Monday, October 18, 2010

The summer brought in a new Cabinet in Ottawa & Quebec City

Bookmark and ShareIt's been a while since this blog has been updated but what a summer and fall we have had that has lead Canada towards an interesting political environment.  Parliament (in Ottawa) returns today with amongst other developments, three new ministers:

John Baird is now replacing Jay Hill as House Leader
Chuck Strahl has moved from Indian Affairs replacing John Baird as Minister of Transport
John Duncan has moved in Minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Jean-Pierre Blackburn has left Revenue for Veteran's Affairs

Here's my take on how these changes will effect the direction of government:

1. Jay Hill, now seeking to move out of politics, was known and respected as conciliator.  This is not to say that John Baird is not but I expect that with his reputation of taking no prisoners, the government may become bolder in pushing forth its agenda.  For associations and non-profits looking to push forth their agenda, it will be critical for them to look at means of how their issues fit into the overall objectives and political direction of the government. This will be all the more critical as the government will have to contend with reducing the deficit initiatives and political pressure to keep up stimulus spending.

2. I don't expect Chuck Strahl's movement to Transport and John Duncan's movement to Indian Affairs should affect any serious direction in policy changes.  that said, this is an important change for this department and retooling one's connections will be critical to advance policy in this department.  In the case of the latter department, I can state from my own experience on parliament hill that John Duncan will likely add an important voice and perspective on aboriginal issues from a British Columbia perspective.  As an opposition MP, John was very vocal on aboriginal fishing disputes.

3. Jean-Pierre Blackburn's move to Veteran's Affairs means that this department will have its first Quebec minister in a very long time.  He has already identified his desire to build more awareness for veteran's issues in Quebec as a personal priority.  Also, with Canada's mission to Afghanistan coming to an end soon, the issue of proper compensation for veterans means he will likely be a minister to watch.  The departure of his Chief of Staff (and friend of mine), Michel Lalonde, also leads to a change in the style of operating as well in his office.

Quebec City has also been a hot bed of political activity these last couple of months.  Premier Jean Charest has named the yet-to-be elected Jean-Marc Fournier (now elected from a bi-election this fall) as minister of justice during a cabinet shuffle.  Among the newly appointed ministers: Kathleen Weil takes over immigration, Lise Thériault is named minister of labour and Sam Hamad becomes transport minister.

Despite claims to the opposite, the shuffle was a quite deliberate attempt at deflecting attention away from current troubles the Premier is facing in claims the province's judiciary is named under partisan circumstances.  With different polls indicating various levels of support for the PLQ, I foresee the Quebec Liberals undertaking more initiatives in the field of democratic transparency as a priority as they will likely attempt to reclaim popular support.

So...what do you think?  Where do you see government policy going in the coming months both federally an in Quebec?  What impact (if any) will developments in Quebec have on federal policy or on policy in other provinces?

Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca