By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 25 Comments
In his first news conference as a minister of state, Ted Menzies is asked to explain why the ministry is so much larger than it was when the current government first took office and proceeds to offer a number of words in response. For the sake of saving readers some time, I’ll bold the words that seem most relevant to the question.
Well, first of all, I’m honored to be part of this cabinet. Many of us have played a role, a pivotal role, many parliamentary secretaries that don’t have a seat at the cabinet table. We are in some very unique and challenging times right now and the more shoulders behind the wheel that we have, I think, will help us. There has been some many – many challenges we faced. We feel that we have done a good job. We need to stay the course and keep moving towards what Canadians have asked us to do and that is get back to balanced budgets and whether, you know, the numbers at the cabinet table — we have seen more historically in the past. I don’t think that is as big an issue as the quality that we have there, the strength in this cabinet that are working in unison, as recognized by some of the papers in the U.S. just in the last couple of days. Canada is the envy at getting our fiscal house in order, encouraging new businesses to invest. That is the important thing. We are talking about jobs here today. The more we can do to encourage jobs in Canada, I think the better off we will all be.
Our Andrew Coyne notes that Mackenzie King made it through his challenging times with a ministry of 17. More recently, when Mr. Harper became Prime Minister he named a 27-member ministry (with 26 parliamentary secretaries). He now has a 38-member ministry (with 25 parliamentary secretaries).
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 5:08 PM - 20 Comments
The Liberals and NDP are both taking issue with the size of Mr. Harper’s cabinet and ministry (though previously two separate things, Mr. Harper doesn’t make any distinction). As noted below, it is once more one of the largest in this nation’s history—including the Prime Minister, the government House leader, the leader of the government in the Senate, 24 ministers and 11 ministers of state.
When Mr. Harper unveiled a ministry of 32 in February 2006, he said “the structure is designed to promote accountable, efficient and effective government—more focus and purpose; less process and cost.”
In an interview with the Toronto Star at the time, Derek Burney, chief of Mr. Harper’s transition team, projected the reduction from Paul Martin’s set-up—cabinet of 33, ministry of 39—would save between $15 and $20-million per year. The Star’s report after the jump. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 2:39 PM - 25 Comments
Peter Kent goes from Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to Minister of Environment. Diane Ablonczy goes from Minister of State for Seniors to Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Julian Fantino becomes Minister of State for Seniors. Ted Menzies goes from parliamentary secretary for finance to Minister of State for Finance.
With the promotion of Mr. Menzies and the addition of Mr. Fantino, the ministry and the cabinet will once again number 38—one short, on both counts, of the historical high mark.
Official news release after the jump. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
If it’s any consolation, it seems even the Harper government is displeased with the Harper government’s handling of Omar Khadr.
Conservative cabinet ministers are not happy with the Khadr deal and the reality that he will be returned to Canada next year and free shortly thereafter. On Monday when cabinet gathered to prepare for question period tempers flared. According to sources at the meeting and those close to cabinet ministers, there was yelling and accusations…
Questioned about why the government acted the way it did, one senior official threw their hands up in disgust.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 30, 2010 at 2:53 PM - 0 Comments
Unnoticed in Mr. Harper’s shuffling of cabinet earlier this month was this: by leaving the title of minister of state for status of women with Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, the Prime Minister has opted to go with a more streamlined cabinet and ministry. Previously, when Helena Guergis held the title of minister of state for status of women, both the ministry and the cabinet numbered 38 (one short, in both cases, of the all-time highs). With Ms. Ambrose holding two titles, the cabinet and ministry number a more svelte 37, a decrease of 2.6%.
While some of his predecessors have made a distinction between the ministry and the cabinet, Mr.Harper has treated them as the same. The current cabinet includes 25 ministers (at an additional $75,516 in salary each) and 10 ministers of state (at an additional $56,637 in salary each). With Greg Rickford’s recent promotion, there are also 27 parliamentary secretaries (at an additional $15,200 in salary each).
The Liberal shadow cabinet somehow numbers 42, but only the opposition house leader ($37,500) and whip ($27,200) draw bonuses. The rest do it merely for the acclaim.
When the Liberals and NDP signed a coalition accord in December 2008, they agreed to a 25-member cabinet: the prime minister plus eighteen Liberals and six New Democrats.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 15, 2010 at 12:38 PM - 58 Comments
Anonymous senior Conservatives are apparently agitating for Helena Guergis to be swiftly dispatched to the furthest reaches of the government backbenches. Make of this what you will.
