Harper’s single white males - Macleans.ca

Harper’s single white males

Paul Wells takes an inside look at where the power really lies in Ottawa

Harper’s single white males

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

For a loner, Stephen Harper works surprisingly well with others. The Prime Minister won his job by earning the loyalty of the old Reform party even though he used to be Preston Manning’s most persistent internal critic. He ended a decade’s rivalry with the Progressive Conservatives after doing more than almost anyone to fuel the rivalry.

He has wooed former Liberals into his caucus, sent New Democrat Gary Doer to Washington as Canada’s ambassador, and even put the occasional former Bloc Québécois member on the government payroll. No premier except Newfoundland’s now-retired Danny Williams has seen any political profit in antagonizing him. Harper drives his political opponents so crazy that it’s less frequently noticed how often he makes allies.

But the flip side of that coin is that his alliances rarely last. He hardly talks to former advisers like Tom Flanagan. He is on his fourth chief of staff, sixth communications director, and fifth foreign minister since he became Prime Minister. Jean Chrétien kept Eddie Goldenberg at his side for nearly 40 years. Paul Martin kept his 1990 Liberal leadership team around him until the day he retired. Harper’s team is like George Washington’s axe in the old joke, its blade replaced three times and its handle 26. All that remains is the ability to chop down opponents.

So the Harper team we are telling you about this week is this week’s Harper team, or this season’s. It reflects the political landscape, the boss’s agenda and personality, and the kind of year the Conservatives think they will have. But for this crucial time in Harper’s career, when he enjoys a firmer grasp on power than ever before, here’s the starting lineup.

The first man on our list, Nigel Wright, is new to Ottawa and the spotlight. The Harvard-educated lawyer and Bay Street business executive is Harper’s chief of staff. He replaced Guy Giorno on Jan. 1, then stepped back again, taking a secondary role during the spring election campaign. Wright runs the Prime Minister’s Office and, with the odd phone call, will yank the steering wheel in any minister’s office that needs it. Harper retains much of his fondness for governing from the centre, so Wright matters because he is now running the centre.

The other three are cabinet ministers. That in itself is new: interviews with several senior Conservatives suggest Harper’s PMO is already less overbearing than the versions that endured constant minority government uncertainty, and that at least a few ministers have more latitude to take strong initiatives.

The oldest of the ministerial trio is just 43, and Jason Kenney is also the likeliest to charge into a fight like a bull. The minister of citizenship and immigration has already picked a fight this year with Amnesty International over his plan to enlist the public’s help in identifying and rounding up fugitives suspected of hiding in Canada from their alleged past behaviour as war criminals. He fancies himself the guardian of small-c conservative orthodoxy in the Harper government, and the autonomy he enjoys within Harper’s government has no match.

John Baird, 42, doesn’t want autonomy. Since he moved to federal politics from a career in Ontario’s legislature in 2006, he has promoted himself, in public and in private, as Stephen Harper’s fiercest defender. “There’s nobody more loyal,” one adviser to a Conservative cabinet minister said on condition of anonymity. “He will dive into any controversy, no matter how ugly, and defend the PM down the line. That’s been noticed.” Now, after stints as environment minister and government House leader, Baird has the job his friends say he long coveted: foreign minister for a Prime Minister who increasingly sees foreign affairs as an area where this government can make a mark.

The youngest of the quartet we’ve selected faces a balancing act. James Moore, 35, is the heritage minister, which puts him in charge of institutions (the CBC) and activities (dancing in public) some Conservatives aren’t sure they like. Moore is a committed advocate for the arts. His Canadian movie nights have become a regular highlight of the Ottawa social calendar, and he’s planning to expand the concept with songwriters’ circles, but that only shows that one of his most skeptical audiences is the caucus he sits with in the Centre Block.

The four men contrast in their styles and priorities, but they also have a few things in common. All four are bachelors, which means only that they can devote truly extraordinary amounts of time to their roles. Moore flies home to B.C. every weekend and, as lead political minister for a province that has increasingly become a Conservative bastion, logs a lot of road time up and down the coast.

Kenney left the Conservative war room in this spring’s campaign after spending three campaigns helping to run the joint, in part because it was impractical to hope he would ever match a campaign’s rise-and-shine schedule. Kenney is a champion night owl, rarely up before 11 a.m., but often sending emails to colleagues long past 4 a.m.

Which means Kenney usually gets to bed at about the same time Nigel Wright is hitting the pavement for a morning run that often covers the length of a half-marathon. “Driven” is the adjective most often used to describe Wright, along with “modest.” “He could be sitting in that chair over there,” the Conservative ministerial staffer said, “and you wouldn’t notice him.” Together, Kenney the night owl and Wright the morning runner ensure essentially round-the-clock alertness for this government, as though it were outsourcing part of its workload each night to India.

