05 January 2007

"Oh Yeah, That Guy!"

When I first heard the rumour the other day that Wajid Khan was going to cross the floor to the Conservatives, I admit that I had to think for a moment about who that was exactly. Then I remembered that he was the Liberal MP who had signed on to be the PM's special adviser on Middle East issues. I knew that at some point he'd be made to choose either the Liberals or the Tories, and I can't say that I'm readily surprised that he went the way that he did. If you had the chance to be the PM's special adviser on Middle East--only the most important geo-political region in the world--issues, I'm thinking there's a pretty good chance that you'd do it too. I don't know much about Khan and his other political stances, but obviously he's got the Prime Minister's ear and has played a significant role, so there's at least enough agreement between the two philosophies that he doesn't feel as though he's particularly compromising himself and his integrity. It's a number up for Harper and one down for the Liberals, at least for the time being.

In related news, now that the dust has settled, it's time for my own appraisal on the Cabinet shuffle. Baird to Environment is as much a move to give the Conservatives a partisan hammer in the portfolio as it is to give them any substantial policy credibility. Anybody who has watched QP (and if you haven't, how did you manage to make it here?) knows that Baird is a bombastic speaker who can dish out the rhetoric and do that thing where he makes you feel small if you're standing opposite him. I've never once heard him say anything about combatting pollution or reducing GHG emissions, but now that he'll have the chance, it's going to be, at the very least, an interesting spectacle. As for Rona Ambrose, I'm not exactly sure that Intergovernmental Affairs is necessarily the best place for her. It's a file that has been high profile during the course of the past year, and we've seen once already how well she performs in the high-profile portfolios. Unless there's some issues arising between Ottawa and her home province of Alberta, I don't see her excelling in that slot as well as, say, Stephane Dion did back in the late 1990s.

I was also disappointed to see that Bev Oda wasn't moved out of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women Canada. She's been the minister responsible for something of a PR nightmare when it comes to the latter of her duties, taking actions that have spawned such websites as The Women Are Angry and large protests on Parliament Hill. Odd, too, that Jason Kenney has been made a Secretary of State to bolster her in the former role.

It is good news to see Monte Solberg being given a higher profile position in the Cabinet. He's a blogger favourite, and one of the Tories' strongest assets.

Beyond that there's not a whole lot of earth-shattering movement going on with this shuffle. Given how Harper has been governing from the centre during his stewardship, a lot of the ministers aren't even readily identifiable by the mainstream press, so the few new faces in new places isn't exactly going to change the political culture in Ottawa. It's a bit of political housekeeping to give cookies to the MPs that have been good in the past year and scold those who haven't performed to expectations, and not much more than that. Let's face it, few people are going to change their votes in the next election over what we've seen in the past couple days unless they're in Mississauga/Streetsville.

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