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.
11:07am. Peter Van Loan apparently goes back to House leader. Welcome to the new era of non-partisan Harper governance.
11:14am. The 28th ministry is now filing in to Rideau’s ballroom. Tony Clement moves from Industry to Treasury Board. Christian Paradis goes from Natural Resources to Industry. Gail Shea moves to National Revenue. Ed Fast gets International Trade. Maxime Bernier becomes minister of state for small business and tourism.
11:21am. Bev Oda might not be trusted sufficiently to speak on her own behalf, but she remains Minister of International Cooperation.
11:23am. Many of the most prominent ministers keep their spots, including Peter MacKay (Defence), Rob Nicholson (Justice), Jason Kenney (Immigration), James Moore (Heritage), Diane Finley (Human Resources) and Vic Toews (Public Safety).
11:30am. Having previously been responsible for the funding of gazebos and public toilets, Mr. Clement will now presumably play a key role in finding billions in departmental savings.
11:35am. Of the rookies, Joe Oliver gets natural resources, Peter Penashue gets intergovernmental affairs and Bal Gosal gets sport. Bernard Valcourt, newly elected, but a formerly a cabinet minister under Brian Mulroney, gets the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
11:41am. Julian Fantino is now the associate minister for national defence. Presuming Laurie Hawn remains parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence, the department now has three members of caucus assigned to it.
11:46am. There seem to be two outright demotions: Rob Moore (formerly the minister of state for small business and tourism) and Rob Merrifield (formerly the minister of state for transport). Both are missing from the new list.
11:50am. Bill Curry notes that Indian Affairs is now Aboriginal Affairs. Probably an overdue change.
12:00pm. Tim Uppal is the new minister of state for democratic reform. If I read the roll call correctly, he voted in favour of Michael Chong’s motion to launch a committee study of Question Period reform. With Parliament’s dissolution, Mr. Chong has to start all over, unless, say, the government wants to take up the cause. Indeed, that might make a good first question for Mr. Uppal: Is he interested in moving forward with a study of those proposed changes? In fact, it might make a good project for the new government and the new official opposition to pursue together.
12:06pm. The move of Mr. Clement to Treasury Board might protect him from having to take opposition questions when the Auditor General’s report into G8 spending is tabled next month, but the combination of that report and Mr. Clement’s new responsibility for austerity offers the official opposition a first opportunity to mock this government’s coherence.
12:24pm. CBC’s coverage has moved on to the existential question of “how much freedom will ministers have?” In other words, does any of this really matter? What are we doing here? Are we all just wasting our time? Think about it too much and you just end up like the people in Radiohead’s video for Just.
12:35pm. The Prime Minister and his cabinet have posed for their sizeable family photo and Mr. Harper will soon be turning up to entertain a few select questions from the press gallery.
12:45pm. And here he is. “Economy … economic recovery … economy … stability … economy … economic growth … stability … hockey.”
12:51pm. First question: What about Peter Penashue’s new job and how come Chris Alexander didn’t get a job? Mr. Harper is delighted to have Mr. Penashue on the team and he is delighted with his side’s new bench strength. What about Libya? There will be a House debate in June apparently. What about the IMF? Obviously the situation is very difficult, but not going to comment on the “legal matters” concerning “this particular individual.” Why do you need 39 people? Government has reduced ministerial budgets, but still need a cabinet that is broad and uses talent to the maximum. Very difficult apparently to pick just 39 people. It would be a mistake to go with a smaller cabinet that didn’t use people’s talents.
12:57pm. A few more words about the economy and that’s that. Jack Layton is scheduled to speak on the Hill at 2pm. The Liberal leader is scheduled to speak sometime in 2013. But now, lunch.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011