This is not the same as saying Harper has a firm policy of hiring only armies of bachelors to do his bidding. His previous communications director, Dimitri Soudas, and his wife had three children during his nine years on Harper’s staff; he made a point of resigning in time to walk his daughter Georgia to her first day of school on Sept. 6. Young Conservative staffers have, on balance, been likelier to marry off and start families at a young age than their Liberal predecessors a decade earlier.

But infinite flexibility and a bottomless appetite for work do help one get ahead in Harper’s Ottawa. Both will be needed this autumn and in the years ahead. Nobody is entirely sure how the new majority government will change things, but no Conservative is expecting a free ride.

“A majority government does not mean easy sailing for our government,” Moore wrote in an exchange of emails with Maclean’s. “We have an ambitious official Opposition, a smaller but experienced Liberal party, a base that expects results, and the general public who is anxious about the economy.”

Harper made it clear during the campaign that he needs to balance the budget, though he was relentlessly unclear about how he’ll do it. “Choices will be made that won’t be popular to some,” Moore wrote, “so ministers will have to know their files, defend their choices, and communicate our decisions.”

The main forum for those choices will be the little-understood cabinet committee structure of the Harper government. In a conscious decision to reduce the procedural confusion that characterized Paul Martin’s tenure as prime minister, Harper cut the number of cabinet committees drastically in 2006. Two central steering committees, operations and priorities and planning, control most of the business. At first only four policy committees met occasionally to feed ideas and proposals to the central committees. Now there are six.

Only four ministers—Kenney, Moore, Transportation Minister Denis Lebel and the government’s Senate den mother, Marjorie LeBreton—sit on both the operations and the priorities and planning committees. The full cabinet almost never meets. So if you want to find power in Harper’s Ottawa, read those committee lists.

The operations committee meets on Mondays. It’s for crisis management and hot topics. It is also where parliamentary strategy and the government’s public communications plans are discussed. In fact, one staffer said the PMO communications director often makes suggestions on communications plans to “ops,” which then decides whether to proceed as the nominal communications boss wants. It was the ops committee that met during the 2008 coalition crisis to figure out how Harper should handle the most dangerous threat he has yet faced to his hold on power.

Traditionally in Conservative governments, the deputy prime minister has been chairman of ops. Harper doesn’t designate deputy prime ministers, but he made Jim Prentice his ops chair from 2006 to 2010. Now that Prentice has left Ottawa to be a vice-president at CIBC, the new ops chair is Jason Kenney.

Priorities and planning, the so-called P&P, meets on Tuesdays, with the Prime Minister at the head of the table and LeBreton to his right. It tries to take a longer view. Its 13 members, several sources said, constitute “the real cabinet.”

It’s a mark of Harper’s governing style that even at this level of functional microcosm, he maintains a certain balance among the Conservative movement’s constituent factions. The de facto deputy prime minister is Jason Kenney, one of Ottawa’s most ardent social conservatives. But Moore, who has repeatedly voted to support same-sex marriage and who snubs SunTV News for the CBC, is cast as a near-equal. LeBreton, a Brian Mulroney appointee who used to send reporters long emails detailing Harper’s shortcomings when she and he belonged to different parties, is always on hand to temper the youngsters’ enthusiasms with the lessons of experience.

Wright has been chief of staff for less than a year, and since April a series of interruptions has kept him from putting a clear imprint on the PMO. But many of the people he works with expect his PMO to be a less dominant force in Conservatives’ lives than its predecessors.

Harper’s first chief of staff, Ian Brodie, was a long-standing friend of the PM’s who imposed strict message discipline on the entire government, often telephoning MPs directly to warn them when they were getting out of line. His successor, Guy Giorno, gave the government a more sharply partisan edge and maintained firm control as the government weathered the partly self-inflicted coalition crisis, the global economic upheaval of 2008-09, and the massive spending stimulus that followed.

Giorno’s record speaks for itself. When he was done he chaired the campaign that won Harper a majority. But Conservatives now recall the extraordinary attention he sometimes devoted, perhaps to blow off steam as much as anything else, to trivial details like staffers’ job titles. Wright, by contrast, “has more of a sense of what’s important and really needs his involvement. He has a vision of where the country should be in 2015.”

Wright was managing director of Onex Corporation before coming to Ottawa. His business background and the svelte figure he cuts in a tailored suit have led many observers to assume he’s an old-style Bay Street Tory with no particular interest in social matters. Big mistake. “He’s an Anglo-Catholic,” one former Hill staffer notes. “There’s a certain cabal in our government of Vatican II rejectionist Catholics,” which includes, but isn’t limited to, Kenney and much of his own ministerial staff.

