FH Analysis Of The Federal Cabinet Shuffle – Today Prime Minister Harper announced much anticipated changes to Cabinet following his historic majority government win two weeks ago.
While there were a few surprises, today’s line-up largely reflected the Prime Minister’s commitment to staying the course, continuity, and to finishing the job the Government set out to do well before the recent election campaign.
The new Cabinet is also now more representative of Canada’s important constituencies, and notably brings back to the table the Province of Newfoundland and the City of Toronto. Key changes include:
- John Baird, arguably the Prime Minister’s most trusted Minister, becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs;
- Tony Clement, formerly Minister of Industry, gets the very important post at Treasury Board and will be charged with finding savings to ensure the Government achieves its deficit reduction targets;
- Christian Paradis, the former Minister of Natural Resources, becomes Minister of Industry and further establishes himself as key Quebec lieutenant;
- Denis Lebel, formerly Minister of State for Economic Development in Quebec, becomes Minister of Transport; and
- Joe Oliver, the newly elected MP from Toronto, becomes Minister of Natural Resources.
Importantly, the new Cabinet signals a redoubled effort to ensure Canada’s economy continues to grow and prosper. Trusted Ministers staying on in key economic portfolios, include Jim Flaherty in Finance and Tony Clement moving to Treasury Board to manage the government’s deficit cutting efforts.
British Columbia MP Ed Fast becomes the new International Trade Minister after putting in a strong performance as Chair of the Standing Committee on Justice.
Jason Kenney, who remains as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, will also take on the important task of Chairing the Cabinet Committee on Operations which provides day-to-day coordination of the government’s agenda.
The new Cabinet also adds several talented rookie MPs and in so doing improves the regional representation around the Cabinet table.
A few names to watch in the new Parliament, include Toronto Investment Banker Joe Oliver (noted above at Natural Resources), Innu Leader and MP for Labrador, Peter Penashue to Intergovernmental Affairs, and Mulroney era Minister Bernard Valcourt returns to Ottawa, after 18 years, as Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
A complete list of Minister and Cabinet Committees can be found here:
2011 Legislative Outlook
Parliament is scheduled to resume on June 2nd followed by the Speech from the Throne the following day. The Throne Speech will lay out the Government’s legislative agenda for the weeks and months ahead.
While the Budget and the accompanying implementation legislation will be the focal points of the short session before a summer break, it will also provide the government with an opportunity to begin implementing its campaign commitments.
The Government has already indicated that the Budget will be substantially similar to the one introduced before the election. Once the budget passes the required legislative hurdles, the Government will then quickly turn its attention to the following key areas:
- Staying the course on existing commitments to tax cuts and targeted industry spending. A central campaign theme, the Government will continue with previous commitments in an effort to show stable government;
- Enhancing the Guaranteed Income Supplement and addressing elder abuse. Changes to the GIS were included in their pre-election budget and are expected to be re-introduced;
- Cutting government spending to eliminate the deficit. The Government has committed to cut spending without adjusting provincial transfer payments or reducing healthcare spending – all savings will be found by reducing the size of the federal bureaucracy.
- Passing key crime reduction bills as part of an omnibus bill. During the first 100 days, the Government will use its majority to pass legislation that was previously introduced but failed to pass.Long-time Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will shepherd the job through to completion.
Majority Government – What to Expect
Stephen Harper’s long-sought majority Government brings with it absolute control over the legislative agenda for the next four years. With comfortable majorities in both the House of Commons and the Senate, the Executive represented by the newly appointed Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Office will be able to legislate free of the confines of minority deal-making and compromise.
The Conservative Government will finally be able to carefully plan and roll out its agenda.
Finally, the new majority mandate will also provide the Government with the opportunity to act on issues important to core constituencies within the Conservative Party.
These include eliminating per vote funding for political parties, eliminating the federal long gun registry, taking the exclusive marketing rights for malting barley away from the Canadian Wheat Board, and implementing Senate reform beginning with term limits for Senators.
Fleishman Hillard will continue to closely monitor events around Parliament Hill and will advise as key developments occur. In the meantime, expect a note following the return of Parliament early next month and the first important order of business, The Speech from the Throne on June 3.