Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Team Harper

The Right Honorable Stephen Harper was sworn earlier this week as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada. Prime Minister Harper's first tough decision was who to place in a reduced cabinet. All new, elected parties like to come out of the gate lean (smaller), mean (figure of speech, but the decidedly big C conservative slant is worrying) and rearing (House back April 3) for the challenges ahead (GST down and family allowance cheques {no way is it being called childcare} out by July 1).

Who are the new cabinet which will be setting the course for this country for the next two - at least - years? The following is a list of the cabinet and some words about them.

The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson - Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform.

Bob, as his friends call him, was first elected to Parliament in 1984. He was re-elected in 1988, 2004 and 2006. Nicholson had a cup of coffee with the Campbell Tories when they vacationed as government in 1993 as Minister for Science and Minister responsible for Small Business - read LARGE cabinet, lots of positions.

This job was long rumoured to BC MP Jay Hill, however, it is clear that Nicholson is a veteran who will be asked to guide the good ship Tory through some rough waters.

4 out 5 stars

The Honourable David Emerson - Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Well at least he can keep his limo driver? In fact, maybe with a few bottles of whiteout maybe, just maybe his old business cards would still be useful.

David is clearly qualified for this position. Paul Martin thought so. Stephen Harper thinks so. Most everyone who worked with him in the public and private sector believe he is an honest, hard-working and dedicated man, however, he is short on principle and long of self-absorption.

It will be interesting to see if his fellow Conservatives (many whom he stepped over to keep his limo and were so forgiving the last time this happened - remember the Stronach Affair) will warmly embrace him.

James Moore:"I think it shows there are two kinds of people in public life -- people with principle and people like Belinda Stronach,"

Pierre Poilievre:"It has everything to do with the fact she was offered a plum job and Paul Martin is offering every bribe he can to cling on to power,"

Tony Abbott:"To me, what it is, it's a little rich girl basically whoring herself out to the Liberals."
Bob Runciman:"I think she sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick -- an attractive one, but still a dipstick -- with what she's done here today,"

Dave Hancock:"It's appalling,"

Bernard Lord:"This is just another action, another moment, that breeds cynicism of electors,"

Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott (cabinet passover) - "Some people prostitute themselves for different costs or different prices," he told the Regina Leader-Post. "She sold out for a cabinet position."

Just to a little aside, Belinda Stronach, (who also moved from the private sector into politics) is a whore, a prostitute and a dipstick, switching parties for a plum job. Emerson is just doing what is right for his constituents and is being absolved by some Conservative supporters, likely not all.

I am not a Stronach fan, however, she took more shit than she deserved because she was:

(a) Rich
(b) Female
(c) Attractive
(d) Ambitious
(e) Inexperienced

Does David have public sector experience in BC? Yes. Does he have private sector experience in BC? Yes. Does it make what he did right? NO.

If he wants to sit as a Tory, let him resign and run in a by-election. Where given the results from the past 4 elections, he could go back to the private sector and watch the Vancouver Olympics from the stands.

No stars out of principle - mine, not his.

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn - Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Another former Mulroney caucus member. A wise decision to invest more in: (a) experience (b) a Francophone (c) Quebec (d) a Red Tory

5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Gregory Francis Thompson - Minister of Veterans Affairs

Another former Mulroney caucus member. He will be leaned on to build additional support in the Atlantic with particular interest in New Brunswick. Greg seems like the stereotypical Maritime politician - he has been everywhere and knows everyone.

4 stars out of 5

The Honourable Marjory LeBreton - Leader of the Government in the Senate

A wise choice. Ms. LeBreton was an invaluable asset to the Prime Minister during the election campaign and has been an excellent operative for the Conservative for decades.

5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Monte Solberg - Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Monty sure has the gift for gab. All those years as a broadcaster have served him well. He is likely the most sharp, quick and capable MP in the Conservative team. He performed better with each session of Parliament and proved to be a formidable challenge to Martin, Manley and Goodale in Finance. He has come along way since his Preston-lite days.