“Let’s put it this way,” the former staffer said. “Nigel is not going to pick up the phone and berate a minister for being too right-wing. That will never happen.”

But this can be stated more generally. Many Conservatives expect Wright to spend less time berating ministers for anything. Indeed, a lot of the strong personalities who shaped Harper’s early years have gone from the PMO. The list includes Patrick Muttart, his most important electoral strategist; communications kingpins Soudas and Kory Teneycke; Jenni Byrne, who used to be in charge of “issues management” (putting out fires).

In their place are “pleasant people who don’t really push hard,” the former staffer said, including policy director Rachel Curran and Harper’s principal spokesman, Andrew MacDougall. The heat of minority-government combat made some of the old crew into household names, at least in Ottawa’s geekier households. “Now, most cabinet ministers wouldn’t recognize these names,” the former staffer said.

Probably some of the PM’s current staff, including his soft-spoken chief, will discover iron in them that few suspected as the government navigates the next half-dozen crises. But in the meantime, a calmer centre means new opportunity for “the boldness of an individual minister really sinking his teeth into a file,” as one source put it. Kenney, Moore and Baird have some of Ottawa’s sharpest teeth. It will ensure they make their mark.

Well, probably. “Our focus will continue to be on the economy,” Moore said. “However, we’re always mindful of what Harold Macmillan said when asked what the greatest challenge is for a prime minister: ‘Events, my dear boy, events.’ ”

Five more who matter

Of course, even for someone who plays things as close as Stephen Harper, it takes more than a team of four to run a government. Here are a few others to watch in Ottawa.

Marjory LeBreton: She knows what a government can get away with and when it must move boldly.

Tony Clement: He wanted to be liked. Now he’s head of Treasury with a mandate to cut.

Ray Novak: A committed monarchist who’s said to have driven the decision to put “royal” back.

Diane Finley: Minister plays key role in policies that appeal to parents and drive leftists crazy.

Denis Lebel: Transport Minister enjoys more low-key influence than more well-known Quebecers


Harper’s single white males

  1. So we have 4 bachelors, 2 of them publically outted,  a ‘cabal’ of people who spend time fretting over the Tridentine Mass, some monarchists, and a PM who uses people up and then discards them.

    And this is what’s running Canada in the 21st century. 

    • “2 of them publically (sic) outted (sic)”

      Not sure to what this is relevant.

      • It doesn’t matter to anyone else….it does to a SoCon party.

        • It appeared to matter to you, as you included it on your list. 

          • Sorry, not interested in your tangents.

          • ??

          • You said it. Now you have to defend it. Who is the homophobe now Emily?

      • Homophobia…..thats what its all about. Emily will say anything that comes into her little head in order to attack Harper.

        • If you two don’t want to discuss the topic, that’s fine with me.

          However the usual Con ploy of attacking the poster in order to change the topic is not an acceptable substitute.

          • You made the comment. So you are the one who is the troll and raised an issue that wasn’t even in the comments. So don’t get high and mighty with me.

          • Your summer temp didn’t work out…and you’re not any better I’m afraid.  LOL

          • Hilarious. Classic Emily. Introduce a topic (a dumb one, usually) then accuse other people of not sticking to the topic when they call her on it.

            You introduced the topic of “outted” ministers. Now you refuse to discuss the relevance of your topic.

            Even the people here who agree with your politics don’t like your style, Emily.

          • I didn’t ‘introduce’ any topic….and you haven’t read the thread.

            My ‘style’?   Ask me if I care.

        • Here.  I’m gay.  Let me spell it out for you.  Harper’s closest allies in government are closet queers.  This despite the fact that the Conservatives fought tooth and nail against gay rights and fought the 2006 election promising to repeal them.  That makes him and his confidantes a bunch of hypocrites who will throw anybody under the bus to seize and cling to power.

          • I’m gay too, but I’m completely fine with anyone who chooses to remain closeted, and acts against one self-interest in favour of another self-interest. It’s disappointing, sure, and I have to hope Baird at least is trying to change minds in caucus from the inside; I would love to see a parliament with openly gay Tory ministers. But it’s not really relevant here.

            People have to be who they are, and orientation doesn’t mandate politics. I, for one, loathe the attitude of entitlement from both the Liberals and NDP that my support just belongs to them. (Ditto those members of the community who believe failure to conform with every aspect of their politics makes me a hypocrite or “Uncle Tom.”)

