By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
A statement from NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Jean Crowder.
“After the last two weeks of witnessing the Prime Minister defend the entitlements of his Senators and his ministers’ conflicts of interest, it’s good to finally see one Conservative, Mr. Duncan, actually take responsibility for his actions.
“Conservatives have clearly been unable to get the job done on aboriginal issues. At this crucial time in First Nation, Métis and Inuit relations, the Prime minister must move quickly to replace Mr. Duncan with a full-time Minister – not someone who’s time is split between three ministries – who can help the Conservative government change direction and start building a more respectful nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations, Métis and Inuit.”
The official story seems to be that ministers were ordered to review their files after Jim Flaherty’s letter to the CRTC got the Finance Minister in trouble and that Mr. Duncan’s letter turned up as a result of that review. John Geddes explains why writing to the tax court was such a clear infraction.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Brent Toderian wants the federal government to establish a minister of cities.
If positioned, led, and funded properly, a ministry of cities could be the place where a new national strategy on transportation, both within and between cities, could finally be born. A place where a true, long-overdue visionary approach to national urban housing could be re-built. A place where everything from smart taxes, urban mobility and infrastructure deficits, to urban sprawl, better suburbs and inner-city transformations could be better understood and debated.
A ministry of state for urban affairs previously existed in the 1970s.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 2:22 PM - 0 Comments
Meagan Fitzpatrick reports from today’s hearings into Helena Guergis’ lawsuit.
It’s not the labour minister’s job to report to her staff member that she saw a colleague use cocaine, Helena Guergis’s lawyer said Friday. Saying those words amounted to defamation, Stephen Victor argued, because they were false.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 6, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Lee Berthiaume tries to figure out why Peter MacKay is still the Defence Minister.
Whether Harper decided to leave MacKay untouched because of his importance to the party, his ties to the Atlantic region, because he’d done a good job or to prove a point is a matter of sharp debate. What is not is MacKay’s record for emerging unscathed when the consensus among pundits and experts seems to be his time has come.
“None of this has been an easy ride for Peter MacKay,” said author Bob Plamondon, who has written several books about the Conservative Party. “But it’s a testament to his resilience that he’s been able to take these hits.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
PM Harper tells Rutherford no Cabinet shuffle until midterm; I guess no limo for me anytime soon!! Lol.
Meanwhile, Global has obtained Bev Oda’s limo invoices.
The invoices requested under Access to Information were released on Wednesday, a day after Oda retired from politics and more than a week after the department told Global News no such records exist. The department later backtracked and promised to hand over all records of Oda’s limo and car rental expenses since August 2007.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Speaking with AM770 in Calgary today—about halfway through the 10am slot here—the Prime Minister added prorogation to the list of things that likely won’t be happening before Parliament returns in the fall.
To be honest, I thought about doing that, but some time ago I made a decision that I probably wouldn’t do it. I didn’t see any reason to do it right now. We’ve still got a number of pieces of legislation we do want to pass. And I think what I’m more likely to do, Dave, is probably in mid-term, we’ll probably have a new session mid-term, when we’ll take a look at how everybody’s performing and make some major changes at that point. But I think between now and then, let’s keep everybody focused on the job we got elected to do and the tasks I gave them to do last year.
He included a cabinet shuffle in that mid-term reset. That would seemingly put the government on schedule for a prorogation and cabinet shuffle in the summer of 2013.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 5:17 PM - 0 Comments
Per the announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Julian Fantino moves to International Cooperation to replace Bev Oda and Bernard Valcourt becomes the associate minister of defence, replacing Mr. Fantino at that spot.
And per this tweet from the Prime Minister’s director of communications, that’s it.
So much for all that cabinet speculation.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
First, courtesy of Joanna Smith, the airing of grievances.
While she is credited with bringing more muscular oversight and focus to the department that doles out foreign aid money to help the world’s most vulnerable populations, she also ran roughshod over young Conservative aides and bureaucrats, one former government official said. She berated civil servants in meetings in full view of their peers, pressured political staff to delay or obscure the mandatory publication of her ministerial expenses and regularly smoked cigarettes in her office, in violation of provincial laws, the former official added. “She just ignored all the rules. Ignored everything. Fire hazards. Nothing. Just smoking away. Her staff would go off the deep end.”
