The shuffle: What has Harper accomplished?

Paul Wells on what Harper has tried to do — and what he’s taken care not to


So the dust has settled on Stephen Harper’s most elaborate cabinet shuffle since he was first elected in 2006. What’s been accomplished? As always, it’s worthwhile considering both what Harper has sought to do — and what he has taken care not to do. This new cabinet’s quietest members will speak as loudly as some of the loudest. This afternoon I stared at a point in space 30 degrees away from a video camera and delivered my thoughts:


The shuffle: What has Harper accomplished?

  1. Too little, too late.

    • Rich people know over sized government and money for nothing but compliance state is a waste of money. Now spying? Yep, you know the politicians will get the boot. Rich are not as complacent over worked tax slave in other countries, they take the time to assure government has value.

      Belgium shut down big chunks of their government years ago, and the public productive workers never missed the services. They eventually made most of the temporary shutdowns permanent saving billions of waste.

      Part of why G8 countries can’t get out of the economic depression is bloated government consumption exceeds producer ability to support it. And why government can’t solve unemployment, under employment and other economic issues as their consumptive money print for debt fraud economics is the problem.

      Yep, ours should do the same. Say we shut down the waste, cancel bailouts, cancel equalization waste, cancel CIDA, cancel AANDC, reduce CF, reduce parliament to 92 and not the 330 bloat, eliminate the useless senate and cut taxes by over 1/2 and balance the budget. Oh, and let underfunded government pensions reduce payout, as it is government devaluing our lives, time governemtn shares the pain.

      • Being wealthy is not a sign of intelligence….I don’t know why people think it is.

        Belgium has political problems, not money ones. The Flemish and the Walloons don’t know how to get along.

        The G8 is irrelevant now…the action is in the G20….particularly the BRIC countries …Brazil, Russia, India and China.

        Debt has nothing to do with any of it….manufacturing has moved to China, the world is globalizing, and the Industrial Age is over with.

        We have lots of jobs. We don’t have people qualified for the jobs. Hence immigration.

        You’re real keen on CANCEL… long as it’s not something that affects you personally.

        Time the GOVT shares the pain?? YOU are the govt.

        Are you keen on giving up your pension, your healthcare, education, transportation etc?

        When did you start thinking a country was only about money?

  2. That’s very good thanks, all I need to hear. It makes me suspect the CPC more, but then that’s what Harper thrives on; other people’s suspicion. I’d like to see Paul Wells on At Issue, liven things up a bit.

  3. It is the media who have the problem with the cabinet shuffle. Why? Who in the hell knows. He appointed many of the people who the media speculated should get the jobs. Do you honestly believe democratic reform actually will be run by Polievre or any other cabinet minister. Any reforms will need the explicit approval of the PM. It is not the job of the PM to worry about how the opposition parties feel nor the media. So van Loan stays put. I know the media wants the Conservatives to sing kumbaya and make everybody happy. That is not how politics works in the 21st century. Once again Harper thumbed his nose at the media and his critics.

    • “It is not the job of the PM to worry about how the opposition parties feel nor the media.”

      This would seem to be rather shortsighted thinking.

      I can appreciate that the PM or the party care not a whit for opposition or media, but being the experienced communicators that they are, surely it would have crossed the minds of their brain trust that constantly displaying belligerence, intransigence and a smartass attitude will get visibility on the news. To the extent that the goings-on in parliament are reported and therefore seen by the general population (albeit in the context of the overall political and economic situation), this can’t been seen as helpful in capturing voters who are open to alternatives.

      Now you may well say that the CPC has a strong economic track record, and that voters are not interested in bearded socialists or man-boys (I seem to recall hearing these expressions), but it seems illogical that they would go out of their way to offend when there is no need to do so. Events after all can happen, and those can undermine whatever positive reputation the CPC may have garnered, and that is when any negatives from events like this cabinet shuffle will be viewed through a negative prism. And, IMO, allowing PP a cabinet post and keeping PVL in place neutralizes the benefits the CPC would gain from the appointments of some women to (somewhat minor) cabinet positions.

      My feeling as to this shuffle is that it is symptomatic of a bunker mentality; there’s no looking outward, the senior members are same old same old, especially in the economic portfolios, and attack dogs are kept in place or promoted.