            I’m frequently disappointed by Conservative policies, but at least they act as though I’m an individual whose vote actually has to be won and might have opinions of my own, and not a permanent lifelong supporter who can be counted on just because I like guys. And for all the blustering of the extreme social conservatives, there hasn’t been and won’t be any revocation of marriage equality, human rights protections, etc. I can easily see similar calculations from the semi-not-really-closeted cabinet ministers.

          • I agree.

          • Well AVR, if you want to vote for a party that frequently disappoints you over one that reflects your values because the latter is “silly enough” to assume that people who share its values vote for it, what can I say?  You’ll get the government you deserve.  Hope you like all those homophobes Harper’s been appointing to the courts. 

          • Twitter linking made me reread this article today, and I repudiate most of the above; I got fed up with CPC homophobia – subtle and unsubtle – sometime in mid-2012. And staying closeted is actually really cowardly.

          • I am not interested in your sexual orientation. Nor am I interested in whether members of the Conservative caucus are gay or otherwise.

            However, are you suggesting that because the so called gay members of the caucus lost the fight within caucus they are hypocrits. That is unfair. This is a democracy and the majority rules.

          • No, I’m suggesting they’re hypocrites because they take full advantage of the equal rights and the tolerant society that many of us fought for, while lining their pocketbooks with money from a party that fought vigorously against those rights.  If they want to work for a party that panders to homophobes and opposes gay rights, then great.  No sex with men.  No going to gay establishments or gay events.  No profiting in any way from the community we fought to build, while the Cons opposed us every step of the way.

          • Let’s add that Jason Kenney was the Immigration Minister who yanked mentions of same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of homosexuality from the new Citizenship study guide, against the recommendation of his deputy minister. He is also the Conservative who led the effort to win “ethnic” and “very ethnic” ridings by appealing to their “traditional family values” (that is, by whipping up anti-gay sentiments that may exist in some communities).

            Long before that, Kenney voted against marriage equality and stated that the existing marriage law didn’t discriminate against LGBT individuals since they could still marry members of the opposite sex.

            Baird may be semi-closeted and kind of creepy (Ever seen him hit on a young liberal? Not pretty!), but at least he hasn’t voted against the interests of the queer community. Kenney is simply vile. A disgusting excuse for a human being.

      • Which two?

        • Baird and Kenney.

          • Well it isn’t news.

          • No non-priest publicly maintains themselves to be a 43-year-old virgin unless they’ve got an awfully heavy reason for that kind of self-denial.

          • He is not, is cheap gossip by people who doesn’t have anything else to do! : )

          • OMG, unbelievable? You are so full of s***t on this one. Kenney isn’t gay!

          • Actually he is…and he was outed some time ago.

          • In Reply to OriginalEmily1;

            And this is relevant because?

            He’s Conservative?

            You’re an idiot.

    • In the decorating world they refer to this as mid century modern.  The century is the twentieth.  Happy days are here again!

      • LOL yes, they’re certainly more than half a century out of date.

      • We shall see who is laughing in the end. I suspect you and Emily will be crying in your beer even more after the 2015 election.

        • Beer- you mean women will be still allowed to consume alcohol? 

          • Weak….really weak!

          • Didn’t you read the Macleans online article about beer in Canada, Jan?  40% of the total consumed is being imbibed by women.  There is NO WAY us cons are going to cut out the beer drinking for women.  We would never get another majority government that way! 

      • My original point, which seemed to get lost, was that the comment seemed to be a list of negative aspects of the people discussed in the article, and I wondered how having been publicly outed (in other words, begin gay) fit into that list.

        • Well, you have your ‘anglo-catholic’ anti-Vatican II types, and your creationist evangelicals who don’t even consider RCs christians, plus at least one monarchist (the monarch being the head Anglican) and in that mix we have gay ministers.

          The cabinet table sounds like prime territory for a religious war to me.  LOL

        • I believe the point was that Harper’s gang is a bit of a motley crew.  The only way we supposedly  know that there are gays,  is that they have been outed. 

          • Thank-you for the explanation. While I now see the point being made, it was not clear in the original comment.

          • Are you suggesting Jan that only conservative politicians have to be “outed” because I just read something really interesting about former NYC mayor Ed Koch, a well known liberal and 80 plus year old “bachelor” who refuses to discuss his sexual orientation.

          • Here’s a hint.

            Libs don’t care about gays. Cons/Repubs do.

            The rightwing harbours closeted gays who push through anti-gay bills….harm their own.  For this they should be outed.

        • Being a closet gay person who works for a party that vigourously opposes your rights makes you either an uncle Tom or a person so amoral that you’ll throw your own community under a bus to get ahead.  Neither of these characteristics is especially charming.

          • Define “vigorously.” Because that certainly suggests a lot more repression than I remember in the past couple of years.