On the portfolio side, it will be interesting to see how a Citizenship Minister performs when the pressure of mass immigration and temptation to manipulate the system for electoral success is eliminated. Medicine Hat isn't an immigrant hotbed, however, the recent expansion of the meat packing industry and looming labour shortage in Alberta will mean activity in his backyard.

4.5 out of 5 stars

The Honourable Chuck Strahl -Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Chuck Strahl is the quintessential Canadian politician. He embodies all that is right with politics and I rarely agree with his political views, however, I respect him immensely. His personal battle with cancer aside, he is a genuine good, hard-working person. He is also a man of principle as demonstrated by his move to the Democratic Representative Caucus.

Strahl inherits an interesting file. He is the first Agriculture Minister from BC in quite some time. He wouldn't have the logical choice for this file, but he deserves to be in cabinet. He should have got Natural Resources or Human Resources and Social Development.

The Conservatives have stated publicly that they intend to abolish the Wheat Board. That is popular with some, however, others simply disagree. The future of the Board will likely pit younger, free market orientated farmers against older, conservative farmers with a long memory. It is also likely to see farmers in Alberta and western Saskatchewan preach different views than farmers in eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

4 stars out of 5

The Honourable Gary Lunn -Minister of Natural Resources

Gary Lunn has survived electoral challenge after electoral challenge and continues to fight another day. He will be the voice for Vancouver Island around the cabinet table. Like Strahl, he too left the Reform Party over leadership issues with Stockwell Day.

Lunn is a wise choice for this file given he is situated in western Canada. A better choice would have been someone from Alberta or Chuck Strahl, however, there is nothing to say Lunn will not do a fine job.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Peter probably thinks he deserves Justice, Defense or Deputy, but he will gladly *settle* for Foreign Affairs. This file should be allot higher profile than it has been in the past and given the recent string of trade disputes, peacekeeping and nation re-building exercises, it is likely to see increased importance.

Peter is also the political Minister for PEI and ACOA.

Mr. MacKay is a good choice if you are Stephen Harper because it will keep a potential leadership hopeful out of the country for a good deal of time. It is also a sign that Peter is wanted and needed.

It is a bad choice if you are a Canadian. Foreign Affairs should go to someone who is accomplished. MacKay might be a great rugby player but he has been an average politician. He coasts off Dad's name and seems to say anything to further his cause - see deal with David Orchard.

MacKay should be in cabinet, however, he would have been better situated for Justice.

2 stars out of 5

The Honourable Loyola Hearn - Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

A good choice.

5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Stockwell Day - Minister of Public Safety

"An inch deep and a mile wide." The words of just a few Alberta government colleagues used to describe Stockwell. He has made some strides since his days as leader of the Alliance. Presumably he now knows which way water flows and how old the earth actual is.

Stockwell had to get a position in cabinet and it is fair to say this is as non-threatening a post as there is.

2.5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Carol Skelton - Minister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

One of, if not the, hardest worker MPs in Ottawa. She is a diligent worker and is a good representative for the city of Saskatoon and province of Saskatchewan.

Saskatoon has their first cabinet minister in 18 years.

5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Vic Toews - Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Toews is a solid, blue Tory. He will be perfect for rolling out the new tough on crime and criminals approach of the Conservative party.

Toews should be interesting to watch given his comments on the judicary and the fact that many of the issues he would like to see overturned by Parliament - same-sex marriage and prisoner voting rights - would require use of the not-withstanding clause not just a motion in the House.

He is an interesting choice (logical if you are Tory supporter).

2 stars out of 5

The Honourable Rona Ambrose - Minister of the Environment

Taking Ken Dryden out behind the shed can sure change a political career. Ambrose rose to fame (outside the party and Ottawa) when she dressed down the Liberals and their child care plan. Ms. Ambrose was a wise choice and she represents the new, young Conservative party.

