant violation of nearly every piece of paper I signed before being sworn in as a member of the public service.

Ken Chapman and daveberta have covered this in much more detail than I can or will. Head on over to Ken and Dave's pages for the full details on this issue.