Harper overhauls his cabinet – may do more harm than good
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced his cabinet shuffle in light of a scandalous spring session he would rather forget. The Duffy Affair isn’t gone yet, and while changing face may aide Harper, it turns out some of the people he’s promoted may do more harm than good to his credibility. The Duffy Affair wasn’t a cabinet problem, but rather a PMO problem which found its way to the Prime Minister himself.
Below is the new cabinet, classified by the old, the new and the changed. While Harper’s cabinet now includes 12 women and contains a lot of changes, it remains one of the largest and most bloated cabinets in history with 39 members. It is a cabinet that won’t necessarily help the tarnished brand, with people like Pierre Poilievre, Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch who have given the Conservatives a bad name in the past with their abilities to dodge questions, contradict themselves and government narrative. Besides, who can forget Poilievre’s views on terrorism?
This cabinet offers a new face, but the scandals plaiguing this government can’t be fixed with a cabinet change. If the opposition plays close enough attention to some of the new ministers, they can take Harper’s credibility down a notch – especially in democratic reform.
The New Cabinet
Jim Flaherty has been the finance minister from the beginning but has his previous experience from the Ontario Harris Government which clocked in hard economic times.
His role had come under much speculation but Flaherty remained firm that he wanted to see his way out of his legacy $53 billion deficit after inheriting a $13 billion surplus.
Portfolio: Foreign Affairs
John Baird is Canada’s face in the world, but at home, he’s also known for his ability to attack his opponents relentlessly.
Portfolio: Treasury Board
Tony Clement has his hands on the Treasury but his political career hasn’t been without controversy. During the G8/G20 summit in 2011, Clement used border security funds to build a Gazebo in his riding, along with other unbelievable spending decisions, like a fake lake not too far from a real one.
Ed Fast remains unchanged as trade minister.
Gerry Ritz remains Agriculture Minister, but it is under his watch that food inspection got cut and food safety hit the fan.
Peter Van Loan
Portfolio: House Leader
Peter Van Loan remains the House Leader, maintaining some face to the Government in the House. Does this mean the Fall session will be similar to the Spring one?
Portfolio: Aboriginal Affairs
Bernard Valcourt became the Aboriginal Affairs Minister in February after John Duncan resigned. He is staying in this portfolio.
Portfolio: Natural Resources
Joe Oliver remains Natural Resources Minister in his ongoing bid to get Alberta oil to market.
Joe Oliver has been relentless in his campaign, attacking everyone who gets in his way. It is notable he told world renowned climatologist James Hansen he should be “ashamed” for raising concerns on the environmental impact of accelerated oil development.
New Portfolio: Citizenship and Immigration
Former Minister: Jason Kenney
Chris Alexander has had his fair share of controversies being one of the Parliamentary Secretaries the Conservatives sent out to do damage control.
While the Conservatives denied the existence of a secret PMO fund, we all recall it was Chris Alexander who confirmed it, even said it has rules while the Chief Electoral Officer said there was no oversight.
New Portfolio: Heritage
Former Minister: James Moore
Shelly Glover has struck the cabinet in the promotion she had been waiting for – however most speculated she would be in Justice.
New Portfolio: Labour
Former Minister: Lisa Raitt
Kellie Leitch became a star in the Conservative Damage Control show, and she was infamous for dodging the questions and repeating talking points over and over and over again.
Kellie Leitch defended the Temporary Foreign Workers program when it came under fire for being abused by service companies like Tim Hortons.
New Portfolio: Infrastructure
Denis Lebel was the transport minister and with the recent disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec, it appears he hasn’t done much. Federal regulations on train safety are on the decline and rails are melting, peeling, and nails are popping out of the ground. It is only a matter of time before the next disaster hits and it is clear Lebel wasn’t fit for the job. In some cities, like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, some train indicators don’t even work…
New Portfolio: Public Safety
Former Minister: Vic Toews
Steven Blaney is the only real new face, have you seen him before?
He is replacing Vic Toews who became a celebrity for claiming a Liberal MP who opposed his plan to tap into the online activities of all Canadians was supporting child pornographers. The outrage escalated to the point where his dirty deeds hit the table – it wasn’t pretty.
New Portfolio: Democratic Reform
Former Minister: Tim Uppal
Who doesn’t know Pierre Poilievre? While he is now an actual Minister, we can all recall his participation in Harper’s attack on Justin Trudeau and those who “commit sociology.” Perhaps, the most notable thing to take from this is Poilievre’s view on Terrorism: “The root cause of terrorism is terrorists.” Moving forward, Poilievre isn’t so much a man of substance as he is an aggressive partisan and this will shred Harper’s integrity and accountability…
New Portfolio: National Revenue
The Conservatives are now at task to chase the rich who hide their money overseas but in comparison to the rest of the world, Canada is lagging behind. We can expect this task to take more of a predominant role as the Conservatives desperately try to break even after having a mandate of constant deficits – even after inheriting a $13 billion surplus.
