’More focus and purpose; less process and cost’

The Liberals and NDP are both taking issue with the size of Mr. Harper’s cabinet and ministry (though previously two separate things, Mr. Harper doesn’t make any distinction). As noted below, it is once more one of the largest in this nation’s history—including the Prime Minister, the government House leader, the leader of the government in the Senate, 24 ministers and 11 ministers of state.

When Mr. Harper unveiled a ministry of 32 27 in February 2006, he said “the structure is designed to promote accountable, efficient and effective government—more focus and purpose; less process and cost.”

In an interview with the Toronto Star at the time, Derek Burney, chief of Mr. Harper’s transition team, projected the reduction from Paul Martin’s set-up—cabinet of 33, ministry of 39—would save between $15 and $20-million per year. The Star’s report after the jump.

Cabinet ranks reduced to 27; Shakeup aims to cut process, costs Harper to chair key committee

The Toronto Star
Tue Feb 7 2006
Byline: Graham Fraser

OTTAWA Prime Minister Stephen Harper has organized his government for efficiency, ensuring there will be no formal hierarchy in his cabinet and no overlapping responsibilities, the architect of the transition said yesterday.

“The character of the new government is one that is streamlined in numbers and in structure,” said Derek Burney, a former chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney and a former CEO with Bell Canada International.

“Its objective is results,” he said, pointing out the cabinet had one-third fewer members than Paul Martin’s – 27 as compared to 39.

“That in itself will represent savings of between $15 and $20 million a year – and that’s for cabinet alone. We would expect to see other savings to follow.”

The number of cabinet committees was reduced to six from 10.

“This was all intended to provide greater focus, more purpose, less process, less cost,” Burney told reporters, describing the cabinet as having “a flat line of equivalence” since there is no deputy prime minister and no junior ministers.

“It’s a cabinet that’s built for work, not for show.

“More clarity will give us more discipline in terms of results,” he said, pointing out the Conservative government has restored some of the departments that were divided by the Martin regime.

Thus, Human Resources and Social Development were reunited.

“The objective is to enable ministers in the cabinet to do what they promised to do within the constraints of a minority government,” Burney said.

“The most precious commodity for any government is the Prime Minister’s time,” Burney said, adding the aim of a smaller cabinet is to create a system that “encourages informed discussion and clear decisions and discourages procrastination.”

In some ways, it seems as if the Harper government took notes on the Martin regime’s performance, and decided to do the opposite a small cabinet rather than a large one, a flat structure rather than a hierarchical one, no overlaps in responsibilities, and no swearing in parliamentary secretaries to the Privy Council Office.

In addition, Burney announced the creation of two crucial cabinet committees “planning and priorities” for strategic planning, and “operations” for the day-to-day management of legislation promised in the election, and business in the House of Commons.

Harper will chair the priorities and planning committee himself, with Lawrence Cannon as the vice-chair. Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice will chair the operations committee and House Leader Robert Nicholson will be the vice-chair.