Set the new shadow cabinet against the government’s frontbench, while keeping in mind the issues that have arisen these last few months, and one can piece together a general idea of how Question Period is to be played when the House returns in two weeks. And on the half dozen major files, the match-ups will be entirely new (and vaguely intriguing). To wit.
On finance—there’ll be an economic update shortly after Parliament returns—Jim Flaherty will now face Scott Brison. On infrastructure—the auditor general is due to table a report on the government’s stimulus program in October—Chuck Strahl will stand opposite John McCallum. On defence—including the purchase of those new fighter jets—Peter MacKay will take questions from Dominic LeBlanc.
Immigration pits Jason Kenney against Justin Trudeau (in what could be a wildly entertaining match-up). The environment matches Jim Prentice with Gerard Kennedy. Health will be contested by Leona Aglukkaq and Ujjal Dosanjh. Justice pits Rob Nicholson against Marlene Jennings (in what could be a wildly cross and grumpy match-up).
On seven important files then—the sort of stuff around which an election might eventually be fought—the Liberals have repositioned critics. Of the primary files, only foreign affairs (Bob Rae v. Lawrence Cannon), public safety (Mark Holland v. Vic Toews), human resources (Mike Savage v. Diane Finley) and agriculture (Wayne Easter v. Gerry Ritz) keep their previous dance partners.
Ralph Goodale moves to deputy leader, seemingly as the new lead on QP when Michael Ignatieff is away. John Baird had been—and may still be, though he’s officially moved to government house leader—Stephen Harper’s lead back-up, but the significance and particulars of that match-up will depend largely on how often the two leaders plan on being away from the House. It’s not implausible that Mr. Goodale and Mr. Baird could come to dominate the session, for better or worse.