Thursday, October 30, 2008

Harper's New Coat of Paint

Excuse my extended (near 2 week) absence from blogging, I had A LOT of catching up to do on things post-election. But hopefully I should be able to keep it up now at least a few times a week from here on in. So with my return comes a review of the new Harper cabinet (see the full list of ministers below).

The Good:
- More women in cabinet, 11 out of 37 isn’t a record but it’s a massive improvement on the 7 out of 30 when Harper first came to power.
- Gary Lunn demoted. While Harper will never admit Lunn was a terrible minister and that firing Linda Keen was a mistake, at least this is an implicit recognition of that.
- John Baird demoted. As likely the worst and most partisan environment minister in history, few will be sad to see him out of that portfolio. Not that transport is a good fit for him either (especially if he’s still taking pointers from his friend Jim “we’re not in the pothole business” Flaherty) but at least he’s been knocked down the ladder in terms of profile.
- Leona Aglukkaq as Health Minister. Few had predicted this, but it’s a good choice, she was Health Minister in the Nunavut government so she’s obviously got the background. She also makes for the first female Health Minister I believe since Diane Marleau in the Chretien government.
- Lawrence Cannon at Foreign Affairs. Not really great, but Harper didn’t exactly have a strong hand to choose from, so probably there wasn’t anybody better he could have picked and at least Cannon has cabinet experience (Quebec Liberals) beyond this government.
- Larger cabinet. Yes it does cost more money, but at this time we need competent government and while I’m obviously not so sure we’ll get that with this government, overloading a smaller cabinet with work would not have helped matters at this crucial time. If Harper doesn’t start delegating matters the country will suffer.

The Bad:
- Ontario bashing, over the top partisanship and misnagement is rewarded by Stephen Harper
- “Ontario is the last place to invest” Flaherty stays where he is after turning a $12 billion surplus into a virtually certain deficit
- “small man of Confederation” Peter Van Loan is promoted to Public Safety
- Tony Clement is given Industry which I guess depending on who you talk is either lower, about the same, or higher in health in profile, but rumours were this is what Tony wanted and after the job he did at his old post (joking about listeriosis and being AWOL during the crisis, calling doctors unethical for supporting Insite, and failing to meet promises on wait times) anything but a demotion was undeserved.
- Gerry Ritz kept at Agriculture after badly mismanaging the listeriosis crisis. He deserved to be fired before the revelations of his jokes on the matter and it’s an absolute shame that as the crisis continues to unravel that he remains at the helm. It’s friends before country for Harper as I’ve said before.
- Jason Kenney (king of smear), now manages our immigration system. With the massive powers now invested in this minister through recent immigration changes this is scary indeed.
- Stockwell Day at Trade. This will be huge important with a new U.S. administration especially if it’s Obama. Day was not the right man for this job, too partisan and it’s not clear to me what background he has for this position. Someone more middle of the road with experience in negotiation would have been more appropriate.
- Chuck Strahl keeps his post at Indian Affairs. I think it’s about time for the Harper government to put a fresh face in there with a new start with Aboriginal Peoples. Their results on this file to date (notwithstanding the extremely important and overdue residential schools apology) and the lack of any new approach offered to them by this party in the last election have been disappointing to say the least.

With the economy being the main issue right now, I have to say it doesn’t inspire confidence to see the main economic portfolios of Finance, Industry, and Infrastructure going to the Harris crew who wrecked Ontario's finances (and are only getting started on the nation's), while Trade goes to Stockwell Day who seems ill-suited for this incredibly delicate post.

Harper said the economy will be his main focus over the next year and on that basis he’s failed in his first task in assembling a team to deal primarily with the current crisis. While there were some improvements (though the extra women in cabinet will only be meaningful if Harper actually gives them a voice and doesn't continue to run a one-man show), I have to say on the whole this is a disappointment as Harper has been unable to recognize which ministers were doing poorly (with a couple exceptions) and instead rewarded them by keeping them in their high profile posts or even worse promoting them. Meanwhile, he has also promoted the most partisan members of his last cabinet at a time when all parties need to work togther.

The failure to learn from mistakes and to reward his loyal friends over doing what’s best for the country will ultimately be a contributor to Harper’s downfall.

The Cabinet List:
- Jim Flaherty - Minister of Finance
- Lawrence Cannon - Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Tony Clement - Minister of Industry
- Stockwell Day - Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
- Leona Aglukkaq - Minister of Health
- Jim Prentice - Minister of the Environment
- John Baird - Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
- Robert Nicholson - Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
- Jason Kenney - Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
- Gerry Ritz - Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board - Chuck Strahl - Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and
- Peter MacKay - Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway
- Peter Van Loan - Minister of Public Safety
- Christian Paradis - Minister of Public Works and Government Services
- Vic Toews - President of the Treasury Board
- Rona Ambrose - Minister of Labour
- Diane Finley - Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
- Bev J. Oda - Minister of International Cooperation
- Josée Verner - Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie
- Jay D. Hill - Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
- James Moore - Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
- Lisa Raitt - Minister of Natural Resources
- Gail Shea - Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
- Jean-Pierre Blackburn - Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State(Agriculture)
- Greg Thompson - Minister of Veterans Affairs
- Marjory LeBreton - Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors)
- Gary Lunn - Minister of State (Sport)
- Gordon O’Connor - Minister of State and Chief Government Whip
- Helena Guergis - Minister of State (Status of Women)
- Diane Ablonczy - Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)
- Rob Merrifield - Minister of State (Transport)
- Lynne Yelich - Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)
- Steven Fletcher - Minister of State (Democratic Reform)
- Gary Goodyear - Minister of State (Science and Technology)
- Denis Lebel - Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)
- Keith Ashfield - Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)
- Peter Kent - Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

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