Keep in mind that, if memory serves, no minister in the Harper government has been outright fired or banished. Michael Chong resigned as minister of intergovernmental affairs in opposition to the Quebecois motion. Maxime Bernier resigned after misplacing his briefs. Various ministers perceived to be underperforming (Gordon O’Connor, Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt) have been moved to less-prominent portfolios, but only in the context of a cabinet shuffle. No one, if I recall correctly, has ever been outright and unambiguously fired.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 10:50 AM - 88 Comments
Pensions and layoffs are just one front in a long-brewing battle
Ever since Stephen Harper anointed Stockwell Day as his cost-cutter-in-chief last week, the Prime Minister’s Office has been going out of its way to highlight the significance of shifting Day to head the Treasury Board in an otherwise ho-hum cabinet shuffle. Said to be among Harper’s favourite ministers, Day is now cast as the PM’s Dr. No—the man to stare down resistance to new austerity measures. As part of Ralph Klein’s cabinet in Alberta back in the nineties, Day pinned a loonie to his lapel (evoking Ayn Rand, who once pinned a gold dollar sign to hers) and oversaw thousands of public-sector layoffs. In Ottawa, a beleaguered public service is paying attention.
Within a week of Day’s swearing-in, 18 federal government unions gathered in Ottawa for a two-day meeting to map out a strategy against the anticipated assault. They expect the Tories’ first target will be the bureaucracy’s famously generous pensions—what Finance Minister Jim Flaherty calls their “handsome arrangements.” Flaherty has ruled out many other options for deflating a bloated deficit. He’s said the Conservatives will never raise taxes or cut transfers to the provinces to balance the books. Instead, they’ll rely on economic growth and if it’s not enough, they’ll cut “other programs.” Up against one of the largest deficits in the country’s history, civil-sector union leaders are girding for a fight.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 11:28 AM - 31 Comments
While most everyone else seems to be using that dreaded word to describe Lisa Raitt’s situation, here is the official line.
Harper said Raitt “has a great future, and I think this move will give her a little more varied experience in government.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 11:11 AM - 22 Comments
Conventional perception seems to have Stockwell Day, Christian Paradis and Rona Ambrose rising, Lisa Raitt and Peter Van Loan falling. Keith Ashfield gets a promotion to cabinet, Rob Moore gets to call himself a minister of state.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 2:20 PM - 44 Comments
The Veterans Affairs Minister announces his departure from cabinet and eventual departure from politics.
“I want to leave on my own terms and with a good record,” Thompson said as he sat is his small constituency office on Milltown Boulevard in St. Stephen. ”I’m one of the few members of Parliament who never had to take back a statement, who never had to apologize, and who never insulted individuals or groups in this country. I’ve always played by the rules that I believe elected politicians should play by, and I have been always very respectful of the political process.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:55 PM - 44 Comments
CP gets to the bottom of the day’s big news.
Insiders say cabinet heavyweights, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, will stay put and no newcomers will be added … In essence, the shuffle is expected to amount to a handful of ministers swapping portfolios.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 1:35 PM - 21 Comments
Senior Conservatives anonymously explain Peter MacKay’s situation.
Senior Conservatives said Mr. MacKay was guilty of “freelancing” when he attacked the credibility of public servant Richard Colvin over his testimony on the detainee issue before a parliamentary committee last fall. Still, moving the Defence Minister would be an admission of defeat by a government that maintains it has done nothing wrong on the file.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 7:18 AM - 13 Comments
New rules target partisan lobbyists’ ‘improper influence’
The 3,664 lobbyists duly registered, as required by law, to try to influence the federal government are hardly a model of professional solidarity. In-house government relations specialists for blue-chip corporations often clash with idealistic advocates for non-profit groups. The lobbyists-for-hire who trade on their partisan connections divide along Conservative and Liberal lines. Lately, though, this typically fractious community of clout, clustered around Parliament Hill, is united—by anxiety over a new official interpretation of the federal “Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct,” which they say might unfairly ban them from approaching politicians they’ve legitimately supported in past elections and leadership campaigns. If they’re right, the age-old linkage between partisanship and influence might have been unexpectedly ruptured.
The uproar is over a guidance bulletin, issued early last month by Karen Shepherd, the government’s commissioner of lobbying, on what constitutes an illegal conflict of interest between a public office holder and a lobbyist. Shepherd said potential cases of “improper influence” will continue to be judged individually, but she sweepingly warned that from now on, “political activities” might create such conflicts. Asked by Maclean’s exactly what activities in support of political candidates might mean a lobbyist would then be prevented from actually lobbying those politicians once they’re in power, her office listed “fundraising, communications, logistics, speech writing, etc.” In other words, just about anything.