      • The fact is the shuffle took place. Everybody was demanding it. Now they are saying it was a waste of time. It goes to show no matter what this government does it cannot win positive press. You can blame the communications strategy of the Conservatives. However, the government is faced with a left wing media who can’t stand their policies. Not enough social programs for them. Not enough cradle to grave government. What we are talking about in all of this is style; not substance. The public at large has watched this government since 2006 with the media and opposition bellyaching about anything and everything. They consider it white noise and ignore it. Hence the increase in the number of seats for Conservatives in each election Of course we partisans hang on to every word uttered and interpret it and spin it. However, when it comes to voting in a government the public is not going to vote against their own self interest. I cannot believe that Canadian would put the national government in the hands of a pretty boy who is inexperienced and is full of bromides and clichés. To elect Mulcair and his kiddie caucus and their fixation in driving us back to the horse and buggy days defies all logic.

        • Sour grapes will make for bitter wine, hollinm. I disagree with you: first of all, Harper said all along he would shuffle his cabinet at mid-term — I was just thinking what a shame for him that, despite the fact that this was planned, all the dirty headlines about the Senate expenses, and that mysterious $3.1 billion will make it so those who don’t follow politics closely think he HAD to shuffle it.

          As for the media not liking CPC policies — the articles I read today suggest that the harper government is a little short on policy while long on public relations’ optics.

          Time will tell, but if you think the likes of MIchelle Rempel, Shelley Glover and the loathsome Prick Polievre are going to turn this ship around, well, I hope you’re a good swimmer. And if you think Harper actally WANTS his ship turned — you don’t understand your leader very well.

          • So Harper wants to crash his ship into an iceberg and kill everybody on board?

          • Precisely, and may I say that not everyone picks up on the meanings of my mixed metaphors (conceits) like you did.

            But they won’t hit an iceberg: they will hit the “grits’ rock.”

          • And Harper wants this to happen? Harper wants to crash the Conservative ship onto a Grit iceberg, or rock? Because . . . Harper secretly wants to destroy the Conservative Party?

      • It is right, PM should not be overly concerned about what the opposition thinks. But should listen more to public opinion if he wants to retain a majority government. Fact is the opposition are just idiots.

        And why this conservative will never vote Conservative again, even in Harper’s own riding. None of the parties on the ballot really represent the middle class productive Canadians, they all want more of our money and deliver less.

    • There’s a lot of territory between calling members terrorists or pedophiles when they criticize the government and singing kumbaya.

      • The guy is gone. What’s your next point? Toews like anybody in this country had the right to say whatever he pleased. He was censored for his stupid comments. That’s how it works. However, the Harper haters want the Conservatives to simply shut up. That is not going to happen whether you or anybody likes it or not.

        • I for one don’t want the Conservatives to shut up. Keeping their traps shut for once might actually improve their electoral prospects.

  4. What a contrast between Wells and Coyne!

  5. That was quite good, in spite of your gaze for radio.

  6. Thoughtful and interesting comments, Paul, as always.

  7. Reading commentary about Rajotte overlooked again for a finance related post even though Menzies left. Significance??

  8. a good summation

  9. That’s a pretty fair summation. I would add the following.
    1. Although the whole Senate scandal thing is overblown, it is undenial that the loss of Nigel Wright was a blow to the PM. The shuffle seems to to be a way for Harper to communicate that he will be in effect his own Chief of Staff.
    2. Harper himself has said he didn’t get into politics to defend the Senate, and it is telling there are absolutely no Senators in the cabinet or anywhere they could have any influence on governments priorities or plans. Poilevre is an excellent choice to drive Mulcair crazy with his answers to questions about Senators and the Senate, which for Harper is a non-issue and a distraction.
    3. Most significant political event this year was BC provincial election. Adrian Dix and the NDP looked invincible against the so-called scandal-plagued BC Liberals and the media loved them but they failed utterably with voters. Lesson to Harper and everyone (especially with the media and pollsters) – the voters will not vote against their economic self-interest.
    4. Scott Reid had interesting column this week saying Justin Trudeau has to get working on a compelling economic message (or find someone credible who can craft and deliver such a message) soon because his famous last name (and one with no reputation of sound economic management) will not be enough to win. Mulcair already has a poor reputation on economic matters so Harper is benefitting from having a weak opposition. He is canny enough to take advantage of this. Make Jason Kenney the Super Minister of Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

  10. I don’t see how one can responsibly pundit-ize about this cabinet, or the old cabinet, without focusing entirely on the basic fact of our democracy: cabinet ministers DO NOT COUNT. All policy flows from PMO; all strategy flows from PMO; all speeches are vetted if not written by PMO; etc. etc. That is the single core fact of our government at present.