Rona would likely have been better suited for Human Resources and Social Development, however, she will do fine in Environment assuming the Oil and Gas lobby doesn't chew her up. She will be able to work on a *made in Canada* solution for the environment which is a big deal in Alberta.

4 stars out of 5

The Honourable Michael D. Chong - President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister for Sport

The former head of the Dominion Institute and the youngest cabinet minister since Jean Charest under Mulroney should experience the highs and lows of Ottawa.

Mr. Chong is from Ontario and embodies all the Conservatives tax-credit a day announcements targeted at young, working families.

Chong will spend most of his time dealing with the Privy Council and Sport since Intergovernmental is not big enough for both him and Harper.

2.5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Diane Finley - Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

An interesting choice. She clearly could have gone into Agriculture and done a good job there. This is an very large portfolio dealing with many issues that she is likely to require some serious running on.

She has great connections to Harper - personally (husband Doug is one of the key advisors) and professionally.

2.5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Gordon O'Connor - Minister of National Defence

A former solider leading the army, what a novel concept. He is actually qualified. Harper could have chosen him or Hawn from Edmonton, although O'Connor is likely more qualified.

Not too concerned about his past work as a lobbyist on behalf of defense contractors - it isn't like their are allot of people crying for ex-soldiers in the private sector and he was simply doing what knows.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Beverley J. Oda - Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Oda is extremely qualified, well-liked by the arts and culture community and has previous experience with most of these issues.

She is also the first Japanese Canadian MP.

5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Jim Prentice - Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

If the shoe fits. Prentice is an excellent choice and has shown himself to be extremely competent and is well-respected.

First order of business should be to bring back the work Robert Nault did on the file.

5 stars out of 5

The Honourable John Baird - President of the Treasury Board

John brings a load of experience from the Mike Harris reign in Ontario, however, that is a double edge sword. Baird managed to find himself in trouble for *lavish* expense claims (he invoiced the government for a 48 cent timbit) when he was a Minister and also has made some less than fantastic comments about social assistance recipients - Welfare recipients should have to take a drug test in order to receive benefits.

2 stars out of 5

The Honourable Maxime Bernier - Minister of Industry

Bernier is another Tory politician with a famous father - former MP Gilles Bernier. Poppa Bernier was an independent before the Liberals made him ambassador to Haiti. Junior Bernier is a Montreal lawyer and was a recently vice-president of Standard Life of Canada.

Popular in the Beauce business community.

4 stars out of 5

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon - Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

A major reason why Harper is at 24 Sussex Drive and there are 10 Quebec MPs. He has previous government experience which will come in handy and he is head and shoulders better than his predecessor.

4.5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Tony Clement - Minister of Health and the Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

It pays to be persistent. Clement was in real danger of losing everything this decade, including World's Greatest Dad, however he defeated a popular MP (former Ag Minister Andy Mitchell) and deserves a seat in cabinet.

Clement performered admirably for the Government of Ontario during the SARS epidemic in Toronto and will take his knowledge of the health file to Ottawa. It will be interesting to see how he handles some of the impending decisions (Quebec and Alberta's push for more private service provision) since he is a big believer in more private involvement in health care - not always consistent with the new moderate Tory platform. Also, he has been a vocal critic that Ottawa is too involved in health and should leave the matter to the provinces - this may be a fair point - but it sure will not make the new role an easier unless you is planning on reducing his own workload.

Not that it matters but Clement describes himself as a 6 or 7 out of 10 on the pro-life issues. So pro-life with exceptions.

3 stars out of 5

The Honourable James Michael Flaherty - Minister of Finance

If you "Google" Conservative there is a pretty good chance an image of Flaherty would appear. He is as Conservative as they come. You want the lock em up and throw away the key approach, he is your man. Small government, check. Tax reductions. Yup. Limited social services. Of course. There are a couple of his past ideas worth highlighting:

Flaherty's campaign for the 2002 PC leadership election focused on "law and order" themes, and one of his most controversial proposals was to make homelessness illegal. Flaherty's plan was to have special constables encourage homeless persons to seek out shelters or hospitals. He claimed that his policy would save the lives of homeless persons.

