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latest speculation

Heritage Minister James Moore as he makes an announcement at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on Dec. 20, 2010.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

With the naming of a new cabinet expected either Monday or Tuesday, speculation as to who gets what is rampant in political Ottawa.

The whispers from Stephen Harper's PMO is there will be no major changes to the Conservative cabinet - consistency is the word of the day. But some Tories aren't buying that.

"Six positions open suggests a good degree of movement because it is unlikely those positions would all go to rookies, which means existing ministers would move, meaning more changes," a senior Ottawa Conservative says.

Two ministers did not run again and four were defeated in the May 2 election. Some MPs are also saying three other ministers, including Government Whip Gordon O'Connor, may be dropped from the front bench. That would leave nine open spots.

And so the favourite Ottawa parlour game begins: cabinet speculation.

Topping the list to move - and to move up - is Heritage Minister James Moore. With Stockwell Day and Chuck Strahl no longer in cabinet, Mr. Moore emerges as the senior minister from British Columbia. Right now the money is on him moving to Transport and Infrastructure and becoming the political minister for B.C.

There had been rumours Mr. Moore might replace Tony Clement in Industry but the view now is that Mr. Clement will stay where he is.

In addition, there is much chatter as to the new faces who will be brought in. While the Prime Minister will likely keep his core ministries filled with his most experienced players, there is strength in his backbenches that should be rewarded.

For example, the troika of Alberta MP and finance committee chair James Rajotte, Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to the Heritage Minister, and Rick Dykstra, parliamentary secretary to the Immigration Minister, are strong MPs who have worked hard for the party and caucus.

In Ontario especially, Peterborough's Mr. Del Mastro and Mr. Dykstra, from St. Catharines, worked hard to make the landscape friendlier for Tories - efforts that paid off on May 2, especially in Toronto. They were also successful in helping defeat Liberal MP Mark Holland in Ajax-Pickering.

The Liberal public-safety critic was replaced by Tory Chris Alexander, a former star diplomat who could go directly into cabinet, possibly as the International Co-operation Minister. Bev Oda, who occupies that position now, is rumoured to be on the chopping block.

And observers should not discount Candice Hoeppner and Shelly Glover, both from Manitoba. They were effective performers in the last Parliament and could easily move to the front bench.

The rookies to watch? Peter Penashue in Newfoundland and Labrador, Kellie Leitch in Ontario and Joe Oliver, Mark Adler and John Carmichael in Toronto. And there is a lot of buzz around Michelle Rempel, who won the Calgary Centre-North riding vacated by Jim Prentice. The 31-year-old is said to be "whip smart" and was the co-chair of the Conservative's national policy development committee.

Government wades in to gas-price swamp

Industry Minister Tony Clement has scheduled a press conference in Toronto for later Thursday morning to look at the fluctuating gas prices.

Prices - as predicted - dropped about six cents a litre overnight. Still, Canadian consumers are reportedly rethinking holiday plans and other activities because of the uncertainty at the pump.

Sun Media is reporting that representatives from the industry will be called before a Commons committee to be questioned about all of this when the House returns in a couple of weeks.