Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

And the big winner is … the cabinet member with low credibility.

In shuffling his cabinet Monday in response to the lightning-quick and as-yet-unexplained departure of foreign minister John Baird, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made two sound appointments and an in-your-face objectionable one.

Rob Nicholson gets Foreign Affairs. He's been a loyal and effective performer for nine years. He rarely gets in trouble and when he does, he beats down the critics, delivering talking points with razor-edged conviction.

Story continues below advertisement

Jason Kenney will stand on guard as Minister of Defence. A long-time cabinet success story, he might have been better suited to Foreign Affairs, but he has an independent streak, and after Mr. Baird's departure, Mr. Harper needs someone marching in lock-step for that position.

The surprise is the three important roles for Pierre Poilievre. He succeeds Mr. Kenney as Minister of Employment and Social Development. He retains his role as Minister of State for Democratic Reform. And since he is the cabinet's last remaining Ottawa-region MP, he will also take on Mr. Baird's responsibility for the National Capital Commission – "minister of Ottawa."

His elevation will anger many, but it's in keeping with Mr. Harper's penchant for rewarding his most partisan MPs. Mr. Poilievre's handling of a new elections bill was a widely ridiculed embarrassment. He had to withdraw many of its initial provisions. In Question Period, he is known to turn legitimate queries into vitriol-laced attacks on the questioner.

Mr. Harper might have done well to promote a stronger player to Democratic Reform, because the opposition parties will be highlighting the Conservatives' vulnerabilities on abuse of power ahead of the coming election.

The same 35-year-old career politician now has to handle the important role of Employment Minister – a role that, considering Canada's iffy economy, will also put him on the hot seat going into an election. What experience and credibility does Mr. Poilievre bring to that job?

Monday's cabinet shuffle was well timed, at least. It doused the news of Tory lightweight Eve Adams's floor-crossing to the Liberals. The Liberals should have figured the shuffle was coming and held off on their little coup if they wanted more attention for it.

Ms. Adams said she could no longer support "mean-spirited leadership … I want to work with someone who inspires, not with fear-mongers and bullies." There is a lot of truth to those charges, which we've heard from many others. That said, Ms. Adams likely would have been singing Mr. Harper's praises, not crossing the floor, had he helped her find a seat as a Conservative. She has been up to her eyeballs in controversy over her failed bid for a nomination.

Story continues below advertisement

With the cabinet shuffle, the speculation about Mr. Baird's departure will likely end. Most signs pointed to a split with Mr. Harper. Otherwise, why wouldn't Mr. Baird have stayed on in the portfolio until the election? And why wouldn't the departure have been co-ordinated with the Prime Minister's Office if he had been getting on swimmingly with the Prime Minister?

Mr. Nicholson was once considered a moderate. It's a safe bet that he's getting the Foreign job not only for his wealth of experience, but because he isn't one to challenge Mr. Harper, who handles the most important foreign files himself. Moreover, in the Defence portfolio, he showed himself well capable of playing the fear card, which the Conservatives will be drawing on all the way to the polls.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies