Liveblogging the cabinet shuffle

9:52AM: Rob Nicholson, Gail Shea, Leona Aglukkaq, Peter Kent and Peter van Loan, Chuck Strahl show up to Rideau Hall

9:52AM: And Christian Paradis, Jim Prentice. CTV has speculated Prentice to environment.

9:54AM: John Baird has arrived.

9:55AM: Some MPs showing up in Blue Line cabs, some in airport cabs, some in their own cars.

9:55AM: Rona Ambrose shows up. Rumour is she’ll move to HRSDC.

10:00AM: Lynne Yelich is at Rideau Hall and Stockwell Day

10:01AM: James Moore arrives

10:03AM: Rahim Jaffer has shown up. Probably to support his newlywed wife Helena Guergis.

10:06AM: Jim Flaherty arrives with wife Christine Elliot.

10:08AM: The Prime Minister’s motorcade makes its way up to Rideau Hall.

10:16AM: Rumour is that Jason Kenney is moving to Citizenship and Immigration. You heard it here first.

10:25AM: Cabinet embargo about to end. Should have the list up soon.

10:31AM: Other MPs at Rideau Hall: Bev Oda, Peter MacKay, Keith Ashfield, Gary Lunn, Chuck Strahl, Gordon O’Conner, Tony Clement, Gerry Ritz, Stephen Fletcher, and Lawrence Cannon.

10:40AM: Here we go. Here comes cabinet into the hall.

10:44AM: Nicholson stays in Justice, no surprise there.

10:45AM: Greg Thompson at Veterans Affairs, Chuck Strahl at INAC, Vic Toews at Treasury Board

10:48AM: Bev Oda at CIDA, Flaherty at Finance, Gerry Ritz at Agriculture

10:50AM: Jean-Pierre Blackburn to Revenue. Aglukkaq to Health. Finley to HRSRC.

10:55AM: Raitt to NRCan, Day to International Trade and Asia-Pacific Gateway.

10:55AM: Ambrose to Labour.

10:58AM: Prentice to environment. The could be to negotiate new regs with the provinces when it comes to GHG emissions. Alberta will need to sit down with the federal government soon to finalize the new regulations for the oil and gas sector.

11:00AM: Baird goes to Transport/Infrastructure.

11:01AM: Cannon goes to Foreign Affairs.

11:02AM: Tony Clement goes to Industry.

11:05AM: Josee Verner to intergovernmental affairs.

11:05AM: Jay Hill to House Leader.

11:05AM: PVL to Public Safety.

11:07AM: Jason Kenney to Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

11:08AM: Christian Paradis to Public Works.

11:09AM: James Moore to Heritage and Official Languages.

11:14AM: Gail Shea to Fisheries.

11:16AM: Gary Lunn to Sport.

11:17AM: Gordon O’Connor to Government Whip.

11:18AM: Helena Guergis to Status of Women.

11:19AM: Diane Ablonczy stays at Small Business.

11:20AM: Rob Merrifield to Minister of State (Transport).

11:22AM: Lynne Yelich to Western Economic Diversification.

11:24AM: Steven Fletcher to Democratic Reform.

11:27AM: Gary Goodyear to Minister of State for Science and Technology. Goodyear will work closely with Minister of Industry Tony Clement.

11:29AM: Denis Lebel to economic development for Quebec. Lebel will be the cash man for Quebec and this will help him electorally.

11:31AM: Keith Ashfield to ACOA.

11:32AM: Peter Kent to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas).

Harper cuts travel grants to artists

When Guy Giorno took over the chief of staff’s office to the Prime Minister, he rounded up the Ministerial chiefs, the directors of communications and senior PMO staff and told them the same thing: this is essentially an election year and everything that we do from now on will be proactive, direct and obviously political. Giorno’s “be political” theme will set the tone of this government as it moves into the fall when opposition leader Stephane Dion blusters about defeating the government, into the winter when Dion threatens to defeat the government over the budget and into the fall of 2009 when the government’s mandate comes up for renewal due to the fixed election date legislation the Prime Minister’s tabled early in this term.

Today, in the National Post, David Akin writes about Conservatives cutting travel grants to Canadian artists. Surprisingly, at least to this observer, is that this money comes under the mandate of Foreign Affairs. Sending artists to film festivals and to columnists to give lectures in communist countries would more appropriately be fixed in the department of Canadian Heritage but that’s another discussion. The government’s political staffers have found some cash that is sure to enrage the arts community and as a side-benefit, show ordinary hard-working 9-5 Canadians that their tax dollars are sending others overseas while they put together their savings (after filing their income tax) over the months to put the kids in a minivan and drive down to Disneyworld for a week.

You can tell that Giorno’s people are executing the “be political” strategy in the quotes provided to David Akin by government staffers.

