Roundup: Embattled ministers sticking it out

With three cabinet ministers currently “embattled” (to various degrees), Aaron Wherry wondered about the drop-off in actual ministerial resignations, and found the comparison to the days of Brian Mulroney, who was far quicker to accept resignations than is customary these days. Mulroney came to regret this, mind you, but it can’t be denied that the demands for resignations have never left us, and in fact are pretty rote performance by this point. That the Conservatives made their demand for Bill Morneau’s resignation without any real damning evidence as to why it’s necessary has made it seem as unserious as it actually is, making it harder for them in the future to make a legitimate demand.

But with that having been said, I’m going to say that there’s something that Wherry has left out in his analysis, which is the way in which Cabinets are constructed is a different calculation now than it was in Mulroney’s day, and that matters. Back then, the dominant concern was federal construction, so while you had to ensure that you had enough ministers from certain regions, and some token diversity in terms of religious or cultural background, with a woman or two in the mix, it was easier to swap out white men for one another when it came to accepting resignations and replacing them. That’s not really the case right now. Trudeau’s pledge for a gender-balanced cabinet that is also regionally representative as well as diverse in terms of race and ethnicity means that there are far fewer options for replacing ministers when it comes time to either accepting resignations, or swapping them out for fresh blood. What that ends up doing is creating an incentive for a prime minister to stick by an “embattled” minister (though I’m not sure just how serious any of the allegations against any of the current ministers really is – the attacks against Morneau are largely baseless, while Lebouthillier has done her due diligence with regard to the AG’s report and has technically been correct in what she’s said regarding the disability tax credit; Hehr, meanwhile, has been chagrinned but I’m not sure there is a cardinal sin here in the grand scheme of things). Sure, there will be a few tough days in the media, but eventually, when there turns out to be nothing to what is being said, the storm passes. It passed with Harjit Sajjan and Maryam Monsef (who was given a promotion for sticking with the flaming bag of dog excrement that was the electoral reform file), and I’m pretty sure it’ll pass for the current three. Until Parliament itself is more diverse than it is now, the demands for a representative Cabinet means that there are fewer options available for a Prime Minister to accept a resignation. What it does mean, however, is that they need to get a bit better around communications and managing the issues that do come up, but also seems to be a recurring theme with this government.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau has returned from China sans trade talks, but did impress upon the importance of free press and did raise consular cases.
  • Speaking of consular cases, Irwin Cotler says that while the government is doing good work, they could still be doing more to help several high-profile cases.
  • Bill Morneau isn’t interested in giving cities an equal share of marijuana excise tax revenues.
  • The US International Trade Commission ruled that Canadian softwood lumber imports have harmed their industry. Canada vows to fight it.
  • The rumour is that the official process to replace our fighter jets will be announced next week, along with the interim purchase of used Australian F-18s.
  • With Kent Hehr having apologised once this week, he was at it again for a 2016 interaction when he was brusque with a constituent asking him a loaded question.
  • The US Border pre-clearance bill has passed the Senate without amendment.
  • At the AFN Special Assembly, a resolution was passed to call for the MMIW Inquiry to be extended, but also for the Chief Commissioner to step down.
  • The Clerk of the Privy Council is going to tie deputy minister performance pay to the stabilization of the Phoenix pay system’s problems.
  • A PBO report says that the government is only spending 70 percent of what is necessary to fix First Nations water systems.
  • As part of upcoming equalization negotiations, the federal government is proposing to exclude non-residential property values. BC and Ontario are not amused.
  • With all of the talk about Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem, the CBC found documents that showed why Joe Clark’s government avoided such a move in 1979.
  • The modern day Conservatives, meanwhile, are saying nothing about the issue.
  • A study has shown that veterans – particularly female ones – are at greater risk of suicide than civilians.
  • Lobbying-Commissioner nominee Nancy Bélanger says that there’s room for the Lobbying and Ethics Commissioners to work more closely together.
  • The Senate Ethics Office is looking into the sponsored travel by three senators to China, who didn’t disclose that it had been paid for.
  • Stephen Maher lists the various missteps that Jagmeet Singh has been making in his first few weeks, which are causing some discontent in the party.
  • Paul Wells takes on the “Bonjour-hi” controversy in Quebec, and the broader linguistic cold war that has been going on for decades.
  • Robert Hiltz looks at the Conservative Supply Day motion on returning ISIS fighters, and why it was such a bogus exercise.

Odds and ends:

Here is the farewell to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court after her final hearing.

2 thoughts on “Roundup: Embattled ministers sticking it out

  1. “Until Parliament itself is more diverse than it is now, the demands for a representative Cabinet means that there are fewer options available for a Prime Minister to accept a resignation.”

    Paradoxically, therefore, the desire for a representative cabinet may be at odds with our system of responsible government: by making it less likely that a Minister will resign, it reduces the ability of the Opposition and the backbench to hold the Government to account.

  2. “Until Parliament itself is more diverse than it is now, the demands for a representative Cabinet means that there are fewer options available for a Prime Minister to accept a resignation.”

    Wow! I wonder if this means that Routine Proceedings has gone over to the dark side and embraced some form of list-system proportional representation that would turn each province into a gigantic single constituency. That would be the only way in which the imagined “diversity” could possibly hope to be reflected in every federal cabinet through provincial representation.

    Seriously, I call BS on the notion that Trudeau should be given a pass on diversity grounds for not dumping Kent Hehr. Hehr proved incompetent in Veterans Affairs and now he has shown he can’t even be respectful in dealing with clients on the Disabilities side of his portfolio. If Kent Hehr had made the same kind of disparaging comments to persons who “identified” on the basis of gender, he would be out on his ear — and rightfully so. Instead, the women he insulted are victims of thalidomide so he gets to stay in cabinet?

    The real reason that Hehr hangs on to his sit in cabinet is that the Trudeau Liberals are down to three MPs in Alberta, and Kent is the only one remaining in Calgary. It’s crass politics that keeps him in cabinet, not hand-wringing over diversity.

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