          • The Conservatives have been around for a LOT longer than a couple of years.  Perhaps you don’t recall the days when they were comparing us to pedophiles but I do.  Perhaps you don’t remember when Harper launched is 2006 election campaign with a promise to try and repeal gay marriage, but I do.  Until the CRAPers came around, there was no precedent for bashing gays in parliament.  They brought us to an all time low.  But seriously AVR, how vigorously does one have to oppose your rights for you to not be OK with it?  Because in this day and age, I accept nothing less than welcome in the country that I have paid taxes in all my life.

        • Emily, who likes to think of herself as enlightened actually revealed herself as a hycocrite, when she made a nasty comment that went beyond poor taste and mentioned the sexual orientation of two members of cabinet.  However, what the information really revealed is that if the information is common knowledge as Emily alleges, Steven Harper is not homophobic as Emily and many others would like to have people believe.  It would also suggest that Steven Harper is not a religious “nut” as Emily and others have alleged.
          Now as to your question of why a gay person would not be a good cabinet minister, we would have to put that question to Emily as that is what she seemed to suggest in her comment.

          • Emily gave a statement of fact…public knowledge

            You Cons are the only ones having a problem with it.

            Mostly…to change the topic. LOL

          • As I said, if it is public knowledge then obviously conservatives have no problem with it.

          • @healthinsider:disqus 

            Oh they have a problem with it….they just can’t do anything about it.

    • Get used to it Emily. You have four years to try. No matter how many negative comments you put on this board and others nothing is going to change the fact that Harper has full control. You can scream, yell and call him names but that will not change reality for you and any of the other Harper haters on this board.

      • I have lived through good PMs and bad PMs, so Harp is just another in a long line.

        However, Harper doesn’t have full control. No PM ever does.

        So if that’s what you believe, it’s just one more mistake on your and their part.

        • So who is going to prevent the Conservative legislation from passing oh Great One. Turmel, Bob Rae, unions or swan hands.

          • British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, who when asked what was the greatest challenge for a leader replied, “Events, my dear boy, events.”

          • If your relying on events Emily that is sure a stretch. By the way it works both ways.

          • @hollinm:disqus 

            There are always ‘events’ m’dear….the world is full of events…and the biggest one right now is the economy.

            And I’ve seen many a PM…majority in tow….forced to change a policy under public pressure.

          • Why do you bore us and nullify your arguments with your reference to tired old overworked quotations from dead British second rate politicians? 

          • @senorito:disqus 

            If you’re bored, go elsewhere.

        • We in B.C. just saw this played out.  Harper would be wise not to poke people in their eyes with his ‘mandate’.

        • Oh puh-lease! You were so sure he wasn’t going to get elected and he was the most fearful dictator the world has ever seen, a big secret agenda to destroy Canada. The truth is that you have no political instincts at all.

          • Um no…I don’t think I’ve ever said anything about Kenney being elected, or being a dictator….I just said he was outed.

            I’ve been in politics…successfully elected in fact.

          • I was replying to your question about Harper and yes, you have said that about him, many, many times.

            I feel sorry for whoever elected you, obviously weren’t informed how you operate!

            And you should stop taken this posts hostage with your nonsense, very disrespectful to people who want to share their opinion.

          • @claudialemire:disqus 

            Oh, well in that case, yes Harper is a born dictator, and certainly has a hidden agenda. Full agreement.

            Why are you attacking ME?  I didn’t introduce this topic, nor am I interested in discussing it.

            Think you could stick to the subject for a change?

      • Wow – the devotees really like that one, h.

    • Ray Novak: Steve Harper’s Closet Confidant

      He used to live above MPs Steve Harper’s garage. Now he may be the second most powerful man in Ottawa.

      “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,”
      enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a
      personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”



  2. This was one of the most Educational articles I have ever read that meant anything.  WOW.
    I bet most of the public haven’t a clue of this structure and its workings.  Thanks for the Article.

  3. No real issue with Wells’ assessment here but I can tell you that Moore coming across as the lapdog of the CBC is not going over well with the grassroots. If he continues to support CBC and its illegal attempt to subvert disclosure of its information and its crappy programming he will not hold on to Heritage. The heat is on and the Conservative government with the help and encourgement of Sun TV will have to face the issue of CBC as a public broadcast soon.

    • You should get right on this,  Drum out Moore.  Stop all arts funding and shut down the CBC. 

      • Don’t worry we are.

        • This is the best news since the election.  Don’t let your resolve be weakened by the polls.