John Ivison finds similar complaints, but praises her larger accomplishments.
“It is an inglorious end to an inglorious career, announced on a website in the middle of summer,” said one of her former staff members. Ms. Oda had one of the highest staff turnovers of any minister and people who have worked with her said she could be obnoxious and rude. Yet no one denies she could also be effective. Working with a like-minded CIDA president in Margaret Biggs, Ms. Oda deconstructed the agency and sought to break the stranglehold of the non-governmental organizations, who had long dictated where Canada’s aid was spent.
CP recalls the first gaffe.
She entered politics by wresting the suburban Toronto riding of Durham from the Liberals in 2004 and was rewarded with increased pluralities in subsequent elections. She found herself appointed to Harper’s first cabinet in 2006 and quickly landed in her first controversy: the newly appointed heritage minister allowed a broadcasting executive to organize and advertise a fundraiser, even though she now oversaw policies that affected the industry. Only after the media and the NDP raised the apparent conflict of interest did Oda pull out of the event and the cheques were returned to donors. The gaffe happened at the same time as the Conservatives were pushing through the Federal Accountability Act.
The Globe says Ms. Oda was told she would be removed from the international development portfolio. Postmedia considers the coming cabinet shuffle. And Susan Delacourt considers how ministers are dispensed with.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 12:32 PM - 0 Comments
Today, the Honourable Beverley J. Oda announced that she advised the Prime Minister two weeks ago that she will be stepping down as the Member of Parliament for the federal riding of Durham effective on July 31, 2012.
First elected in 2004, Beverley Oda was named as the official opposition critic for Canadian Heritage. In 2006, she was named as the Minister for Canadian Heritage in the newly elected Conservative government. She was then named as the Minister for International Cooperation in 2007. Minister Oda is the longest serving Minister responsible for CIDA, the Canadian government‘s agency responsible for its international aid and development efforts.
“For over eight years, it has been an honor and privilege to have served the constituents in Clarington, Scugog and Uxbridge. As the Minister for International Cooperation, I have had the opportunity to witness the hardships of the worlds most vulnerable peoples and have witnessed the great compassion of Canadians for those in need,“ said Bev Oda. “I am grateful for the support of my staff and colleagues in the House of Commons and Senate. I wish to express my appreciation to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet for their outstanding leadership.“
Archived coverage of Ms. Oda’s eventful time in cabinet is here.
The Prime Minister has released a statement in response. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
The Cabinet Minister Limousine Service represents one of the most egregious displays of Ottawa opulence. Every Minister is entitled to a vehicle and a driver. For security reasons, I do not take issue with Ministers being chauffeured to events around the Nation’s Capital. But there is little justification for Ministers being driven around the Parliamentary Precincts, especially when the House of Commons also operates a continuous Shuttle Bus Service for MP’s and all Parliamentary Staff.
But the worst waste of taxpayer money involves the 6,548 hours of standby service limo drivers recorded in 2011. The House of Commons frequently sits until late at night and if votes are being recorded, conceivably more than 30 limousines complete with drivers, will be parked outside Center Block for hours; the whole time overtime being charged for this standby “service”.
Surely there is a more cost effective method of getting Cabinet Ministers to and from meetings. Surely, as government preaches fiscal discipline such extravagance must be eliminated. Surely, having limo drivers on standby for hours is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Surely, there are taxis available in Ottawa.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 1:33 PM - 0 Comments
The only thing more fun than a cabinet shuffle is speculating about a cabinet shuffle. The Star, Huffington Post, CBC and Postmedia have your first guesses, including mentions of Peter MacKay, Bev Oda, Julian Fantino, Christian Paradis, John Duncan, Peter Kent, Vic Toews, Maxime Bernier, Denis Lebel, Rob Nicholson, Jason Kenney, James Moore, John Baird, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, Candice Hoeppner, Kellie Leitch, James Rajotte and Greg Rickford.
That leaves just 144 Conservatives (excluding the Prime Minister) left to be speculated about between now and whenever Mr. Harper goes to Rideau. Actually, 145 if you include the stuffed dog that participated in last week’s C-38 vote marathon.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 1:06 PM - 0 Comments
Amid much speculating about the possibility of a cabinet shuffle and much guessing as to who might go where, Roland Paris wonders if John Baird might be the next defence minister.