On Gwynne Dyer’s government grant to travel to a popular Canadian vacation destination to “[create] greater awareness and appreciation of Canadian foreign policy … within key audiences of Cuban decision makers and opinion leaders.” political staffers explained that

“[Dyer’s] a left-wing columnist and author who has plenty of money to travel on his own.”

On the North-South Institute

“[it’s] a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank … Why are we paying for these people to attend anti-Western conferences in Cuba?”

Canadian artists are not on PMO director of strategic planning Patrick Muttart’s radar as these folks have never likely voted Conservative and never will. This move to cut taxpayer money from these groups for foreign travel will cause outrage among that community and will in turn, the Conservatives are predicting, will show other Canadians that the government is defending their interests instead.

This is an obvious political move by PMO and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Conservative Party comps Sarah Polley’s airfare the next time she comes to Ottawa to hold a press conference.

Here’s a summary of the Arts Promotion Projects funded in 2006-2007:

Read this document on Scribd: 2006-2007 Annual Report-en

Jason Kenney accusing Liberal Party of “Tammany Hall operation of patronage”

Consider this quote from Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenney that he gave to reporters last week after caucus in LĂ©vis, Quebec:

“Typically, I think, the Liberals pursued what some people have called an ethnic-brokerage model of outreach, where they would identify leaders of certain groups who somehow magically would become the recipients of substantial grants and subsidies for their community organizations”

What is Kenney talking about? A quick Google search found this:

TORONTO, February 9, 2005 — Member of Parliament (Scarborough–Agincourt) Jim Karygiannis, on behalf of Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women Liza Frulla, today announced $46,275 in funding for the Canadian Arab Federation. The funds will allow the organization to develop its own Web site.

“Until now, there really has been no Web site highlighting all the many contributions made by Canadians of Arab origin to our society,” said Mr. Karygiannis. “This project will help Web users from Canada and abroad to better understand this vast community.”

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Minister responsible for Ontario Joseph Volpe added his support. “This Web site will be a valuable networking tool for members of the Arab-Canadian community,” said Minister Volpe.

“The Internet enables us to engage in dialogue with people of all backgrounds and all cultures,” said Minister Frulla. “If we wish to build a truly diverse society in which all communities are represented, we must invest in Web sites like this one.”

Let’s check out what $46,275 buys in web development.


Click here to visit the website

This website features a nice splash page that goes to a website that doesn’t appear to be maintained as it features broken links and an event calendar long forgotten. The website’s content doesn’t seem have taken much time to produce as some of the text has been lifted from other sources online.

I emailed Jason Kenney’s office for a reaction, and received comment from Alykhan Velshi, Kenney’s Director of Communications.

“It really is outrageous the way that Liberal-friendly ethnic community leaders would find their loyalty rewarded with government handouts. To say the problem was systematic understates, I think palpably, the extent of the Tammany Hall operation the Liberals tried to build when in government.”

“[The Canadian Arab Federation] current National President Khaled Mouammar is a former Liberal political appointee who gained some notoriety for his role in the last Liberal leadership campaign. CAF’s previous National President is Omar Alghabra, a Liberal MP elected in 2006.

“Between 2003 and 2005, when Alghabra was CAF’s president, CAF received more than $400,000 in hand-outs from the Department of Canadian Heritage alone.

“They were awarded a $330,565 grant to ‘build organisational capacity’, another $46,399 to ‘communicate effectively with governments at all levels’, and a further $46,275 to design a website.”

Yet this problem doesn’t only reside with Liberals. Canwest’s David Akin points out the (for lack of a better term) pork that the Conservatives have been delivering too. Is this spending necessary?

UPDATE: Interesting question. If the CAF website was produced in partnership with Canadian Heritage, why isn’t it in both official languages?

C-10, censorship, Liberal outrage and double standards

Jane Taber in the Globe and Mail today:

The Liberals acknowledged yesterday that they tried when they were in office to eliminate tax credits for offensive movies, but only to prevent a film about schoolgirl killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Critics say that a similar move by the federal Conservative government is an attempt to censor the Canadian film and TV industry.

I tell ya, it’s never been easier to point out a double standard! While Taber does great work reporting on the Liberals coming forward first to suggest that they’ve done something similar, what she fails to mention is that the controversial section of the legislation limiting grants for subjectively offensive films is virtually word for word the same as the Liberal legislation!

In 2003, Sheila Copps, the Liberal Minister of Heritage introduced the following:

(3) The definition “Canadian film or video production certificate” in subsection 125.4(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:

“Canadian film or video production certificate” means a certificate issued in respect of a production by the Minister of Canadian Heritage certifying that the production is a Canadian film or video production in respect of which that Minister is satisfied that

(a) except where the production is a prescribed treaty co-production (as defined by regulation), an acceptable share of revenues from the exploitation of the production in non-Canadian markets is, under the terms of any agreement, retained by

(i) a qualified corporation that owns or owned an interest in the production,

(ii) a prescribed taxable Canadian corporation related to the qualified corporation, or

(iii) any combination of corporations described in (i) or (ii), and

(b) public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy.

