CFN – With MPs and Senators scattering across the country, Canadians are looking forward to our long Canada Day weekend. Political types would like to think that the topic of conversation will be politics and a cabinet shuffle, but outside of the Ottawa bubble I suspect it will hardly be mentioned.
Certainly if all the rumours are to be believed, a shuffle, supposedly a large one is due in the next few weeks. The signs are there with departments preparing ministerial transitional briefing books and talk about a cabinet retreat in the third week of July beginning to circulate.
However, no one except the Prime Minister and perhaps his Chief of Staff have any idea as to when and how large a shuffle it might be. Add in the fact that no one knows which ministers might have told the Prime Minister that they do not intend to run again and this particular shuffle really does become a guessing game. This does allow the rest of us to offer up endless speculation that can change on a moment’s notice based on the next wild rumour.
On that note here are my guesses.
The biggest question mark remains Jim Flaherty. Whether or not he could or should he be moved feeds a lot of the speculation in Ottawa and what happens to him will trigger much of the other movement around the cabinet table. My guess is that for the time being he will remain if only because a successor is so difficult to find. Ted Menzies has performed exceptionally well as the junior minister, certainly he is ready for a more senior role, but whether or not Harper has enough confidence in him to see Menzies in the Finance portfolio remains a question mark. Menzies could certainly do a good job at Industry or any of the other line departments such as Defence or Public works.
Assuming Rob Nicholson stays on; I can see him being moved to Foreign Affairs. A classy individual with excellent negotiating skills he would be a good fit in that department. Again, assuming Peter Mackay wants to remain (and the latest media reports are that he does) he is also due to be moved from Defence where he has spent a considerable part of his ministerial career. As a former Crown prosecutor, he has the background to take over from Nicholson at Justice or from Vic Toews at Public Safety. Toews being one of those that most people feel will be leaving politics.
The fisheries portfolio is a problem and with Keith Ashfield’s unfortunate illness, a replacement is quickly needed. Will the Prime Minister shake things up a bit and appoint someone from the west coast this time? Randy Kamp knows this file well and could certainly step up. If the PM stays on the east coast, Gerald Keddy has the ability and life experience in that field to make for a knowledgeable minister.
Two others that bear watching are Jason Kenney and James Moore. Both have been very successful in their present departments IE Citizenship and Immigration and Canadian Heritage and both are very able performers in Question Period. It is time for both to move and gain experience in another portfolio, especially as both are considered future leadership contenders. Either could go to Industry and Moore would also be a good fit at Citizenship and Immigration. Kenney could also fit into Natural Resources and with the Conservatives counting so much on the resource sector for economic prosperity, he has the drive, smarts and people skills to play a key role in that portfolio.
John Baird was comfortable at Foreign Affairs until the latest blowup about his vacationing at ambassador’s residences abroad. He has also been the PM’s point man to deal with tough political files. There are none tougher than Aboriginal Affairs and his considerable political and negotiating skills can be put to good use there if the government hopes to see some substantive progress in that area. Those same skills could be used at Natural Resources.
Those are just a few of the potential changes, there are many more, both senior and junior ministers that could be promoted and a host of parliamentary secretaries as well, but until we know who wants to run again and who prefers to retire in 2015, if not sooner, picking this next cabinet truly is a game of endless speculation.
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. To sponsor this column please email firstname.lastname@example.org!