The problem is that Shepherd declines to spell out exactly when such partisan work might disqualify lobbying later on. “This is so vague,” said Michael Robinson, a lobbyist with influential Earnscliffe Strategy Group and long-time Liberal strategist, “as to make it impossible for somebody to conduct their behaviour in a way that they’re confident they won’t cross a line.” Tories are no more sure of what’s being outlawed. “What I think this interpretation has essentially done is say, ‘There is no black and white, there is only grey,’ ” said Goldy Hyder, the senior Conservative who heads the powerhouse Hill & Knowlton consulting group’s Ottawa office.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 3:19 PM - 1 Comment
Presidential First Family, The Obamas
No one said it would be easy. True, the commander-in-chief began the year as the celebrity-in-chief. Barack Obama, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, kicked things off in Washington with a record-breaking inauguration that drew almost two million ecstatic supporters to the U.S. capital and a series of star-studded inaugural balls ushering in a new era in America. The first African-American President had won by the largest popular-vote margin in 20 years; his approval rating sat at 70 per cent. But within months the honeymoon had ended and today his approval is slipping below 50 per cent—reflecting a deeply divided nation and a polarized electorate struggling with mounting job losses and public debt, and doubts as to whether the new guy can deliver.
It didn’t help that Obama took office in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis. He arrived with armfuls of promises: to overhaul health care, to pass climate-change legislation, to wind down the war in Iraq, to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to halve the federal deficit, just for starters. Most of that agenda remains bogged down by Republican opposition and feuds within Democratic ranks—mainly about the growing role of the federal government in American life and debts left to future generations. The new administration has brought in new regulations on everything from credit-card loans and executive pay to tailpipe emissions. The government is financing nine out of 10 new mortgages, and government spending accounts for a greater share of the U.S. economy than at any time since the Second World War. Continue…
By Katie Engelhart - Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 5:00 PM - 4 Comments
Proposed welfare minister Ajorlou is a hard-liner
The last time a woman was elected to an Iranian cabinet was in the 1960s. It didn’t end well. Eleven years later—and just after the 1979 revolution that launched Iran’s hardline Islamic republic—Farrokhroo Parsay was executed on corruption charges. But after Iran’s 10th presidential election, re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is promising “a new era,” complete with “major changes” to the government. Last Wednesday, he presented his list of proposed cabinet ministers. For the first time since the revolution, it included women.
The move may be intended to soften Ahmadinejad’s image and placate the regime’s still-mounting opposition. Iran’s disputed June 12 election, which extended the president’s mandate, gave rise to the most violent domestic crisis since 1979. The new appointments may very well be a nod to the active role that women played in the opposition, taking to the streets in great numbers after the vote. Presidential rival Mirhossein Mousavi, with the help of his Ph.D.-educated wife, was able to mobilize female support with promises to bring down Iran’s “morality police.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 12:33 PM - 11 Comments
Dion’s Liberals called for a ministerial resignation every couple of weeks. Most of the cabinet was eventually asked to go away. Strangely, the government never heeded their requests.
If the official opposition carries through with this in Question Period an hour and a half from now, it will be—if short-term memory serves—the first such demand of the Ignatieff Era.
By Alex Shimo - Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 4:56 PM - 2 Comments
Obama’s cabinet is said to be full of intellectual heavyweights. On climate issues, there…
Obama’s cabinet is said to be full of intellectual heavyweights. On climate issues, there are several key people to watch out for. (Luiza Savage’s article on this is very good on this and other cabinet issues, if you haven’t already read it.)
1) Henry Waxman – the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The tenacious democrat blasted the Bush administration on everything from tobacco to loosening standards on toxins like arsenic in drinking water. He is said to be one of leaders of the campaign against “dirty oil”, i.e. oil from Alberta’s oil sands.
2) Steve Chu – the Nobel Prize winner is the new energy secretary and climate czar. Chu has devoted much of his career figuring out a way to wean people off fuels.
3) Tom Vilsack – the Agriculture secretary is the former governor of corn-growing Iowa, where ethanol subsidies are considered a golden goose, bringing jobs and revenues to the state. However, his support isn’t unwaivering – he has suggested lowering the tariff on greener, more efficient Brazilian sugar-based ethanol, which might bring more competition to the industry.
