If David Akin is right – and he is, more often than not – this will, at least, be a mercifully short round of the traditional post-election game of pin-the-portfolio-on-the-minister, with the swearings-in expected as early as next Monday. That gives us just a few days to painstakingly overanalyse the political landscape to determine who’s in and who’s out? Who’s on top (other than the Prime Minister, of course) and who may be bottoming out? Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s strange? Who’s charmed? Wait, that’s quarks, not cabinet ministers. It’s so difficult to tell them apart sometimes.
Anyway, the only thing we know for sure – or some people think they know for sure, but nobody really knows anything and I’m convinced that sometimes those unnamed senior PMO sources are just messing with our heads because it’s so much fun to watch us leap off wildly in all directions like disoriented lemmings, and honestly, I can’t say I blame them. Now, where was I?
Right – the one thing that may or may not be true, then, is that Jim Flaherty will stay at Finance; with the whole financial meltdown (which, as Colleague Glen pointed out the other day, really needs a catchier name) currently underway, the last thing that the country – or the world – needs is a fresh new voice trumpeting Canada’s fiscal fortitude, or so the theory goes.
What that means, however, is that The Most Competent Minister in Cabinet(tm) – that would be Jim Prentice, for those who were lucky enough to miss the last few bouts of pre-shuffle media hysteria – isn’t likely to budge from his current job at Industry, since anything other than Finance – or, in some cabinets, Foreign Affairs – would be seen as at best a lateral promotion.
As for Foreign Affairs – well, that depends on whether the PM is prepared to give David Emerson’s replacement the same (relative) freedom to manage even major files without constant interference from the centre, which was the case for Emerson’s predecessors, Maxime Bernier (although in hindsight, we can understand why that seemed like the most prudent approach) and even Peter MacKay (see previous note re: Bernier). If Harper does hand over the keys to Fort Pearson to Prentice, we’ll know he is; if it instead goes to someone like Health Minister Tony Clement – no snickering, we’ve heard him mentioned more than once – it could go either way. Another possibility, although at the moment, a relatively remote one: Stockwell Day, currently sheriff over at Public Safety – and when, by the way, can we drop the Orwellian moniker and go back to calling it Solicitor General?
Lawrence Cannon, meanwhile, seems to have become the Quebec media’s very own Jim Prentice, as far as his potential for promotion within the cabinet – and has been suggested as a leading contender for the Foreign Affairs post as well, although with the caveat that he may, in fact, be far too busy making amends to erstwhile Conservative supporters in his home province in the aftermath of the recent electoral unpleasantness. I suppose if Clement got Foreign Affairs, Cannon could head off to Health — but then there is all that awkwardness about private clinics and the Canada Health Act, which might further antagonize les Quebecois, not to mention the prospect of a snap provincial election.
Who else? Oh, there are lots of other current cabinet ministers with question mark over their heads like so many Sims(tm) – from Helena Geurgis, the least effective minister of state in recent memory (and given the relatively light responsibilities of a typical MoS gig, that’s saying something) to Diane Ablonczy, who finally made it into cabinet last time around, albeit barely — Minister of State for Small Business? Really? — and is once again being billed as a likely candidate for a promotion.
Apparently, the PM has to put Bernier back in cabinet too – although honestly, that doesn’t make sense to me, and I can’t imagine this particular PM agreeing to do so just to meet his Quebec quota – and then there are bright-eyed newbies like Gail Shea – a former provincial minister! – and Alice Wong and Lisa Raitt and — you know, all the most-likelies from the freshman class seem to be women. Oh, and Peter Kent, although I have no idea where you would put him – and no, Canadian Heritage does not make sense, especially if you’re going to send Lawrence Cannon out there to convince Quebec to forgive that ill-advised foray into culture warfare that cost the Conservatives their majority.
Anyway, that’s enough baseless speculation from me – feel free to use this as an open thread for your own. I should note that I’m actually more curious about the fate of the Lord High Giornocutioner, who was imported – at unknown expense – from Toronto just a few months ago to whip the PM’s office into election-fighting shape. Will he stick around now that it’s over?