    • Yes, but now that Stephen Harper has his majority the grassroots won’t matter a hill of beans, so if I was you I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      To paraphrase, Get used to it. You have four years to try. Nothing is going to change the fact that Harper has full control. You can scream, yell and call for Moore’s removal, but that will not change reality for you.

      • Then you have no idea how the party operates.

        • Don’t kid yourself, every political party operates like that.  If they have a majority they don’t need to devote as much time and effort to the base, in fact they will look further afield to create larger possibilities for support, hence its unlikely that Moore will be judged on that basis, rather he will be judged on his ability to deliver more ridings in BC . . .I doubt many of those will swing on the issue of the CBC.

    • Moore is hardly “the lapdog of the CBC”.  And so what if he supports our public broadcaster – it would certainly be a problem if the Minister of Heritage DIDN’T support the CBC.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things CBC could improve on. Just because you don’t like CBC it’s not a valid reason to get rid of it.  And so what also if CBC is dragging their heels on responding to FOI requests from anti-CBC trolls.  As to Sun TV, well both you and they wildly over-estimate their influence.

      • We shall see. Time will tell if CBC survives in its present configuration over the next four years.

        • If Harper was going to do away with the CBC, it would be gone already.  Politicians make their nastiest moves in the first few months of their mandate in hopes that we’ll have finished screaming by the time the next election comes round.  It hasn’t happened.  Face it, Harper’s done trying to please you.  He knows you’re on-side.  Now he’s out to win new supporters.

          • In case you haven’t heard Parliament has not been sitting for the last three months. So we shall see what will shall see. You  may be right that the government will not touch CBC but Harper is going to have to do something about it because the grassroots is not pleased with the performance of CBC over the years. If he ignores the grassroots it is at his peril. He only has to look at what happened to Duceppe in Quebec to see how quickly the base can disappear.

          • Yeah right….who else are you going to vote for?

            Libs?  NDP?

            I don’t think so.

          • Emily…there is such a thing as to sit out an election. That is what is happening with the Libs these days. Their supporters are sitting on the sidelines.

            By the way I have voted Liberal in the past. I will do it again if they ever get their shit together and put forward ideas and solutions that are workable and make sense. However, Harper should never simply take the grassroots for granted. Thats how Mulroney lost his PC members to the Canadian Alliance.

    • That’s funny.  Just a second ago, you said Harper had complete power and his opponents wouldn’t get their way.  I can’t imagine what’s stopping him from decimating the CBC and the arts.   Oh wait…could it be?  He wants to get reelected?  Pesky that thing called democracy.

      • My comments are still on point. If Harper decided to dismantle the CBC there is not much that could stop him from doing it. Case in point is the Canadian Wheat Board. It is going as a sole trader of western wheat.
        So it is a matter of having the will. Do you honestly believe that the majority of Canadians agree that money from all taxpayers should be used to fund arts that cannot survive without government assistance? Of course if he stopped funding CBC the lefties would not vote for him but they probably don’t now anyway. In fact he could get some new votes by eliminating the subsidy.

        • Why should we fund hockey?

          Especially when museums, galleries, concerts etc are more popular than hockey?

          • Show me where it says in our constitution that the federal government is reponsibile for funding those things outlined in your post.

            I do not believe that is the role of the federal government. There may be a role for provincial governments who can be judged by their population as to whether they support museums etc. This also includes hockey. None of this stuff should be funded by taxpayers from general tax revenue. You want a museum. Good. Get private investors to invest. If you want to have a concert. Findprivate money and let the people who attend the concert pay to go.

            That’s the problem the government is spending vast amounts of money on things that do not affect the day to day lives of its citizens. I can live without going to a museum. However, I can’t live without being able to put food on the table.  We can argue that it has benefits and economic spin off but the fact is this is not the role of government.

          • Good heavens….you’re going for the full Teaparty this am eh?

          • The Constitution, and the original BNA Act, assign all residual powers (those not specifically assigned to the provinces) to the Federal government. So it has the authority to all of the things you just denied were within its purview.

          • No not the tea party. There are things the government should do but there are many they should not do and that is why we have a bloated government and bureaucracy.
            I want the government to be stripped down to the essentials which help better the lives of ordinary Canadians.
            If we got rid of the stuff that I consider wasteful maybe we could fix the aboriginal problem, child poverty, homelessness etc. The way it is was are spending money with no accountability and more importantly no real results.

          • Dear me, I had no idea you lived in Somalia, and had to struggle so each day to put food on the table.

            No time to even enjoy a movie, or music or pass on western culture and civilization.  Tsk.

            However, here in Canada, we choose to do those things, and even enjoy them. And since we’re a wealthy advanced western nation we can afford to do so.

