The much-hyped Cabinet shuffle was about what you’d expect: retiring Ministers swept aside, talented backbenchers and Pierre Poilievre promoted, and a few big names swapping portfolios to give them a fresh start.
The opposition will argue this is very much the same government as before, and they’re right – but that’s the point. Voters elected a Stephen Harper government two years ago and they’re going to get a Stephen Harper government until the man retires or is defeated. Most Canadians didn’t know who the Minister of Justice was before the shuffle, so no one is going to change their vote because of who popped out of the cars in front of Rideau Hall this morning.
So it’s likely not worth analyzing the implications of this shuffle any longer than you’d analyze the science of Sharknado. Anything more than a few minutes, and you’re really just over thinking things.
So with those few minutes we have, here are five things that caught my eye today:
1. As mentioned, this Cabinet shuffle won’t change the government’s direction. So Leona Aglukkaq replacing Peter Kent as Minister of the Environment isn’t a sign Harper is serious about reducing emissions. It does, however, mean he wants to put a softer face on the portfolio. Moving from Health to Environment can’t be considered a promotion, but giving Aglukkaq the more controversial portfolio is likely a sign Harper appreciated her “under-the-radar” performance in Health.
2. Rona Ambrose is an interesting choice to replace Aglukkaq in Health, because Ambrose has been largely invisible since stumbling in the Environment portfolio back in 2006. This is very much a case of Harper giving Ambrose a second chance to prove herself. Ditto for Lisa Raitt, who seems to have bounced back nicely after a disastrous first year in Cabinet at Natural Resources.
3. Ambrose and Raitt were both rising stars who veered off course, but it’s still full steam ahead for James Moore. With his promotion to Industry, Moore will now justifiably be near the top of any list of would-be Harper successors. Comment vont les cours de français, James?
4. Pierre Poilievre winds up as the Minister of Democratic Reform, no doubt as part of a clever ploy to humanize Harper by showing the man has a wicked sense of humour. It’s an odd portfolio choice, but no one should be surprised by the promotion. Pollievre has been the Conservative Party’s Sean Avery – the instigator whose job it is to play dirty and get under the opposition’s skin. By rewarding Pollievre, other MPs who are asked to play a similar role now know there’s a reward waiting for whoever takes over the title of “Most Hated Backbencher”.
5. Not only did the shuffle prove Harper is funny, by tweeting the results he showed he was hip. And the tweet that dropped the most jaws was, without a doubt, Jason Kenney’s move from Immigration to Employment and Social Development. Kenney has proven to be a capable minister, so it’s hardly surprising that he was promoted, but many felt he’s been so effective at building support for the Conservatives among ethnic communities that he’d fall victim to his own success.
However, what many appear to have missed is this:
The key are those “ongoing responsibilities for multiculturalism”, which suggests Kenney will continue his political outreach to immigrant communities. Chris Alexander might be taking on the portfolio, but I expect when it comes to the political side of things, he will still be very much Kenney’s assistant (conveniently located in the GTA 905).
Which brings us back to the original point of this post. There may be some new faces and new titles, but don’t expect today’s shuffle to change the government’s direction or the way it operates.