    By pretending that ministers count, through hilarious coverage of things like this cabinet shuffle, Wells and the rest show one of the following (pick one or two):

    a) they don’t know how the government works [possible – they’re only media];
    b) they don’t care how the government works [unlikely – they are bored];
    c) they are on autopilot from 1992 [likely enough – tradition dies hard];
    d) they are actively collaborating to sustain our Potemkin democracy.

    My view? It’s all of the above, muddled up to make pundits matter. Because if cabinet ministers don’t count, pundits REALLY don’t count, and that’s an unthinkable thought.

    • In that case, comments about punditry don’t count either, which makes me wonder why you wrote a comment, since of course it doesn’t count.

  11. Good analysis. I think it is dead-on.

    • Now THAT is a brutal condemnation.

      • s_c_f has previously been outed as a Thought Criminal and a Subversive.

        • But you don’t have to advertise it to everyone!

      • I brutally condemn people named Bobo.

  12. Find it odd everyone is calling this a focus on the next election. If you can’t actually govern in the middle of a majority, when will you govern?
    I figure giving increasing Canadian Q-of-L, where not a tyranny or a WMD threat, is a good way for Parliament to act. If the best tries don’t improve this, sending resources (ie by raising tax rates and diversifying the economy including daycare and small biz and education and R+D) to other sectors and people, perhaps even abroad, is responsible.
    Surveying ccdns is one way of measuring this, if they are informed of what aspects of their recent lives are the result of gvmt (stimulus, law changes, etc). I’m almost positive Iggy’s incremental daycare would’ve b een better than mental tax cuts for finance and oil. I’ve the newest rob 100; wouldn’t be surprised if adding up the corporate profits results in more than 80% of all profits acrrued to finance or oil or oil transports; I measured 80% a few years back. In this regard, the list is a failure. The enemies of Canada are corporatism and thus the present gvmt. lol, won’t take the Queen pledge. They should learn about the checks on power of Canada vs whatever shithole they came from. The Queen can prevent future slavery here.

  13. I predict Dimitri will soon be dumped.

  14. Harper hasn’t accomplished much good in his terms. Managed to lie about “Trusts” that cost Canadians investors and retirees $30 billion or so. Now the companies were bought up by foreigners and pay even less taxes if they were left as trusts as the income was fully taxed at the investors income tax. Governemtn got too greedy for a net loss.

    He declared Quebec a country when he should be working for all of Canada towards a united and equal state. But hey, we in the west pay for Ottawa bloat right? I live in Harpers ridding and now refuse to vote Harper, the Young Liberal of Canada….as I don’t see conservatism in anything he does.

    Popular opinion has been ignored on issues like bank bailouts (and they were bailouts), corporate bailouts and welfare like CBC, Air Canada, Bombardier, GM and a long list of “buddy” back room deals for lobby money. We send money via CIDA offshore but don’t take care of our disabled and vets. No glory here, we even subsidize the USA defective F35 program and no one wants to admit the Liberal purchased rusty subs are really just rusty scrap metal. USA askes, Harper, Baird and Mackay just jump, might as well call Harper the US Secretary of Canadian State. Mind you, CIA/NSA/FBI probably know a lot about political crime in Canada.

    Show me a well run government department, I can’t find one. Isn’t CFIA with meat infection or labeling as USDA finds the e.coli and BSE. Isn’t CF that loses billions and waste even more, or Health Canada and Monsano, CRTC cartel, Dairy boards cartel, insatiable hidden taxes which is CBSA priority as it isn’t about controlling illegal access… Or RCMP that keep on sexual harassers and even taser murder types. Don’t look to closely at BoC and StatsCan lies on inflation…..

    Really can’t say with government bloat now larger than ever before, with more spending than ever before, ore taxes than ever before and tax table creep (dedications increase far lower than inflation) …. can’t say anything is better under harper but for the GST 2% reduction, the neo_Cons gave us in the first place.

    Out biggest problem on the ballot is that we have three valid choices but one result. You will get bigger government bloat, more taxes and less left in your wallet. Heck, they even raid pizza business for contraband mozzarella cheese as 284% tax tariffs haven’t been paid to prop up high costs of taxed Canadian food and beef for rich and poor alike. You can actually owe taxes in Canada on a poverty level wage, disgusting.

    Harper has fixed nothing. Just a quiet keep the corruption and waste going kind of politician.