Merry-go-round season in Ottawa

Merry-go-round season in Ottawa

Bev Oda - Why is she still there- Mackay - Bye bye for now - But protected
Toews- Shot with the same BS that EAO posts.

Michael Den Tandt, Postmedia News Jun. 20, 2012 | Last Updated: Jun. 20, 2012 4:03 AM ET

'And what is so rare a day in June?" wrote the poet James Russell Lowell. "Then, if ever, come perfect days." Except in Ottawa, where the fairest month is primarily a time to speculate about the entrails of power. Who's up, who's down and who's out in the cabinet shuffle expected before the fall session?

This season, as in the past, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is holding his cards preternaturally close to his vest. However, he is expected to put a new face on the government beginning in early August with a deputy minister shuffle, then continuing in late August or September at the ministerial level.

Conservative insiders expect this remix will be substantial, as the government seeks to re-calibrate following a first year in majority during which it was repeatedly buffeted by controversy, ministerial missteps and scandal. Though the final roster will remain known only to the PM and perhaps his wife and chief of staff until shortly before it is unveiled, a few names recur.


Jim Flaherty is not expected to budge from finance, as he remains the mainstay of the Tories' economics team. Three other names top Conservatives' lists of senior ministers who've consistently outperformed and have earned their pick of jobs: Jason Kenney at immigration, John Baird at foreign affairs and James Moore at heritage.

Any one of these three could be airlifted into defence to clean house there. The drawback would be that each is helping the government appreciably now in a key portfolio. Mr. Kenney is two-thirds of the way through his overhaul of immigration. Mr. Baird is hitting his stride as a foreign minister, having spent the better part of the past year outgrowing his old attack-dog persona. Mr. Moore has managed to ride herd on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation without a major upheaval - for a Conservative, a feat of ineffable dark magic.


The acknowledged up-and comers, in no particular order, are Chris Alexander, Ajax-Pickering, Ont.; Michelle Rempel, Calgary-Centre-North; Candice Hoeppner, Portage-Lisgar, Man.; Kellie Leitch, SimcoeGrey, Ont.; and James Rajotte, Edmonton-Leduc.

Ms. Rempel is bright, a good communicator and holds Jim Prentice's former seat. Ms. Leitch, a pediatric surgeon and frequent pinch-hitter in Question Period, holds the seat once held by Helena Guergis. Mr. Rajotte, respected in caucus and chair of the Commons finance committee, has long been deemed a shoo-in for promotion, but has been held back by the preponderance of strong Alberta MPs, including the PM, already in cabinet.


Topping every Tory's hit list is International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, who deeply embarrassed the government after it was reported she'd stayed at a high-end hotel in London, England, last year, at taxpayers' expense. Though Ms. Oda repaid more than $1,000 and apologized in the House of Commons, the taint of her $16 glass of orange juice and other lavish spending remains.

Ms. Oda's defenders note she has long had a reputation as an effective manager. However, virtually no one expects her to survive this shuffle. Insiders point out that Mr. Alexander, a foreign policy expert and wellregarded former ambassador to Kabul, would be a tidy fit for her job, not only because of his background but because his riding abuts hers in Durham, Ont., fulfilling the need for regional representation.

As for defence, here comes the broom. Both the minister, Peter MacKay, and the associate minister, Julian Fantino, are expected to move. Change at the top is deemed in Conservative circles to be both a managerial necessity and poetic justice, due to the disastrous, slow-bleed mess of the F-35 jet fighter procurement.

Mr. MacKay, still protected to some degree by his status as former leader of the Progressive Conservatives, is expected to save face with a move to either justice or public security. Mr. Fantino's prospects are less clear. Likeliest candidate for taking on the portfolio? Rob Nicholson at justice managed to steer through controversial tough-on-crime legislation while generally keeping out of trouble. Mr. Nicholson, insiders believe, may simply swap jobs with Mr. MacKay.

Christian Paradis, the industry minister and putative Quebec lieutenant, is also a shoo-in for new digs. Setting aside the ethics allegations surrounding his office, he is said to be only minimally engaged in the workings of his department. The PM is in a pickle here as he has a pool of only five Quebec MPs from which to draw. Maxime Bernier is bright and long past the indignity of having forgotten secret briefs, or briefings, at a girlfriend's home four years ago. But he is deemed a wild card due to his strong libertarian views. The insider betting, therefore, is that Transport Minister Denis Lebel becomes senior Quebec minister and possibly takes on Industry.

Last on the list of widely expected departures is Vic Toews. The public security minister torpedoed his own online surveillance bill, C-30, last fall by blurting that anyone opposed to the legislation was in league with child pornographers. Mr. Toews is said to be ready for a move home to the Prairies. His replacement, if it isn't Mr. MacKay, might well be Ms. Hoeppner, also from Manitoba, and for years the spark plug in the government's drive to kill the long-gun registry.