Is that a backbencher, or just a bureaucrat: Liveblogging the cabinet shuffle

10:02:32 AM
Well, I’m here at the momentary nexus of the Ottawa political universe, sitting in the shade outside Rideau Hall listening to Mike Duffy explain for what I’m sure is the nineteenth time this morning that, contrary to our seeming omnipotence, we (the media) don’t actually know anything. But that’s not going to stop us from spending the first part of the morning speculating wildly as to what will happen at 11am, and the rest of the day pretending that we knew it all along.

I’m here a little early, I suppose—the ministers won’t start rolling up for another half hour or so, but given my notorious ability to get lost on a one-way street, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t end up wandering the grounds of Rideau Hall forlornly until I was accidentally shot by the Governor General’s Foot Guards. Hey, at least they don’t have Tasers.

Speaking of the GG, she—or rather, her driver—nearly ran me over as I was walking up the driveway. I didn’t realize ’til afterwards that it was her behind those tinted windows. Luckily, she was going about 5 miles an hour, so even though I was lost in the music (yes, I was wearing an iPod of Death), I didn’t wind up the first casualty of the shuffle. That title’s still open, Helena!

Oh, I kid.

Anyway, my plan, such as it is, is to send in dispatches every few minutes, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep the cubicle nation informed of the latest goings on, both on the cabinet front and in the free press cage.

10:12:13 AM
And our first tip of the day! CTV is reporting that James Moore is finally going to get his Honourable—and about time too, cry the pundits. He will become the Minister of State for the Pacific Gateway, Olympics and Official Languages. Yay, James! Oh please don’t let us be raising his hopes again. We’ve had such a terrible tendency to do that that the last time around, I imposed a ban on all Moore-related speculation.

10:17:35 AM
I think I may be the first non-TV reporter on the scene. Not that there’s really all that much to report so far—there’s lots of scurrying around, but most of it is being done by security guards and camera crews. We’re behind a fence, of course. Can’t let the media loose on the grounds—who knows what capers we’d get up to. But it’s actually a prime viewing spot. We can see the driveway and the front doors.

10:19:43 AM
Least surprising arrival of the day: Christian Paradis, who is approximately eleven feet tall, and is escorted by two wee kidlets and a very appropriately-attired spouse, which I susspect will be the theme of the day.

10:22:14 AM
Okay, I know he’s super-excited to be here and all, but you’d think Paradis would have wanted to at least feign studied nonchalance, at least to the point of not showing up forty minutes early (in a silver Government of Canada logo-emblazoned minivan, for those who care). Play it cool. Take the kids out for a Sconewich – there’s one right around the corner from Rideau Hall, and I’m totally planning on hitting it up after the shuffle is over.

10:24:52 AM
I fear that I may have picked the wrong spot, as far as hunkering down in the cage: the sun keeps sneakily moving across the sky, foiling my attempt to avoid going limp from heat stroke before the action even gets underway. Yes, I know, I can always move too. I’m scootching along the wall, but you have to be wary of the spaghetti-like cords, cables and wiring that make Mike Duffy appear in your living room.

10:30:49 AM
James Moore arrives in a taxi cab with some old guy. One of the camera guys asks, “Can you give us a smile?” And he acquiesces, but barely. I guess he’s already feeling the pressure of cabinetdom.

What I wonder is who will take over as Fortier stand-in with Moore bumped up to full minister. The parliamentary secretary for Public Works, remember, actually has to do stuff, like answer questions in the House other than just on Fridays or when the minister is otherwise engaged. At least unless someone else is going to be the Public Works minister, but then you still need somebody competent on Fortier duty. Unless he’s dumped completely, of course.

10:34:47 AM
Ian Brodie and Sandra Buckler just rolled up, sharing a car—they’re so economical and environmentally-conscious. When asked if he was going into cabinet, Brodie gave a half-chortle/half-snort and did that teeth baring thing again.

10:36:19 AM
Brodie and Buckler have been eclipsed by the arrival of a lone protester, bearing a sign that says “David Emerson is a liar and a hypocrite.” He’s now surrounded by pretty much the entire media contingent, who are starting to worry that this may be all there is.

That can’t be true, can it?

10:37:54 AM

Yay, another vehicle!  Two, even. Both hybrids, according the guy standng behind me. I couldn’t tell you anything more. They’re both just idling in the driveway, right down from the camera crews.

Damnit. It turns out one of the cars for, in the immortal words of David Akin, just a bureaucrat. Or, as one of us puts it even less charitably, a nobody. Note to public service: the rest of us fought back mightily against this characterization, and eventually, it was decided that no deputy minister is a nobody, we’re just too dumb to recognize the magnitude of their influence.

10:42:29 AM
The media cage is now almost completely exposed to the sun. And the anti-Emerson protester, who is from Quebec—I don’t know why I found that so strange—is just winding up his scrum. Man, why don’t more protesters have that kind of foresight? It’s quite literally a captive audience.

Okay, now one of the security guards is posing with the anti-Emerson sign. I have no idea why.

10:44:24 AM
Another car! And it’s Michael Fortier, the senator, who is asked if he’s happy to still be an unelected minister. He doesn’t answer, but he looks okay with it to me. Beats having to deal with us.

10:45:40 AM
Have we really seen only three ministers go in? It feels like… Actually, it feels like about three ministers, I guess.

10:49:17 AM
Okay, with ten minutes to go. I’m not sure if there are going to be any surprise guest appearances. They’ve got to be in by 11, after all—fashionably late doesn’t work for a shuffle. Show up five minutes after the ceremony starts and you find out that Kevin Lynch got your job instead.

