Sunday, November 2, 2008

Harper's new cabinet a dream team for Ontario?

A dream team or a nightmare team maybe. Flaherty recommends that investors not invest in Ontario and fights with the Liberal provincial government. Baird and Clement as well were key former members of the reactionary Conservative provincial government. Unless they show much less partisanship they probably will not win any brownie points in Ontario. In Quebec the Conservatives seem to think that punishing Quebeckers will work wonders in showing them that only if they vote Conservative will they hand over more money. Quebeckers refused to accept bribes so they will not share in the pork as much.

Harper's new cabinet a dream team for Ontario? - Canada - Harper's new cabinet a dream team for Ontario?

October 31, 2008 Chantal Hébert
OTTAWA—The ministerial team Stephen Harper put forward yesterday is not the cabinet of a prime minister who is about to sit on his electoral laurels. In almost every significant way, its make-up is designed to address areas where the Conservatives want to shore up or build support over the next couple of years, starting with Ontario.
It is hard to know whether Premier Dalton McGuinty should shudder or rejoice over the fact that the main economic levers of the federal government are now all in the hands of an Ontario trio.
Jim Flaherty at finance, Tony Clement at industry and John Baird, who is now in charge of the critical infrastructures program, all bring solid Ontario knowledge to the fore but, as key members of the province's last Conservative government, they also carry a lot of partisan baggage.
Time will quickly tell whether this bolstered Ontario team has been placed on the front line to deal with the economic crisis that has overtaken Canada's manufacturing heartland, or to shore up the federal side in a blame game with Queen's Park.
Jim Prentice's appointment to the environment portfolio was the big surprise of the new line-up. It may also be the first tangible sign that Harper is finally ready to concede that what is good for the planet's climate is essential to the future of the Canadian economy.
It is no coincidence that Prentice's appointment comes about on the eve of the arrival at the White House of a more environmentally proactive president.
Prentice has a well-deserved reputation as a bridge-builder and he has the influence to make things happen. Yesterday, he was kept on as president of the powerful operations committee of the cabinet, a confirmation that he very much remains in Harper's inner circle.
The Prime Minister has also made a genuine effort to address the gender gap that plagued his first government. Almost one third of the new cabinet is made up of women, the highest proportion ever federally. And while power is still concentrated in male hands, a number of female ministers did land first-tier positions.
Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's first Inuit minister, is one of them. At a time when balancing the budget is about to become a major headache, the rookie health minister will have to learn the ropes quickly if she is to shelter her portfolio from the revenue-grabbing fingers of her finance colleague.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was very much responsible for the multicultural outreach that paid off handsomely for the Conservatives in the election. It will be his task to implement the government's controversial immigration overhaul without squandering the goodwill he nurtured.
Quebecers can expect to see of lot of James Moore, the new heritage minister. A fluently bilingual minister and one of the most progressive members of the government, Moore has the right profile for the task of rebuilding bridges with the Canadian cultural community.
Predictably, Quebec was the big loser of yesterday's exercise, landing five cabinet spots versus Ontario's 13.
A paucity of Quebec talent propelled Lawrence Cannon to the foreign affairs portfolio.
In that capacity, he will likely fall in the do-no-harm category.
But, as a centrist politician, he might also be a better fit to a potential Democratic administration in the White House than many of his Republican-style colleagues.
Finally, the appointment of the congenial Jay Hill as House leader may herald a less toxic environment in the House of Commons and that would be a welcome development.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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