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Wednesday
Dec012010

Waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Now that Julian Fantino has been elected; the question should shift to what awaits him in his new career? Speculation is rampant that he will join cabinet in at least a minister of state role, if not as a senior minister. Certainly his previous career path would have prepared him for either role. The decision of course remains the Prime Minister’s and Harper has always been very careful to not tip his hand on these matters.

There is some talk of a mini-shuffle as early as next week, but that will depend on a number of factors, including how quickly Elections Canada signs off on the official returns, when Fantino can travel to Ottawa and for swearing in a cabinet minister, the availability of the Governor-General.

It does seem a bit early as there is no need to hurry even a minor shuffle. John Baird can certainly look after the Environment portfolio for a few more weeks and why have a brand new minister walk into Question Period relatively unprepared, when waiting another two weeks will see the House shut down for the Christmas break. At that point a new minister or a shuffled one for that matter, will have six weeks to learn their files.

In the total scheme of things, January makes more sense. By now all Conservative MPs and minister’s will have been asked to let the Prime Minister know if they intend to run again in what most expect will be a spring election. With the House returning January 31st, this gives both PMO and the party plenty of time to prepare their communication strategy, look for replacements, plan nomination meetings and possibly shuffle ministers.

January should be a quiet time on the Hill. MPs that choose not to run again will be nothing more than a minor story with most Canadians paying little attention to it. A minister is a different matter and a departure of a senior one will generate headlines. This is easier for PMO to control during a break period as opposed to one when the Hill is crawling with Opposition MPs all willing to comment.

A shuffle, even a small one during this period will be a major news story. And why not, other than government press releases and announcements there won’t be much to report during this period. This provides the government with the best opportunity to dominate the news, get their message out and frame the new cabinet the way they want the public to see it. Something that is very important if this is to be the cabinet the Prime Minister takes into the next election.

Whether the shuffle comes in December or in January, Fantino’s name will be constantly in the mix of speculation.

I for one hope he gets a cabinet posting. His blunt, no nonsense style will be an excellent addition to cabinet. Such ministers are often under-appreciated by PMO types, but they are most certainly needed. Considering his background as a former Chief of Police in Toronto and the former Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, it will be interesting to see how PMO “handles” him. I for one would love to be a fly on the wall the first time some young staffer in PMO calls Fantino and tells him what he can’t and can do.

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