Chasing the wealthy isn’t the only thing they’ve done, they’ve raised hidden taxes.
Former Portfolio: Defense
New Portfolio: Justice
Former Minister: Rob Nicholson
Peter MacKay is out of Defense – no surprise given all the waste and mismanagement that has happened under his watch. We can remember the F-35 contract fiasco, recent expensive ship building contracts, and the ballooning size of bureaucracy. If he couldn’t change his reckless pattern, then he had to be changed.
Former Portfolio: Citizenship and Immigration
New Portfolio: Employment and social development
Former Minister: Diane Finley (Human Resources)
Jason Kenny was the Citizenship and Immigration Minister but has now been entrusted to clean up the mess made by Diane Finley as the Human Resources ministry gets a makeover. He is known for his partisan attacks and is one of the best recognized faces of the Conservative Government.
Former Portfolio: Justice
New Portfolio: Defense
Former Minister: Peter MacKay
Rob Nicholson is now tasked to clean up Peter MacKay’s mess. Nicholson took over from Vic Toews as Justice Minister and once again finds himself shuffled. Justice policy was relatively quiet recently, does this mean Defense policy will also become quiet?
Former Portfolio: Heritage
New Portfolio: Industry
Former Minister: Christian Paradis
James Moore has been moved to a more important domain: industry. Paradis’s difficulties in English hampered his abilities and now James Moore, also a staunch partisan and strong speaker will be taking his place.
Former Portfolio: Labour
New Portfolio: Transport
Former Minister: Denis Lebel
Lisa Raitt didn’t fit well in Labour and now she’s been tasked to take over the Transport Ministry. Clearly, she will have a lot of work to do to either shape up transport infrastructure or clean up the mess the consequences entail.
Former Portfolio: Health
New Portfolio: Environment
Former Minister: Peter Kent
At this point, almost anyone is an upgrade to Peter Kent – who doesn’t understand basic climate science. However, given how little the Conservatives care about aboriginal affairs, universal healthcare and the environment, it is foreseeable how this choice was made. Will Aglukkaq stand up for her northern community or was that $21,076.63 in public transport costs for nothing in the 2011 election campaign?
Former Portfolio: Industry
New Portfolio: International Development
Former Minister: Julian Fantino
Christian Paradis takes over CIDA which has been a circus since Bev Oda took over. One of the main reasons speculated for his departure from industry was his poor English. How does moving him to International Development aid in this matter?
Former Portfolio: Public Works
New Portfolio: Health
Rona Ambrose is openly against abortion and voted against it in the House of Commons. Now she takes over Health after the military procurement controversies dug her under. The provinces and country have yet to renew the Healthcare Accord, one must wonder if Ambrose is any indication to how the Conservatives will handle it.
Former Portfolio: Aboriginal Affairs
New Portfolio: Government Whip
Former Whip: Gordon O’Connor
John Duncan botched aboriginal affairs and now he’s becoming the Government Whip.
Former Portfolio: Human Resources
New Portfolio: Public Works
Former Minister: Rona Ambrose
Diane Finley single-handedly destroyed the Human Resources Department to the point where it needed a new face and new look. She allowed companies who don’t need Temporary Foreign Workers to take precedence over Canadians applying for Employment Insurance and then decided to make Employment Insurance harder to get by the Canadians that pay into it.
Former Portfolio: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
New Portfolio: Fisheries and Oceans
Former Minister: Keith Ashfield
Gail Shea was Fisheries Minister in the past but was moved out in the last cabinet shuffle. She has since been moved back since Keith Ashfield left due to cancer.
Notable Ministers of State
New Portfolio: Western Economic Diversification
Michelle Rempel is seen by many Conservatives as a rising star and is certainly a more conscious choice than Pierre Poilievre to be in the big leagues. Rempel too is a partisan who’s very good with talking points and dodging questions.
Candice Bergen was on the front lines when the Long Gun Registry was being dismantled and now she’s assisting in Social Development.
New Portfolio: foreign affairs and consular services (minister of state)
New Portfolio: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (minister of state)
Former Minister: Gail Shea
What do you think of the cabinet shuffle? Is it an improvement? A downgrade? Will this shuffle save Harper’s image?