As is now well known, last Monday the Prime Minister of Canada shuffled the Cabinet. Almost all the news has been about the people in the Cabinet, who’s new, who’s gone, who’s moved, who hasn’t. But I think some of the more interesting points of the fracas may be the change in the job titles.
Firstly, after Marjory Lebreton left Cabinet, the post of Government Leader in the Senate has been dropped; for possibly the first time ever, there’s not a single senator in Cabinet, and, given the problems its members have lately been causing, it’s easy to see why. Associate Minister of Defence has been axed as well, with its former minister moved to National Revenue. The AMD traditionally handled matters of defence production and procurement, and now that the big fighter jet kerfuffle has blown over I suppose Harper wanted to retire it for now.
Peter Penashue’s defeat in the Labrador byelection a little bit ago left the Conservatives shut out of Newfoundland, so a “Regional Minister for New Brunswick and Newfoundland” was whipped up and given to Rob Moore, the MP for a swath of southern New Brunswick between Saint John and Moncton and Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency).
Speaking of which, Leona Aglukkaq, the MP for Nunavut, Environment minister, and now the Minister for the Arctic Council, has also been made Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, thus completing the set of what I like to call the “economic departments”: a bunch of agencies that exist to huck money at companies until they make stuff or hire people or whatever. Instead of having one agency do this for the whole country, there are a bunch of them to focus on a region of Canada: Aglukkaq’s CNEDA in the North, Moore’s ACOA in the East, there’s also the Department of Western Economic Diversification under Michelle Rempel (Calgary Centre-North), the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario under Gary Goodyear (Cambridge), “Fednor” (for Northern Ontario) under Greg Rickford (Kenora), and the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec under Denis Lebel (Roberval).
Elsewhere, the bloodless Human Resources and Social Development has finally been renamed Employment and Social Development, but it still evades optimal catchiness of “Work & Welfare”. The Infrastructure & Communities portfolio was divorced from Transport and tacked onto Intergovernmental Affairs, possibly signalling a shift in I&C from fixing bridges to acting as a Trudeau-era Department of Urban Affairs doppelganger.
Finally, on the fringes of the Cabinet lay the Ministers of State. Under Martin they were made for just about any random touchy-feely vote-grabbing buzzword they could think of, like Families or Communities. Under Harper a weird dichotomy has formed where half the Ministers of State are for nebulously multi-disciplinarian topics that Ministries of State were originally created to serve, like Science and Technology or Sport, and the other half are redundant junior-minister tag-alongs to the real cabinet ministers, like Finance or Social Development. Maxime Bernier (Beauce) and Lynne Yelich (the middle of southern Saskatchewan and southeastern Saskatoon) have one of each: Bernier has Agriculture and also Small Business and Tourism, and Yelich has Foreign Affairs and also Consular Affairs.