Look at it from the prime minister’s standpoint. He needs a minister of defence who can weather the political storm that’s gathering around the department. Projected costs of the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will probably continue to rise, which is terrible news for the Tories, who have attempted to build their brand on fiscal discipline. Further, as Postmedia’s Lee Berthiaume reported yesterday, even the enormous price tag on the F-35 acquisition is dwarfed by the government’s $35-billion shipbuilding plan, which is already behind schedule. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is too smart not to see the great political risks.
If Mr. Baird goes to defence, it will be his sixth portfolio in just over six years after being President of the Treasury Board, Transport Minister, Environment Minister (twice), Government House leader and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
I’m not sure what the record is in this regard, but it would leave Mr. Baird one post short of the legendary Allan MacEachen, who was, at one time or another, Minister of Labour, Minister of Amateur Sport, Minister of National Health and Welfare, Minister of Manpower and Immigration, Secretary of State for External Affairs, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
CTV tabulates the bills for ministerial transportation.
The analysis reveals that the drivers who serve the Public Works and Government Services Minister Rona Ambrose accumulated the most overtime: more than 1,000 hours costing taxpayers $40,074.
Records show that Tony Clement, then Industry Minister, had a driver on standby for more than 360 days that year. The driver charged taxpayers to be on “standby” for Clement virtually every hour outside of his regular shift — 16 hours every weekday and 24 hours on weekends to a total of 6,548 hours in 2010/11. (Standby hours are paid out at 0.5 hours for every four hours on standby).
The hero of fiscal prudence turns out to be Gary Lunn, who, while a minister, apparently opted to walk. This is even more impressive when one considers that, as a relatively shorter person, Mr. Lunn conceivably requires more steps to cover the same amount of ground.
Update 3:47pm. A note from Ms. Ambrose’s office explains that the minister’s driver has recently been classified as exempt staff and no longer receives overtime.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 10:35 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister raised the issue of MP pensions in his interview with the CBC earlier this week, but, as the Finance Minister has noted, it is beyond the official purview of the government. Today the Globe reports that support for the reforms will come from the Conservative caucus. Tony Clement meanwhile muses of leading by example.
“I think you’ve got to be fair to the employee [the MP] but you also have to be fair to the taxpayer,” he told CTV’s Don Martin. “We are very cognizant of that.”
He added that no decisions have been made and that already the government is leading by example as MP and cabinet-minister salaries have been frozen this year. MPs earn $157,000 a year; cabinet ministers make $233,247 and the Prime Minister earns $315,000.
Granted, whatever they are paid, those cabinet ministers presently comprise the second-largest ministry and second-largest cabinet in history—the minister now seven larger and the cabinet now 12 larger than the groups Mr. Harper presented upon first taking office. Back then, one of Mr. Harper’s advisors enthused that reducing the cabinet from 39 (as it was under Paul Martin) to 27 would save $15 to $20 million per year. Presumably, reducing it from 39 (as it now is under Mr. Harper) to 27 would save roughly the same amount now.
By Peter Nowak - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 5:56 PM - 8 Comments
There was quite a bit of speculation leading up to Tuesday’s speech by Industry Minister Christian Paradis at a telecom conference on whether he would address the festering issue of foreign ownership. The speech came and went, and Paradis–although he visibly gave the speech–continues to be, policy-wise, the Invisible Man.
Despite the fact that two successive government-appointed panels–one Liberal, the other Conservative–urged lawmakers to lift restrictions that limit foreign entities from having any meaningful ownership of Canadian telecom companies with an actual physical infrastructure, Paradis et al. continue to show a lack of backbone to do what’s necessary. As both panels have pointed out, removing those restrictions would not only bring Canada in line with every other developed nation, it would also improve competition and lead to better services and prices.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 20, 2011 at 11:33 AM - 10 Comments
Bill Curry considers the department formerly known as Indian Affairs.
