The first cabinet of Harper’s majority government has been unveiled, and while there’s a lot of the same (why mess with success?) there are a few new faces and a few significant moves.
Most significant, of course, is John Baird's shift to foreign affairs. As Harper’s “Mr Fix-it,” one wonders what files Baird will be tasked with? The perimeter security agreement with the States, which is still being kept secret? Climate change? The perpetual movement to a pro-Israel-at-all-costs position (so that the Christian Zionists in Harper’s circle can do their part to ensure that the End Days come)? I guess we’ll have to see.
Also new: Julian Fantino has been promoted to associate minister of defence. This is apparently a glorified minister of state in terms of pay and perquisites, but the position comes with ministerial authority in the department. He will apparently be put in charge of military procurement, which is a big job, what with the purchase of the F-35 fighters still on the table.
Tony Clement is moving to treasury board, so he gets to be the one to go to war with the public service as he tries to find those unstated $11 billion in cuts.
Not changing? Bev Oda was rewarded for her contempt of Parliament by keeping her job at CIDA. And why not? Harper is pathologically incapable of being proven wrong. Jason Kenney stays with the problematic dual roles of citizenship/immigration and multiculturalism, where he can continue to engage with those ethno-cultural communities that he feels are socially conservative enough to add to the Conservative base, while putting wedges between the imagined “good” and “bad” classes of immigrants and refugees. Leona Aglukkaq stays at health, and why not? She’s memorized her talking points (I have as well). She gets to continue to ignore the HIV/AIDS file. Rob Nicholson and Vic Toews remain in justice and public safety respectively, keeping the “tough on crime” agenda intact. And creationist Gary Goodyear remains minister of state for science and technology.
In terms of demographics, four of five Quebec MPs have positions in the ministry – a ministry of 39, which is the largest since Mulroney. In other words, hardly an austerity cabinet. As for women, they make up a mere seven of 27 cabinet positions (including Leader of the Government in the Senate, Marjorie LeBreton), and 10 of 39 in the full ministry.
After the cabinet was revealed, Harper met with the media and took questions on some choices over others (not going to give commentary on individual MPs), briefing the NDP on Libya (department will provide that, plans for a debate when the House returns), Quebec appointments (small Quebec caucus, but strong MPs), replacing the IMF head (situation is very difficult, discussing with partners at IMF what appropriate steps are), the idea of restraint when you appointed 39 people (we’ve reduced ministerial budgets – not mentioning the way they shift many expenses to department ledgers).