Flaherty also promised to implement further the Harris tax cuts, carry through with plans to create a tax credit for parents sending their children to private school (i.e. vouchers) , and privatizing the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Flaherty also emerged as a social conservative in this campaign, distinguished by his vocal stance against abortion, and his association with pro-life groups.

There is also word that Flaherty secured the nomination by guaranteeing he would not run provincially again. This would open up a provincial Tory nomination for his main competitor in the federal riding. Now comes word his wife will seek the provincial nomination. Smooth.

Flaherty is the closest thing that Toronto has to a cabinet minister and as a result will face great pressure from GTA stakeholders.

His past experience as a Finance Minister should prove valuable and Bay Street (and others streets) are comfortable with his appointment.

2.5 stars out of 5

The Honourable Josée Verner - Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages

Described by some as Belinda without the money - and that is from Conservative supporters. With friends like these, who needs enemies.

Verner came very close in 2o04 to winning her seat and kept up the hard work and was rewarded. She was a key organizer in la belle province.

Verner worked in communications and politics for almost 20 years. She worked for former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa. Ms. Verner has also worked in a variety of government portfolios at the provincial level, including health care, communications, and the office of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Québec. In 2003, Ms. Verner was involved in the provincial campaign as an organizer for the Action démocratique du Québec.

Ms. Verner started her professional career as an administrative officer at the Department of French at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. She was an administrative assistant and a political advisor at the university. She now works for a highly recognized communications firm.
Josée Verner is also involved at the local level. She was chair of a daycare center, and fundraiser for many charitable organizations, such as the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada.

She was a logical choice and is likely to do fine in her new role.

4 stars out of 5

The Honourable Michael Fortier - Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Galling. Funny. Sad. How does one describe the appointment of Fortier to cabinet. I recognize the hole in Montreal, however, that doesn't mean you go outside elected representatives to find a minister.

Fortier, a day after his surprise appointment as minister of public works and government services in Ottawa, told reporters: "I didn't run in the election because I didn't want to run in the election." He had a "great career" in Montreal and five young children and didn't want the strain of Ottawa life.

He was a partner at Ogilvy Renault - specializing in securities, mergers and acquisitions. He managed Renault’s office in London, England. In 1999, he became the Managing Director and Senior Advisor (Eastern Canada) at Crédit Suisse First Boston, the largest business bank in the world. In 2004, Mr. Fortier became Corporate Financing Director (Quebec) for TD Securities. Clearly qualified for cabinet and public life.

Fortier has been involved with the Progressive Conservative Party for years - since the 1990s, when, in 1998, he ran for the leadership of the Party. He was a candidate in Laval West, Quebec, in 2000. Mr. Fortier was co-chair of Mr. Harper’s leadership campaign for the new Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, and during the last election, he was co-chair of the national campaign. Oh, that is the pattern. Patronage over principle.

What is even more bizarre is not that the man passed up on a chance to run just 2 months ago but that he will now occupy a position handling billions of dollars worth of contracts and not face questions from the House. He will, however, face questions in the Senate. Confused. Good, that is how Harper wants it.

The appointment to Senate doesn't bother me. Harper has the power to appoint Senators. He is the Prime Minister. It is a tad rich though given his desire for an elected Senate. His defense that Fortier is just keeping the Senate seat warm is also insulting.

Cleaning up Ottawa, one unelected Senator / Cabinet Minister at a time.

O stars out of 5 - If he stays unelected. Marginal improvement if he does the right thing and seek immediate election.

Parliamentary Secretaries

Some interesting choices and many deserved. Many individuals will cut their teeth and await the next shuffle.

