Roundup: Shadow ministers vs critics

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is set to release his full critic list today, not only to be dubbed as a shadow cabinet, but with plans to style the critics as “shadow ministers.” Now, this is normally the kinds of British/Westminster nomenclature that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, which is why I suspect that a fanboy like Scheer is doing it, but I would raise a particular note of caution – that unless Scheer plans to actually have his “shadow minsters” act in the way that Westminster shadow ministers actually operate, then it’s going to quickly come across as a twee affectation.

So what kinds of differences would matter between a British shadow minister and a Canadian critic? For one, it’s a far more institutionalised role, where a shadow minister plays the function of someone who is able to fill the cabinet role immediately if the government were to fall, rather than the kinds of placeholders that we’ve come to expect in Canadian critic roles. Shadow ministers, in my observation, tend to be in place for a fairly long time and develop expertise in the portfolio, and they have more structured time to visit the departments and get briefings from civil servants, which doesn’t seem to be the way that Canadian critics operate (who do get some briefings, but in my estimation, are not to the same level). Of course, one of the reasons why is that cabinet construction in the UK doesn’t have to deal with the same regional considerations that Canada does, so it’s far easier to have someone who was in a shadow cabinet position slide into cabinet, whereas in Canada, the federalist calculations may not work out.

Another key difference is that UK shadow ministers are not members of select committees, whereas in Canada, critics are leads for their party on standing committees. Why this is different is because in the UK, it not only lets the shadow minister spend more time with their portfolio, but it gives the committee members more independence because they don’t have the lead on the file shepherding them. Just by numbers alone, I’m guessing that this isn’t going to happen here (another advantage to the UK’s House of Commons having 650 members instead of 338). One could also remark that the current Conservative Party in Canada hasn’t demonstrated a great deal of willingness to give committees a great deal of independence (especially seeing as they turned them into branch plants of the ministers’ offices during the Harper years), but who knows? Maybe Scheer is more serious about it. But unless he wants to reform the way his critics operate, then I’m less sold on billing them as “shadow ministers.”

Good reads:

  • The King of Jordan was in town to meet with Trudeau, and we learned that Canadian troops have been quietly helping them secure their borders against ISIS.
  • Trudeau also noted that foreign aid going to Jordan and the surrounding Middle East is changing in focus.
  • Chrystia Freeland says that the government is constantly assessing the North Korea situation given the latest missile test.
  • It looks like the government is planning to subsidise a number of student work placements, especially in STEM fields.
  • There are new allegations that Liberal MP Darshan Kang offered $100,000 to the family of the staffer he is alleged to have harassed. Kang says he’s innocent.
  • The Coast Guard’s major science vessel is months behind schedule in its refit, which sounds about right for the way things go in this country.
  • CSE is getting new rules around information sharing with our allies.
  • Thanks to media attention, police forces around the country scrambled to get authorisation for the Stingray devices they were already using.
  • Senator Murray Sinclair thinks time would be better spent honouring Indigenous heroes than tearing down monuments to people like Sir John A Macdonald.
  • Julie Payette’s divorce documents have been released, but don’t appear to have anything salacious in them.
  • The NDP have released their membership numbers, and there’s a big glut in Ontario that could advantage Jagmeet Singh.
  • If you’re looking for a laugh and an eyeroll, Chris Alexander moans about how hard done by he’s been while he laments the lack of civility in debate.
  • Colby Cosh has a thought-provoking contribution to the Sir John A Macdonald debate.
  • My column looks at how the Senate is likely to fight the Mike Duffy lawsuit tooth-and-nail, because it’s more than just the money at stake for them.

2 thoughts on “Roundup: Shadow ministers vs critics

  1. Seen the joke around, but can’t be good for Andrew Scheer as he tries to introduce himself to the broader Canadian public if he comes across as trying to dub himself the “Shadow Prime Minister”?

    Also a lot of the Team Trudeau attempt to rebrand this or that haven’t stuck. After her announcement I noticed how Judy Foote was still often referred to as the Minister for “Public Works” despite the name change.

  2. Also curios as you are someone who has seen these people in action during QP to have get your take who did get in and who didn’t get in all means. Guessing even more feigned outrage than before?

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