To call Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s mini cabinet shuffle this week a minor event is a bit of an understatement. The majority of cabinet-level decisions are made directly from the prime minister’s office, and the individual ministers’ roles are token at most.
The highest profile move was promoting former journalist Peter Kent to the role of environment minister, made available earlier this year with the exit from politics of former minister Jim Prentice, but Kent is not expected to make any bigger waves than disappointing predecessors like Rona Ambrose and John Baird. This government’s policy of waiting for the Americans to move on climate change continues to embarrass us on the international stage, but it will be interesting to see what happens now that the Obama administration seems to be taking aim at its country’s polluters.
Meanwhile, Diane Ablonczy replaces Kent as minister of state of foreign affairs, a department that could certainly use some help, and Ted Menzies has been promoted to minister of state of finance, which should amount to little more than a pay hike from his previous post of parliamentary secretary to finance. Newcomer Julian Fantino becomes minister of state for seniors, a plum job that was likely promised to him when he agreed to be a candidate in the recent Toronto byelection.
The shuffle doesn’t amount to a lot more than how it appears. The Ablonczy and Menzies appointments are rewards for loyal, competent service, while the Kent and Fantino appointments are an attempt to boost the government’s chances in the Toronto area. That might be a tough sell after the G-20 debacle and the long gun registry debate.
Whether or not this cabinet shuffle has any impact remains to be seen, but we should find out sooner rather than later. A spring election is appearing more and more likely.