anadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper got a few more shots in on Liberal Party Leader and upstart threat to the nation’s highest political office Justin Trudeau late last week by complaining that Trudeau’s position on drug de-criminalization amounted to trying to force the nation’s children onto drugs. When will the Conservatives finally realize that such nonsense is out-of-touch with average Canadians (if not average Canadian voters)? I suppose the message might have to await the next federal election – but it’s really difficult to listen to this guy without wondering if his Machiavellian treatments of Canada’s democratic process aren’t ever going to stimulate the electorate out of its apathy just once in my lifetime to bring a sense of reason back into our political process!
arren Kinsella, Sun Newspaper columnist and professional thorn in the side of whoever sits in the PMO has offered a strangely shallow analysis of the Ottawa punditry spending so much time writing about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s imminent cabinet shuffle. Purported to be the shuffle that will “make or break” a tired, listless government with all but the likes of a rookie Leader of the Opposition (from a party rookie at being Official Opposition) and a rookie Liberal Party leader with Obama-esque expectations riding on his shoulders to restore his party to Government in the next election somehow — Kinsella complains expectations writ of this shuffle are pure fantasy, saying, “And in the specific case of the Harper government, [the shuffle] isn’t important at all,” for five big reasons:
1. Cabinet shuffles don’t change government fortunes. When a regime is drifting (as the Harper government is) or looking tired and old and near the end of their usefulness (ditto), prime ministers will shuffle their cabinets.
They do it all the time, in the faint hope that it will make them more popular, or at least less unpopular. It’s a strategy that doesn’t work.
Can you picture the aforementioned Joe Frontporch at the kitchen table, hollering: “Jane, we’re going to vote Conservative again, because there’s a new minister of Veteran’s Affairs! Hallelujah!” Sounds crazy, no? That’s because it is.
|Harper & cabinet sworn in at Rideau Hall, May 18, 2011. (Image source: Sun News, July 14, 2013.)|
Well, not to defend our misguided PM — but, frankly, I have trouble thinking of him as that stupid.
He’s trying to do what CEOs and managers in business find themselves doing when fortunes begin to sag for no apparent reason. Re-ignite past success by (perhaps) having capable people take on new challenges in a different role. Does it work? It can, though Kinsella might find himself mistakenly thinking he accurately diagnosed the reason because the outcome happens to be what he expected.
2. Stephen Harper is the Control-Freak-in-Chief. Never in our history has there been a prime minister so preoccupied with micromanagement and centralization. Never has there been so little delegation as there has been under Harper, who makes Orwell’s Big Brother look like a dope-smoking slacker.
For Harper and his minions in the PMO, ministers are to be controlled, not given control. With the Control-Freak-in-Chief, who is in cabinet – and who isn’t really doesn’t matter.
It may not be original, but there’s a world of insight to be had in these words. The PMO has never been so large in all of Canadian History — as a software consultant who’s done more than his share of federal government contract work, I can tell you you need only look of the percentage of RFPs that have come out for the PMO in recent years to have a sense of this. It’s as if the whole government had moved into the PMO, and the ministries were only used for PR! (And this, I think, is very, very dangerous.)
But Canadians have been content to let this slide too along with everything else it seems. The mantra “Who else can you vote for?” has become the Conservative’s sure ticket to power and since it’s that kind of slogan that can inspire the electorate, why not the political high-stakes play of a cabinet shuffle too? Optics über alles!
3. L’etat, c’est lui. Harper isn’t just the head of the federal government, he IS the federal government. For the Conservatives, that’s been the good news: A smart, strategic leader ran the show, and helped them win power in 2006.
But, paradoxically, it’s the bad news, too. There are no viable successors waiting in the wings. And there is no minister strong enough to give cover to Harper when he stumbles, as he has indisputably in l’affaire Duffy. If you can name a dozen of his ministers and their portfolios off the top of your head, you deserve the Order of Canada.
He’s right about it being bad news — even withstanding the horrifying picture of Duffy stumbling on the minds of voters. But amid this latest shakeup, even Harper has had trouble maintaining his balance in the corridors of power. And the aftershocks are far from done with the RCMP investigation of the absentee PEI Senator just getting into full swing. And a cabinet shuffle, no matter how cynical one gets about the electorate, will not erase the memory of Duffy’s fall from grace or corpulent expense spending from mind.
One also can remember recent Liberal success with “Team Chrétien”…which might well be something the country can get behind as a distinctive style difference with Harper, should Trudeau take up that approach during a forthcoming campaign.
4. A shuffle won’t change the fundamental problem. And Harper’s problem is well known and not even disputed by smart Conservatives: The governing party has lost its way. There’s no raison d’etre anymore.
There’s no mission statement. Nobody in the Conservative caucus remembers why he or she was sent to Ottawa in the first place.
A cabinet shuffle won’t change that problem, it’ll draw it into sharper focus. None of the many youngsters with “P.C.” appended to their surnames will feel powerful enough, or independent enough, to challenge the boss.
So get ready for same old, same old.
5. Nobody will notice. Forests will be felled to print opinion columns about the cosmic significance of the fashion sense of the newly minted minister of Public Safety. But Joe and Jane Frontporch won’t actually read any of those columns (which is one of the reasons broadsheet newspapers are in a spot of trouble, but that’s a lament for another day).
—— Warren Kinsella, Sun News, Jul 14, 2013
Points #4 and #5 seem to contradict each other somewhat. But on the whole, it all relates back to point #1: cabinet shuffles don’t change election results — but that’s not what this was ever about. It’s more internal management of PR for the Conservatives than anything. And, yes, that’s all that this government has ever really been about. Meaningless Law and Order measures, changing armed forces rankings, and lukewarm gun control rollbacks are the hallmark of Herper’s time in office.
In the end, that’s how history will record this period in Canadian history. No cabinet shuffle will change that one iota.