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Fallen stars rise again for both Tories and Liberals

Labour Minister Rona Ambrose and Liberal MP Denis Coderre are shown in a photo combination.

1. Political comebacks (a). Rona Ambrose, 40. In political purgatory for several years, Ms. Ambrose, the Labour Minister, who spent part of her Christmas holidays hiking in the Himalayas, is expected to be promoted this morning as Stephen Harper shuffles his cabinet.

Ms. Ambrose, an Alberta Tory first elected in 2004, is likely going to Public Works or the Natural Resources portfolio. Lisa Raitt, the current Natural Resources Minister who was seen to bungle the isotope crisis, may get the biggest demotion to the much more junior Labour post. Christian Paradis, now the Public Works Minister, could also be going to Natural Resources. Ms. Ambrose, meanwhile, has served in two junior portfolios since being dumped in 2007 from Environment. She is currently Labour Minister and before that she held the Intergovermental Affairs post.

Small, attractive and young, she was considered a political star when she first arrived on Parliament Hill. But that soon ended after her short time in Environment. She has avoided interviews and television cameras and has never spoken publicly about her difficulties, and the lack of support from the PMO, when she was directed to criticize the Kyoto climate-change accord and try to sell a hastily prepared alternative plan to Canadians.

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It was a disaster; she was shuffled. And she was damaged politically. But her work ethic and her attitude has likely propelled her back into the senior cabinet ranks. She is well-liked on the Hill, quietly competent and with this expected promotion could be getting her second chance.

Meanwhile, CTV Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife is reporting today that Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan is to go to International Trade, to be replaced by Treasury Board President Vic Toews. There is a view within government, according to a senior official, that the Prime Minister has lost "confidence" in Mr. Van Loan "because of his inability to oversee some delicate issues in his department, mostly the RCMP controversies."

The current Trade Minister, Stockwell Day, is likely to go to Treasury Board, a position that will be key as the government tries to handle the deficit and the second phase of the stimulus spending. Mr. Fife has described Mr. Day's new role as having to be "Dr. No" to his colleagues, who will be asking for more money.

2. Political comebacks (b). Denis Coderre, 46. In political purgatory for several months now with the Liberal leadership after his dramatic resignation as Michael Ignatieff's Quebec lieutenant and defence critic, Mr. Coderre has been front and centre in this Haitian earthquake crisis.

The veteran Montreal Liberal MP has been included in Conservative government press conferences and briefings on the issue. Indeed, it likely isn't lost on the Tories, either, that helping out Mr. Coderre also angers the Liberals.

Mr. Coderre is now frequently in the media, explaining the situation in Quebec and providing support for the large Haitian community in Montreal. He knows of what he speaks. He served as immigration minister in Jean Chrétien's cabinet. He was also Paul Martin's special adviser on Haiti. He even speaks Creole.

The commentary in Quebec is that, Mr. Coderre's re-emergence could help the Liberals' profile in that province. Says a veteran Liberal official: "The party better figure out how to get him back, or perish."

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It is not clear if there is much of a relationship between Mr. Coderre and the Liberal Leader. He had been Mr. Ignatieff's strongest and most loyal supporter from Quebec in his leadership bids. But that all changed when his decision as to who should be the party's candidate in the Montreal riding of Outremont was overturned.

Mr. Coderre went out in a blaze of glory, holding a press conference to condemn the interference of the so-called Toronto gang of strategist, who were made up Mr. Ignatieff's inner circle. They are gone now and Mr. Coderre is inching his way back in the game.

(Photos: The Canadian Press)

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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