Seventy-six shoulders strong

Just how many people does Stephen Harper plan to appoint to cabinet?

In his first news conference as a minister of state, Ted Menzies is asked to explain why the ministry is so much larger than it was when the current government first took office and proceeds to offer a number of words in response. For the sake of saving readers some time, I’ll bold the words that seem most relevant to the question.

Well, first of all, I’m honored to be part of this cabinet. Many of us have played a role, a pivotal role, many parliamentary secretaries that don’t have a seat at the cabinet table. We are in some very unique and challenging times right now and the more shoulders behind the wheel that we have, I think, will help us. There has been some many – many challenges we faced. We feel that we have done a good job. We need to stay the course and keep moving towards what Canadians have asked us to do and that is get back to balanced budgets and whether, you know, the numbers  at the cabinet table — we have seen more historically in the past. I don’t think that is as big an issue as the quality that we have there, the strength in this cabinet that are working in unison, as recognized by some of the papers in the U.S. just in the last couple of days. Canada is the envy at getting our fiscal house in order, encouraging new businesses to invest. That is the important thing. We are talking about jobs here today. The more we can do to encourage jobs in Canada, I think the better off we will all be.

Our Andrew Coyne notes that Mackenzie King made it through his challenging times with a ministry of 17. More recently, when Mr. Harper became Prime Minister he named a 27-member ministry (with 26 parliamentary secretaries). He now has a 38-member ministry (with 25 parliamentary secretaries).

The increase in ministry membership seems mostly attributable to the creation of separate minister of state portfolios. At present there are 11, including assignments for sport, foreign affairs, western economic diversification, democratic reform, science and technology, economic development in Quebec, small business and tourism, finance and seniors.

For whatever it’s worth, the parliamentary website lists 32 official departments of government. Two of those—the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario—were created by the Harper government.

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