            We can afford to provide education to aboriginals, the poor and the homeless as well….so they no longer live in your dreary Somalia….but you no doubt oppose education as well.

            In fact I can guarantee that if some politician was so rash as to promote free university, you’d be the first one screaming.

            You would, however, be keen on buying obsolete fighter jets.

            It’s that kind of thinking that creates Somalias.

          • What a silly analogy! Somalia…..

            I like to enjoy all the things you talked about I just don’t want the government paying for it. If its worth doing somebody will do it. Thats what free enterprise is all about.

            If we can afford to educate aboriginals, the poor and the homeless why do we still have the problem then? We keep hearing there is not enough money. Its called priorities. The socialists keep talking about these issues so they must be important right?

            However, you never fail to be condescending. Its because you have no real arguments. You are some twit who writes on MacLeans blog and pretends to know everything there is. Of course anybody who disagrees with you is subjected to your barbs.

            The one comfort is I see how you treat other people on the blog and so I feel I have lots of company.

          • Hahahahahaha. Yeah, right, Emily. Hockey is a national pastime.

  4. Paul Wells….I would like you to explain this part of your column in which a “Hill staffer” is quoted….”There’s a certain cabal in our government of Vatican II rejectionist Catholics,” which includes, but isn’t limited to, Kenney and much of his own ministerial staff.”

    Was this a slam against Kenney and others who work in the government that they are not progressive enough or that they really are knuckledragging neanderthals as Bob Fife of CTV once opined? They are for the old traditonal way of doing things and therefore are not progressive enough. It is a very interesting turn of phrase which also includes the word cabal which says a lot in itself if you look up the meaning. Those of us who understand what Vatican II  was all about will not be impressed by this quote. Obviously you believe it to be the case because you took the opportunity to repeat the quote.

    • Not to presume to answer for Mr Wells, but I would think the takeaway from this is that there are different perspectives and interpretations on the influences driving this government.  That is certainly one I have not heard, though I was aware of Kenney’s specific brand of attachment to Catholicism.  Speaking as one myself (but not actively practicing, but close to some that are) he comes across as being a bit of nutter for it.  I do find it surprising that it would be so overt, given Stephen Harper’s attachment to Evangelical beliefs, that this sort of sideline would be tolerated.

      I think Mr Wells put this out there to illustrate that and perhaps provoke some thought; I don’t think it was an endorsement.  After all it was the staffer that used the term ‘cabal’.

      • I think you presume to know too much. There is nothing that the Harper government nor its Ministers have shown by way of their “religious” beliefs.

        As long as Kenney keeps his beliefs to himself it is nobody’s business how he worships his God. Did anyone ask Paul Martin or Jean Chretien about their personal religious beliefs and then criticize them? I think not. 

        We do know they are a number of Evangelicals in the Liberal caucus i.e. John MacKay.Unless you have personal knowledge about how Kenney worships your comment that he is a nutter about it is unfair and disingenuous. How do you know that Harper is attached to Evangelical beliefs? I have never heard Stephen Harper talk about his religious beliefs nor have I seen any evidence of it in government policy. Does he even go to church?

        It’s funny that the religious beliefs of the Conservatives is always criticized but does that mean there are heathens in other parties. I don’t think so. However, it is only the lefties that raise the issue and of course the media grab right on to.

        I happen to be a Catholic and I know the havoc wrecked on the church by the decisions made at Vatican ll.

        • John MacKay is a Baptist

          Harper is a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance

          Cons have made a production out of religion….that’s why it matters.

          You are also making a production out of religion…nobody cares that you wish to remain in the 12th century.

          • “Cons have made a production out of religion.”  What production?  I was not aware of any production.  If perhaps you mean showing a general respect for religious views (unlike the previous regime), that is correct, but I would not call it a “production.”

          • If you’re not aware of the Cons making a production out of religion, you’re Rip Van Winkle hon.

            The ‘previous regime’ never said anything about religion.

          • Sorry, but you are completely wrong, Emily. The government has made no production, whatsoever, out of religion. And to call people names because you don’t agree with them is very juvenile.

          • So why don’t you be specific, Emily?   Please give us an actual example of the Conservatives “making a production out of religion.”

          • @OrsonBean:disqus 

            Since this has been reported in depth for years, I fail to see why I should have to take you on a ‘paint by numbers’ trip

          • That is a cop out and you know it. Give us a recent example of a production about religion. You can’t and you know it. Its just bafflegab by the Queen of bafflegab on this site.

          • @hollinm:disqus 

            Mornin’ hollinm….still testy I see.