At first glance, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reclassification appears to be in keeping with prevailing moves toward political correctness: replacing a label that doesn’t have much relevance any more with one more widely accepted. “Indian” is dated, in much the same way as Inuit are no longer called Eskimos. But there is power in naming. The semantic shift could have all sorts of consequences for native people from the laws governing their treatment, the services they get, and even their identities.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 11:31 AM - 3 Comments
Tonda MacCharles profiles the new Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
The remarkable journey of Innu leader Peter Penashue—the first First Nations person to achieve a full-fledged position at the federal cabinet table—began with sobriety. As a young man, Penashue battled twin demons common in his native Labrador Naskapi Indian community. Sexually abused as a youth by a priest from Ontario, he drank too much, and despaired that things would ever change.
At 26, Penashue woke up “really hung-over” and alone on his son’s sixth birthday. He had a moment of clarity. Nothing would change for his family unless he did. The father of four set out to do just that.
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 5:31 PM - 11 Comments
Maxime Bernier notes his cabinet appointment.
Small businesses, including those in Canada’s tourism sector, are the backbone of our economy. Entrepreneurship and economic development are topics that I have felt passionately about for a very long time. My native region, the Beauce, is often described as the kingdom of small businesses. I am thus very happy to play a role in our new government with the goal of maintaining the best environment possible so that Canada’s small businesses continue to prosper.
It should be noted that as a minister, I am like all my colleagues bound by cabinet solidarity and my public declarations must reflect the government’s positions. I therefore have less scope than I had as a simple MP to express my ideas and take public stands on various topics, as I did these past few years. The content of this blog will thus be a bit different from now on.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 10:43 AM - 65 Comments
Welcome to live coverage of this morning’s cabinet shuffle, wherein we find out which backbenchers we have to pretend to take more seriously for the next little while.
There’s been a steady stream of Conservatives arriving at Rideau Hall and the Prime Minister is due shortly. So far we seem only to know for sure that John Baird will be the next Foreign Affairs Minister. Presumably he will be counted on to bluster away opposition criticism of the government’s international endeavours, charm foreign officials and periodically convene breathless news conferences to report the latest breathtaking developments in our make-believe war with Russia. Presumably he’ll do fine. His image problem notwithstanding.
10:45am. Our Andrew Coyne is already deeply disappointed with all of this. Follow his Twitter feed this morning to watch his head explode repeatedly.
10:52am. The Prime Minister has now arrived. The swearing in is to commence in about 20 minutes.
11:04am. CTV reports a 39-member ministry, which equals an all-time high mark. Welcome to the new era of smaller government.
By Erica Alini - Monday, May 16, 2011 at 4:49 PM - 106 Comments
As we wait for Stephen Harper to appoint a new cabinet, it is worth recalling a point I’ve made before: we have, and will continue to have unless he does something surprising, the largest cabinet in the democratic world. Or at least among the major developed democracies: apparently Nigeria is threatening to beat us.
Harper’s last cabinet had 38 members: 27 ministers, plus 11 ministers of state. (In Canada these are considered full members of Cabinet: there is no longer any effective difference between Cabinet and the ministry. It was indeed Harper who erased the distinction in October 2008, when he converted what were previously secretaries of state to ministers of state.)
The US Cabinet currently contains 16 members, including the Vice-President. There are, in addition, six “cabinet-level officers,” none of whom has executive responsibility for any department.
The British Cabinet consists of 23 ministers (one of whom is unpaid), including the Prime Minister. Five other officials “attend cabinet meetings,” but are not considered full members of cabinet. Neither is the Attorney General, although he sometimes attends.
Some other cabinets of note:
Germany : 16 ministers, including the Chancellor.
Japan : 17 ministers, including the Prime Minister.
France : 16 full ministers, including the Prime Minister, plus 7 “ministres auprès d’un ministre” and 8 secretaries of state.
Italy : 25 ministers, including the Prime Minister. 13 have departmental responsibility; 11 are ministers without portfolio.
Australia : 20 ministers, including the Prime Minister.
New Zealand : 20 ministers, including the Prime Minister, plus 8 ministers outside cabinet, some from supporting parties in the coalition.
CODA: Harper does not preside, however, over the largest cabinet in Canadian history. That honour goes to Brian Mulroney, by a whisker: at its largest, his was 39. That’s more than Macdonald (15 at the most), Laurier (17), King (20) Diefenbaker (24), Pearson (28), or even Trudeau (37 by the end, but fewer than 30 for most of his time in office) somehow struggled by on.