4) Jane Lubchenco – a marine biologist at Oregon State University, is the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the government agency responsible for marine life and studying the climate. Dr. Lubchenco has been critical of the Bush’s inaction on greenhouse-gas emissions and marine pollution, including the species die off in ocean dead zones.
5) John Holden – an expert in the fields of energy, the environment and nuclear proliferation is Obama’s top scientific adviser. When he was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2007, he argued publicly for swift action on climate change, arguing that otherwise we were headed for disastrous changes that would affect all life on earth. Continue…
Must-reads: Don Macpherson on the Quebec election.
The day after the morning after…
Must-reads: Don Macpherson on the Quebec election.
The day after the morning after
Audacity of hope, please meet the $455-billion deficit.
The Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn elevates himself from the merely inimitable to the almost unbelievable by painting a portrait of an America that, despite having just elected its first black president, has achieved basically nothing in the field of race relations. A white Democratic candidate might well have done better, he suggests, and there will apparently be “55 million Americans who voted against [Barack] Obama … watching for him to stumble.” When he does, Hepburn predicts, many white people, such as an idiot friend of his who couldn’t decide on Tuesday whether she could bring herself to vote for a Muslim, “will be saying smugly to their friends: ‘I told you so!’” Now, we’re not saying Obama’s victory solved anything as far as day-to-day race relations. But Hepburn’s operating assumption here seems to be that every single American voted on the basis of race! It’s true, as he says, that nearly 90 per cent of white Mississippians voted for McCain and 98 per cent of black Mississippians voted for Obama, but the numbers in 2004 were 85 and 90, respectively, and John Kerry—last we checked, anyway—is quite fair-skinned. So the situation would seem to be rather more complex.
The Star’s Haroon Siddiqui, meanwhile, is well chuffed with Obama’s victory in a general sense, arguing he’s done nothing less than “make Americans rediscover the common weal.” But the president-elect needs improvements in the following areas: Afghanistan, where he “think[s] mostly in terms of a major military surge” instead of negotiations, and Pakistan, where he’s suggested “cross-border attacks” instead of a “Marshall Plan-like economic blueprint for the border region where [Taliban] militants are recruited.” Nevertheless, Siddiqui argues, Obama is already being well-received in the Muslim world, if only because he pronounces Taliban “taa-li-baan” rather than “tay-le-ban.” (Really? Who the hell says “tay-le-ban”?)
By selley - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 4:11 PM - 15 Comments
Must-reads: Greg Weston, John Ivison and Chantal Hébert recap election night.
If anyone’s happy about what went on last night, we haven’t found them.
The National Post‘s John Ivison says Stéphane Dion “has no ability to subject others to his will; no capacity for calculating the resistance and prejudice his ideas might generate; and, no sense of how to turn complicated events to his own advantage.” Sounds about right to us. In the past tense, it might make a fitting epitaph. Perhaps Winston Churchill could have sold the Green Shift to Canadians, Ivison suggests, but not Dion. (Trippy. We dreamed about Churchill pitching the Green Shift last night!)
On the bright side for the Liberals, Don Macpherson notes in the Montreal Gazette, “the distribution of seats in the next Parliament is such that the Conservatives can’t be defeated on a confidence vote until [they] are ready to do so.” As for the dark side… well, y’all know what the dark side is already, right?
By Andrew Coyne - Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 12:15 PM - 0 Comments
A minimalist cabinet shuffle in the end, and not much in it to quarrel…
A minimalist cabinet shuffle in the end, and not much in it to quarrel with. But what does it say about the thinness of the talent on the Conservative benches that just about the only person they could find for Foreign Affairs (Jim Prentice aside) is a defrocked Liberal? Michael Fortier is a better fit at International Trade than he was at Public Works; his replacement is — surprise — a Quebecker, Christian Paradis. And James Moore gets a Sec State bauble, joining Jason Kenney and Diane Ablonczy on the taxi squad waiting for real jobs …
By kadyomalley - Monday, June 16, 2008 at 8:58 AM - 0 Comments
A cabinet shuffle tomorrow? Really?
With all due respect to Le Devoir, and its…
A cabinet shuffle tomorrow? Really?
With all due respect to Le Devoir, and its no doubt impeccable sources, I can’t quite believe that the Prime Minister is so frantic to push the bishops, knights and Jim Prentice that comprise his current cabinet around the board that he would buck tradition and do so before the summer recess – which is, after all, just four days away. I can’t even remember