            Still in denial as well.  LOL

        • I personally don’t care what Kenney’s personal beliefs are, so long as they don’t have undue influence on his activities as a minister.  But it was not me that stated ‘ “There’s a certain cabal in our government of Vatican II rejectionist Catholics,” which includes, but isn’t limited to, Kenney and much of his own ministerial staff.’ . . . I was merely expressing an opinion in reaction to that.  And as for Stephen Harper’s beliefs, you surely are aware of an article in The Walrus a few years ago that dealt with that in some detail.

          I think one reason that the Conservatives face more criticism for their religious beliefs is that many (not all) have brought that to the fore of their political personae, sometimes with dubious results (see: Stockwell Day), so they bring it on themselves.  But you see similar examples of silliness at other parts of the political landscape.

          I can’t agree with you about Vatican II, though I don’t have direct knowledge of what is was like before that.  I can’t fathom what was so good about a church that still held the Jews responsible for Christ’s death, and has a clamp on society as they did in Quebec.  To me to go back to that would be akin to the Taliban.

  5. I was wondering when someone would write about this anomaly.  They all share a passion for politics and are work-a-holics.   How is Peter MacKay’s love-life these days – still dating the Iranian, beauty queen, activist?? 

    “Kenney, Moore and Baird have some of Ottawa’s sharpest teeth”   With that photo of Baird, I now can’t stop humming “Mack The Knife”. lol

  6. You’re forgetting Ed Fast. As Minister of International Trade, he has a huge portfolio which can make a big difference for Canada’s economy. Watch him.

    • We already know about the trade deals….and Fast is a Mennonite.

      • So what if he’s a Mennonite. Does that make him less intelligent than a raging leftie? You are so prejudiced, it’s amazing! 

        • Sigh…if you’d read the original article you’d know there are a conglomeration of religions at the cabinet table. Mennonite is just one more.

          And don’t confuse religion and politics.

  7. I really appreciate these insightful profiles.

  8. Given the preoccupation of this government with snooping into everyone’s private business through the Internet, given the hostile focus with a big part of the Conservative base on gay marriage, given Canada’s importance in the world in helping to legitimize the institution of gay marriage, I think there is some measure of political significance to be found in the sexual orientation of those exercising majority rule power. I think there is some measure of significance to be found in the nature of family number one for the party of family values. What is going on with Mr. and Mrs. Harper and Ray Novak? Who is or isn’t with whom?  Does the fact we have to ask suggest that the media cabal behind the thrown really are essentially PR hacks working for a certain power elite. Does it suggest the Harper Team are protected by media such as the NationalPost/Maclean’s from certain types of scrutiny?

  9. So just one question…is Ray Novak Harper’s gay lover?

  10. Ray Novak: Steve
    Harper’s Closet Confidant

    He used to live above Steve Harper’s garage. Now he may be the second most powerful man in

    “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,”
    enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a
    personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”


  11. Ray Novak: Steve
    Harper’s Closet Confidant

    He used to live above Steve Harper’s garage. Now he may be the second most powerful man in

    “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,”
    enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a
    personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”


  12. Recently I met a well-known Canadian TV pundit at an event. According to him/her, Baird is gay, Kenney is straight. I definitely trust his/her political connections and believe this is true.

  13. I just read the article although I am a subscriber. One point Sean Kilpatrick seems confused about: Nigel Wright is an Anglo-catholic. But this is a movement within Anglicanism, whereas the author suggests Mr. Wright might be a disaffected Roman Catholic.

  14. Oh I’m a gummy Baird.
    Yes I’m a gummy Baird.
    Oh I’m a yummy tummy funny lucky gummy Baird.
    I’m a jelly Baird.
    Cause I´m a gummy Baird.
    Oh I’m a movin’ groovin’ jammin’ singing gummy Baird.
    Oh yeaoooh.

    VERSE 1
    Gummy Gummy Gummy Gummy Gummibär
    Gummy Gummy Gummy Gummy Gummibär
    Bai ding ba doli party
    Bamm bing ba doli party
    Breding ba doli party party pop
    Bai ding ba doli party
    Bamm bing ba doli party
    Breding ba doli party party pop

  15. Ray Novak: Steve
    Harper’s Closet Confidant

    He used to live above Steve Harper’s garage. Now he may be the second most powerful man in

    “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,”
    enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a
    personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”



  16. Out of the four mentioned, Baird is the only homosexual it seems. Not that anything is wrong with that. Kenney has done lot of damage to homosexual community over the past few years, even though he is starting to come around. I have hard time believing that he is gay. Moore is straight for he is married. As for Nigel, it is highly unlikely that he is gay. He is the supporter of the Wildrose party, Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, etc. all of which are known for their anti-homosexual views. I cannot imagine that somebody with his political and religious engagement is gay. It would indeed be strange.