SPECIAL BONUS PAK: Here’s what a slimmed-down cabinet could look like (revised from earlier version):
- Prime Minister
- Justice/ Attorney General
- Public Safety/Solicitor General
- Defence (inc Veterans)
- Foreign Affairs & Trade
- Intergovernmental Affairs
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Finance (inc. Revenue, Treasury Board, Financial Services)
- Resources (inc. Energy, Mining, Forestry, Fisheries, Agriculture)
- Infrastructure (inc Transportation, Telecoms, Public Works)
- Environment & Public Health
- Work & Incomes (inc Labour, Training, Unemployment Insurance, Income Assistance, Pensions)
- Government House Leader
- Senate Leader
but strictly speaking these aren’t supposed to be cabinet posts. But even if they were, you’d still come in well under 20. And even if you split up the Resources and Infrastructure portfolios into two or three departments each, you’re barely at it.
BUT WAIT THERE”S MORE: I notice that Australia combines “Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry” in one post, “Resources and Energy” in another. Japan also combines Farming, Fishing & Forests under one minister, while France does the first two.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 11:45 AM - 87 Comments
Liberals will adopt a new approach to information, issuing government-wide direction that the default position for all departments and agencies will be to release information to the public, both proactively and responsively … all Access to Information requests and responses will be posted online … a searchable, online database for grants, contributions and contracts … restore the mandatory long form census … procedural limitations on the prime minister’s power to prorogue … all Canadians will be able to participate in People’s Question Period, where the Prime Minister and Ministers will respond directly to unscripted, user-generated questions online … a new Standing Committee on National Security … regular face-to-face meetings of all party leaders … direct Elections Canada to develop an online voting option.
The Liberals also commit to pursuing Question Period reforms similar to those proposed by Michael Chong. And elsewhere, under deficit reduction, the Liberals suggest a smaller cabinet.
By Andrew Coyne - Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM - 67 Comments
“Mr. Duceppe clarified that he, too, would never be part of a formal coalition with the other parties, saying it would be “against nature” for the separatist party to be government ministers.”
Thus putting him offside with the countless Canadian academics, politicians and blog commenters who are quite ready to explain why it’s perfectly all right for a party dedicated to the destruction of Canada to also be governing it.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 12:05 PM - 37 Comments
Brian Topp figures it’s time we figure out what the rules of our parliamentary democracy are.
A good place to start would be with the New Zealand cabinet manual. Developed incrementally under many governments over 30 years, with the fingerprints and agreement of all of that country’s political parties, this manual is a well-written, publicly-accessible rulebook setting out many of the basic rules the game in a multi-party Westminster Parliament, written from the perspective of the executive branch.
The British government is currently consulting the public about a similar guide. If you dote on the details of parliamentary government – and if you’re on this website reading stuff in this section, you probably do – it’s a good read.
It’s an idea that Peter Russell, the constitutional scholar, is apparently pursuing.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, January 7, 2011 at 4:00 PM - 12 Comments
In Canada it involves a complex mix of postal codes and chromosomes
Parliamentary traditions matter, and so what would a cabinet shuffle be without the ritual counting of the genitalia? Hardly had the Prime Minister had time to repeat his lengthy remarks of self-congratulation in English before the Liberals’ Marcel Proulx was lamenting the “missed opportunity” to appoint more women to the cabinet, there being just 10 in a cabinet of 38, or 26.3 per cent—although if you don’t count the Prime Minister (on the arguable grounds that he can’t help being a man) that’s 10 out of 37, or 27.0 per cent. Just so you know.
Mind you, the insult to women was nothing beside the shocking affront to Quebec, which was held to just five ministers (13.5 per cent). According to the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair, this showed the Prime Minister had not made the province a “priority.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 12:40 PM - 13 Comments
Eric Grenier finds that cabinet ministers have faired better, both financially and electorally, in recent federal campaigns.
It was a similar situation in the 2008 campaign, when the entire Conservative cabinet presented themselves to their constituents as ministers for the first time in an election. While the party increased its support by 1.4 points nationally, ministers saw their support grow by an average of 2.8 points. Regionally, they out-performed their parties by a modest 2 per cent.