View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Harper Shuffle Time – July 4, 2012

CFN – One can tell it is summer in Ottawa as there is never ending speculation about a cabinet shuffle. First the bets were on a mid-July one, and then it was a mid to late August one followed by a short prorogation over the summer break period and then a return on the already established date of September 17th. Now speculation is looking at an early to mid-August shuffle. The one thing we do know is that only one man really knows the answer to that one and he rarely discusses his decision except with one or two key advisors.

It does look like Bev Oda had her ministerial year-end review with the Prime Minister about two weeks ago and that prompted her decision to announce she is stepping down as an MP on July 31st. It was a good move on her part to get ahead of what looked like an inevitable story about her being dropped from cabinet. At least this way she goes on her terms and when the shuffle does come she will be but a minor part of the story.

As for the rest of the cabinet, the rumour mill grinds on. Let’s indulge in a little speculation of our own. After a tough year, Peter MacKay is probably due for a move and that will precipitate other moves in the senior ranks as well. The problem of course is where to put him. There is some speculation about a switch with Rob Nicholson, the Justice Minister, which makes sense for MacKay as they are both lawyers, but not that much sense for Nicholson. His steady hand and diplomatic skills would be much better at Foreign Affairs.

MacKay would also be an excellent fit as House Leader. He is well liked by all of the parties plus he is a good negotiator and he was House Leader back in PC Party days. Moving MacKay into that slot would allow the Prime Minister the opportunity to repair some of the damage done by Van Loan to inter-party relationships and offer an opportunity to fix the poisonous atmosphere in the House.  Nicholson was also a highly respected House Leader and this is another possible move for him.

The big question remains the Defence department, a department with a history of breaking ministers. If I had a choice I would send John Baird in. He has been the “go to” guy when the PM has a difficult department to deal with and Defence is certainly no exception. Despite his easy-going nature, Baird is tough as nails and would shake up that department like they have never seen before.

There is also renewed speculation around Vic Toews. Will he follow Oda or will he be moved? Vic was first elected in 2000 and after 12 years in the House he might be ready to call it quits. There was speculation awhile back that he was in line for a judicial posting in Manitoba, but once again only the PM knows for sure.

This gives a sample of some of the speculation out there. Interesting days lie ahead and political careers will be made or broken when the Prime Minister makes his move.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

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  1. There is one advantage to Harper having a majority of seats in the House of Commons: he won’t have to call upon Guy Lauzon to do anything involving any kind of responsibility, or in the least bit challenging.

  2. I’ve been hearing that there will no cabinet shuffle other than replacing OJ Oda with Fantino, and dividing up his job between a couple of more competent ministers. What this government need is a Ministry of Ethics. Maybe Dean Del Mastro or Tony Clement could fill that post, or share it.

  3. Not much confidence in Guy, Richard?

  4. Guy has his hands full as designated clapper.

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