10:51:27 AM
Really? This is it? No Jason Kenney? No Verner? No – anyone else? Sigh.

10:53:26 AM
A shocker: John Ivison as minister of… Oh, wait. He’s just here to cover the shuffle. Your loss, Prime Minister.

Come to think of it, where is the PM? Shouldn’t he be here by now?

10:55:28 AM
Okay, I think this is officially the most boring cabinet shuffle ever. No offense, Conservatives. Boring doesn’t mean bad—except if you’re a reporter, of course.

The PM just showed up. Yeah, I think this is it.

10:57:21 AM
Okay, that’s it. Now we play the waiting game. Within a couple of minutes, a PMO minion will show up to hand out the official release, which will probably say exactly what CTV reported earlier. And that will be that. We can hang around and hope one of the newbies—actually, the only newbie, since the other two were both in cabinet (or in Moore’s case, practically in cabinet) already—the newbie, then, is silly enough to scrum.

11:04:06 AM
Well, we haven’t gotten the official release yet, but we can already tell you what it will say: Fortier to Trade (sucks to be one of those donors who was hoping to grease the procurement wheels, not that they would ever think such a thing); Paradis to Public Works (sucks to be the new guy since everyone already gave to Fortier); and Moore to various Western-y things, and somewhat inexplicably, Official Languages.

I’ll report in once we have the final word, but that’s pretty much that.

11:12:02 AM
Still no press release, and the ministerial vehicles are circling back around the driveway, which means the ceremony must be over. Not that we’d know; it’s pooled, so we’re all sitting outside waiting for our colleagues watching Newsworld or NewsNet to tell us what’s going on. Such is the magic of journalism!

11:13:51 AM
The release is out! No surprises, except that Christian Paradis keeps his Secretary of State job too, which seems sort of pointless, since we don’t actually need two agriculture ministers. Oh, except the other one can’t speak French, and Quebec is the key to the majority. I forgot that part.

So who gets to be Fortier’s new parliamentary secretary? Or did the existing International Trade PS just get a major bump in House visibility?

11:19:43 AM
So, I wonder if Quebec—or at least its pundits—will consider a (perfectly bilingual, but still) anglophone Official Languages minister a humiliation and a disgrace.

You know, I’m really not sure if it was a good idea to throw Paradis in the deep end like that; Public Works, as I think I wrote earlier, or at least thought about writing, is one of those departments that seems to run itself—until some contract goes amiss, or a procurement effort explodes into cantankerous counterclaims of unfair tendering, and then you’re on the hook for it all.

11:24:19 AM
Movement in the media pen: to the barricades! Well, the barricade. We’re still holding out hope that one of three ministers—or, heck, maybe the PM—will take pity on our sunburn-risking selves and come outside to take a few questions.

Incidentally, this whole while—ever since Harper rolled up, at least—the grounds have been open to tourists, so there are golf-shirt clad families strolling up the laneway, watching us with bemusement. Look, kids, it’s democracy!

11:30:07 AM
Dimitri came out to play with us! If by play you mean spin, that is. He’s wearing a rather dapper pinstripe suit, and—are those new glasses? Wait, did he always wear glasses? I feel like I should know that, somehow.

11:33:26 AM
Dimitri’s tie, on the other hand, does not get the ITQ seal of approval. It is a brown and pink striped number that tries to be quirky and debonair, but is frankly hideous. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but there it is.

11:39:04 AM
The fact that there are no mics set up outside the front entrance—a senior PMO source just reminded me this is the first time we’ve gotten to film the newly restored facade—ought to be a hint that this cabinet shuffle is over. But we’re still here.

11:42:51 AM
And here come the limos. Or hybrid vans and town cars, to be strictly accurate, but limo makes it sound slightly more glamourous. And frankly, this event could use all the glamour it can get. (No, that tie does not count, Dimitri.)

I’m sitting crosslegged behind the wall, pretty much resigned to not getting a peep out of the new kids. I can’t actually see them scuttle into the protective embrace of their respective ministerial vehicles, but if they should actually say something, I’ll be able to hear it.

11:45:13 AM
Really, what’s taking them so long?

11:47:21 AM
The PM is the first to leave, though he does deign to answer one shouted question. I’m just not sure which one, since his reply—”We’re on track”—could apply to all or none of them. He’s crafty like that.

And with that, he’s gone.

11:50:04 AM
What does Senator Fortier think of his new job? He’s mute with shock. Or delight. Or the knowledge that Sandra Buckler is standing behind the door, waiting to give him the cane if he says a word.

11:51:36 AM
Two down, two to go. I have to think James Moore will stop for a quick word. Does this mean he doesn’t have to be the pointman on Cadman anymore? Who gets that job? You know, come to think of it, an official attack dog shuffle would be far more interesting than this. Just imagine the oaths!

11:53:29 AM
There goes Paradis, the kids, the demure wife—and some woman in a red dress. Maybe he’s giving her a lift. Someone—I think Jane Taber—asks how he’s going to handle two jobs. He breaks the very first rule laid down by PMO communications and answers, “Work hard.” Hey, I didn’t say it was a good answer.

11:55:43 AM
And there’s James Moore, who looks a little happier now. “You came in a cab, and you’re leaving in a government car,” someone yells. He answers, but I can’t hear him over the boredom. I mean, the din. Just swap in “We’re on track” or “Work hard” and I’m sure that’ll be close enough.

11:56:54 AM
And with that, we’re done. Let the summoning of the cabs commence!