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Prime Minister Stephen Harper on stage after speaking in Calgary May 2, 2011 after Canadians went to the polls in the federal election. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper on stage after speaking in Calgary May 2, 2011 after Canadians went to the polls in the federal election. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Conservatives

Harper's fine art of cabinet making Add to ...

Winning a majority comes with its headaches, as Stephen Harper will shortly learn.

First, it's harder to maintain discipline in caucus when there's no threat of imminent defeat to hold over MPs' heads.

Second, it's more difficult to keep your MPs happy when you have to spread the same amount of titles, positions and perks around a caucus that's 15 per cent larger.

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The first order of business for the Prime Minister will be assembling a cabinet: deciding precisely which of his 166 fellow MPs he will make extremely happy in the short term.

Mr. Harper has plenty of experienced ministers to choose from and, like always, must balance gender and geography when building his post-election cabinet.

But the task could be complicated further should Mr. Harper decide to shrink the size of his ministry in order to send a message of frugality to Canadians.

When he originally took power in 2006, the Prime Minister boasted about how his first cabinet was only 26 ministers, a deliberate attempt to contrast himself with former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, whose cabinet was 38 MPs strong.

By the 2011 election, however, Mr. Harper's cabinet had swelled to 38.

Mr. Harper has tended to be reluctant to vault impressive-looking rookie MPs immediately into the cabinet - seniors minister Julian Fantino is one of several exceptions - preferring to let them earn their way up the Ottawa food chain.

Moreover, lots of veteran Tory MPs who've been working diligently for years will be hoping for advancement - a list that includes Edmonton's James Rajotte to Winnipeg's Shelly Glover and Portage-Lisgar's Candice Hoeppner.

With that in mind, here are a few of the factors Mr. Harper must consider when cabinet-making.

Geographic necessity:

Mr. Harper's election pitch emphasized the need for all regions to have a voice at the cabinet table - and now he must deliver.

Peter Penashue: This aboriginal leader is the first Conservative MP elected in Newfoundland and Labrador since the Tories lost seats there in 2008. That makes it highly likely he'll be welcomed into the ministry.

Bernard Valcourt: This bilingual Mulroney-era minister from New Brunswick is back in Ottawa 18 years after he was last defeated. Mr. Harper will have to consider giving him a portfolio.

Courting Quebec: The Conservatives lost three ministers here May 2, including Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. They still have two sitting ministers there but will likely need a third.

British Columbia: The province has a big ministerial gap right now, having lost three ministers. Two, including Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, retired and one, Gary Lunn, was defeated.

Young and promising

Mr. Harper must take care to nurture young new talent and that means bringing fresh blood into cabinet.

John Williamson: Elected in New Brunswick Southwest, Mr. Williamson is no stranger to Ottawa. He's a former director of communications for the prime minister, a former National Post editorialist and past national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Chris Alexander: This former diplomat is whip smart with movie-star good looks and a polished speaking style. It would be hard for Mr. Harper to take a pass on his new Ajax-Pickering MP who defeated Liberal star Mark Holland.

Kellie Leitch: A pediatric surgeon from the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey, she defeated Helena Guergis, who was estranged from the Tories after being dumped from cabinet.

Wild cards and giant killers

Maxime Bernier: Dumped from cabinet in 2008 after leaving NATO documents at his girlfriend's house, this Quebec MP remains hugely popular. To rebuild Quebec support, Mr. Harper will have to seriously consider returning him to cabinet.

Bev Oda: This GTA MP had a bad run in late 2010 and early 2011 over cancelling an aid group's funding. Tories privately defend her as competent but a terrible communicator.

Bernard Trottier: This bilingual Toronto business consultant defeated Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff in the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

Wai Young: This Vancouver South candidate defeated former B.C. premier and senior Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh, but a controversial endorsement and reports of family financial disputes could hurt her cabinet chances.

Mark Adler: The founder of the Economic Club of Canada defeated NHL legend and former Liberal cabinet minister Ken Dryden in York Centre.

On the rise or staying put

One of Mr. Harper's biggest challenges will be deciding where to redeploy star performers.

Jason Kenney: The Conservative Party's incredible breakthrough in the Greater Toronto Area - winning two-thirds of the region's seats - reflects in part the work Immigration Minister Jason Kenney did in courting the votes of recently arrived Canadians.

John Baird: This Ottawa MP is the Tories' Mr. Fix-It, a veteran of Ontario and federal politics whom Mr. Harper likes to assign to trouble spots. He's previously doused political fires at Environment Canada and cracked the whip to expedite stimulus projects.

Jim Flaherty: The campaign message from Mr. Harper was that Canada's economic recovery is still unfolding and care should be taken not to jeopardize it. It would make sense if the Tories avoid switching Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to another portfolio for now.

Gender balance

Mr. Harper's most recent cabinet of 38 ministers included 10 women. This election increased the number of women in the Conservative caucus and might put pressure on Mr. Harper to boost the gender balance in cabinet.

He could look to experienced Tory MPs - including Winnipeg's Shelly Glover - or take his pick from new female politicians elected in Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick or Vancouver.

Potential ministers include Eve Adams, the new Mississauga-Brampton South Tory MP and a former Mississauga councillor. Senior Tories mention her as a possibility and former colleagues on Mississauga's council call her extremely tenacious.

Other new female MPs include Kellie Leitch of Simcoe-Grey, Stella Ambler in Mississauga South, Roxanne James in Scarborough Centre, Kerry-Lynne Findlay in Delta-Richmond East and Vancouver South's Wai Young.

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