Musings —07.13.2013 10:48 PM—
Cabinet shuffles don’t matter.
Not to Joe and Jane Frontporch, they don’t. To real folks, like Joe and Jane, it’s just Ottawa talking about Ottawa.
To those who stalk the corridors of power on the Hill, peering at their BlackBerrys, nothing could be more important than a cabinet shuffle.
In fact, one CBC reporter opined last week that all the shuffle talk was “exhausting.” (That’s a quote.) Except, um, generally speaking, shuffles aren’t that important.
And, in the specific case of the Harper government, they aren’t important at all.
There are five reasons for this, all of which are (or should be) pretty obvious to denizens of Parliament Hill, even the ones with their gazes locked on their navels.
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.
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.
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.
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).
THEY DON’T CARE.
With tragedy striking Lac-Megantic and with flooding in Calgary and Toronto, does Official Ottawa actually believe a cabinet shuffle is even going to be noticed around the water coolers of the nation?
They do, they do. To them, shuffles are a big deal. To Mr. and Mrs. Frontporch, they aren’t. At all.
So, Canada, having trouble sleeping during the long, hot summer of 2013?
Watch some cabinet shuffle coverage. It’ll put you out like a light.