JAMES ABBOTT - Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

The same Jim Abbott, who as Conservative Party Heritage Critic, called for the CBC English-language service should be scrapped and some of its newsgathering functions transferred to CBC Newsworld. Now, he takes responsible for the Mother Corp.

"It's a sincere question. Why do we need [the CBC]? Why should we have it?"

Source: National Post, February 5th 2002.

HELENA GUERGIS - Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

I understand the desire to keep all Secretaries partnered with the minister on all files, but surely additional representative from British Columbia would be prudent.

TED MENZIES - Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages

PS for La Francophonie from Macleod, Alberta. Interesting. Bonjooor.

JASON KENNEY - Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Multiculturalism

An interesting choice to say the least.


The small cabinet should allow the government to focus on their agenda and priorities. This group is markedly Conservative. This, however, should surprise nobody since the Conservatives won the election not the Liberals or NDP.

Good review,

As I mentioned elsewhere, I love the Rona and Toews appointment.

Toews is what this coutry needs when it comes to crime and punishment. We tried it the Liberal way for 13 years, going easy on crimals, now it's time to try a harsher approach.

One thing that I found quite pleasing about moving to Alberta is how environmental people here are. I'm not talking about he lame granola-eating, Koyto-loving, pie-in-the-sky environmentalist, people in Alberta want a clean environment but an environment that everyone can enjoy. Hopefully Rona will bring that to the Environment Department.

To add to that, alot of innovative environmental practices are coming out of Alberta, such as the new water management strategy, a first in Canada. As well as the all the wind farms in southern Alberta.

Thanks for the detailed summary. Personally, I felt there were only a couple of mild disappointments when it came to the cabinet and secretary positions, but most of the moves seem to be very strategic.
Most disappointing was the appointment of Jim Abbott as secretary to Canadian Heriatge and Status of Women. Abbott seems to display very traditional and conservative views when it comes to the family and this kind of ideology is often detrimental to women and their ability to transgress traditional roles. His views on marriage are also stunning, as evidenced by several of his speeches in the house, including this doozie from April 15 2005, where he said: "This legislation [Bill C-38] is nothing less than a frontal attack on Canada's freedom of religion". Though Mr. Abbott is entitled to his own beliefs, Status of Women Canada and the collection of researchers and policy makers will not be happy about this.
To Keith I have to ask where in Alberta you have visited that is so environmentally friendly. When I attended university in Alberta they were just working on getting a recycling program in the University, and there were very few recycling centers in and around the city, public transit was unforgivably lousy and every second person drove a half-ton truck. Just because the population isn’t as concentrated as other areas of Canada and the pollution is less concentrated does not mean that it is any better. Alberta is a pretty province, but I think the environmental initiatives could use improvement- In this sense I think Ambrose will be a good addition and hopefully she will strive to implement national measures for environmental sustainability.
I am glad to see the first *harsher approach* is to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16. This item was dealt with, not to the Conservatives liking, during the last Parliament and is a burning priority for whom - Family Action groups - read judo-Christian value peddlers?

This one has been a pet project of Myron Thompson's for quite some time:

It went down last fall:
If it comes back in the form that it has pitched before it will be a close vote. I imagine plenty of Liberals will be sick that day.

I suppose making it double or triply illegal for adults to have sex with or possess porn will not hurt.
Come on, it was embarassing to have the age of consent at 14. I recongnize that any adult who actually had sex with a teen btw the age of 14 and 16 would have been charged with something, anything. The change to the law may be moot but no self respect country should have age of consent at 14.

Toews did add that their would a close in age exception.

So if adults having sex with children whether they are 8, 10 or 15 is already illegal.

Why do we need to be make it *illegaler*?

Maybe we should follow the lead of Texas and make it illegal until 17.

This is clearly another way for the Family lobby to try to shape the moral discussion here.

Children are having sex at an early age and their solution is to tell them it is illegal and immoral rather than deal with the reasons or the consequences (teen pregnancy and safe sex).

Buckle up those chastity belts, the state is watching!
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