Robyn Benson, PSAC

Hard-shoe shuffle

cabinet 2013.JPG

The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on. ~W.B.Yeats

This was the “major shakeup?” Of the 38 positions in Stephen Harper’s new Cabinet (excluding the Prime Minister himself), 12 ministers remain exactly where they were, two with some added responsibilities, while creationist Gary Goodyear lost one of his two portfolios, Science and Technology, but kept the other, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The disgraced John Duncan, who made a hash of the Attwapiskat crisis and later resigned over an ethics violation, has been restored to Cabinet, and 16 who were already there got to play musical chairs. (Or is that Titanic deckchairs?)

Room was created to install eight new Ministers. Vic Toews (the unloved Minister of Public Safety) resigned a few days ago, but like Peter Kent (Environment), he may have been forewarned. Kent joins a mere two others (Stephen Fletcher and Gordon O’Connor) who were formally bounced.

Harper’s much-vaunted appointments of “strong women,” who comprise four of the new eight, were more optics than substance: only two, Shelly Glover and the high-flying Kellie Leitch (first elected in 2011) were given full Ministerial portfolios. The number of women in the new Cabinet jumped from 10 to, well, 12.

So, what do we have? A core of the same-old same-old, with a smattering of new Ministers, mostly on the periphery of government, equipped with predictably old ideas, unquestioning loyalty to Harper, and a facility for delivering PMO talking points.

The newbies will be assisted by ministerial staff who are presently generating helpful enemies lists.

Did you expect change, bold new policy directions, political pragmatism? The new Minister of the Environment (Leona Aglukkaq) can roll over and play dead with the best of them. The new Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, Kellie Leitch, unquestioningly capable, will duck serious issues.

Kinder, gentler Conservatives? If anything, Harper appears to have shifted, not to the centre as many expected, but somewhat to the right. The new Minister of Health (Rona Ambrose) voted to re-open the abortion debate when she was Minister for the Status of Women. Candice Bergen, one of the new Ministers, did as well. The Minister for Democratic Reform—surely this is Harper’s version of a joke—is now shoot-from-the-lip Pierre Poilievre, whose idea of being an MP is to spew insults at any perceived opposition, and who wants to cripple federal public service unions.

And yes, we still have Tony Clement as the President of Treasury Board. Anyone see Groundhog Day?

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on July 16, 2013 8:30 AM.

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