Guidelines

(7) The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall issue guidelines respecting the circumstances under which the conditions in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition of “Canadian film or video production certificate” in subsection (1) are satisfied. For greater certainty, these guidelines are not statutory instruments as defined in the Statutory Instruments Act.

and here’s the analogous parts of C-10, the Conservative legislation:

(3) The definition “Canadian film or video production certificate” in subsection 125.4(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:

“Canadian film or video production certificate” means a certificate issued in respect of a production by the Minister of Canadian Heritage certifying that the production is a Canadian film or video production in respect of which that Minister is satisfied that

(a) except where the production is a treaty co-production (as defined by regulation), an acceptable share of revenues from the exploitation of the production in non-Canadian markets is, under the terms of any agreement, retained by

(i) a qualified corporation that owns or owned an interest in, or for civil law a right in, the production,

(ii) a prescribed taxable Canadian corporation related to the qualified corporation, or

(iii) any combination of corporations described in subparagraph (i) or (ii); and

(b) public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy.

(7) The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall issue guidelines respecting the circumstances under which the conditions in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition of “Canadian film or video production certificate” in subsection (1) are satisfied. For greater certainty, these guidelines are not statutory instruments as defined in the Statutory Instruments Act.

In February 2004 (under Liberal PM Paul Martin’s government), the following guidelines describing “ineligible genres of production” (those that do not qualify for a tax credit under the program:

a) news, current events or public affairs programming, or a programme that includes weather or market reports;
b) talk show;
c) production in respect of a game, questionnaire or contest (other than a production directed primarily at minors);
d) sports event or activity;
e) gala presentation or an awards show;
f) production that solicits funds;
g) reality television;
h) pornography;
i) advertising;
j) production produced primarily for industrial, corporate or institutional purposes;
k) production, other than a documentary, all or substantially all of which consists of stock footage; or
l) production for which public financial support would, in the opinion of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, be contrary to public policy.

Double standard? Yes, I think so.

New Cabinet

The cabinet has been shuffled.

Solberg is at Rideau Hall to accompany his good friend Chuck Strahl. Monte will not be getting a new portfolio. He will remain in HRSDC.

Monte’s pal Strahl goes to Indian Affairs. A good upgrade especially as a BC minister.

MacKay goes to defense and keeps ACOA. The higher visibility should help the Tories regain some ground in Atlantic Canada.

O’Connor to revenue. As the most obvious prediction of a portfolio change, some thought O’Connor would go to Veterens Affairs. The former defense minister now goes to a largely administrative portfolio.

Oda to international cooperation. Oda replaces Josee Verner in this portfolio. Some say she was a poor communicator in Heritage, lacking the ability to speak French, she now takes over the CIDA portfolio.

Jim Prentice goes to Industry taking over for Maxime Bernier. Prentice is said to be the hardest working minister in Harper’s cabinet and will bring his work ethic to this new portfolio.

Maxime Bernier is tapped for foreign affairs. Such a move will have both the effect of raising Bernier’s portfolio and gives Quebec a minister in a more elite department. Further, as Quebec’s Van Doos soldiers are in Afghanistan, having a good communicator in this portfolio from the province.

Josee Verner to Canadian Heritage/Women/Languages. An Oda/Vernier swap. Vernier gets promoted and Oda demoted. Verner will be well positioned to celebrate Quebec City’s 400th anniversary.

Gerry Ritz to Agriculture/Wheat Board. A promotion for the Saskatchewan MP was pretty much assured when fellow Saskatchewan MP Skelton announced her retirement. Skelton being that province’s sole representation in cabinet, her resignation created an opening for a Saskatchewan MP. I’ve heard that Ritz will press forward on market choice and fight against the Wheat Board.

And, Diane Ablonczy finally gets her due as Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism…

…which puts a wee blotch on my cabinet prediction! I predicted that no backbencher would be promoted to cabinet. Perhaps this was an 11th hour decision?

But, as I predicted, nobody lost their job and it was a significant shuffle. Cabinet did not grow in size. Also, as predicted, Day and Baird stay in their portfolios.

Further, Bernier was shuffled, but not to defense nor finance as some predicted.

So, is this Canada’s New New Government? What are your thoughts? Does this put a new face on the Conservative government? Cheers, Jeers? Did Harper make a good shuffle today? The Globe reported that Harper would be decreasing the size of cabinet in order to prepare for an election. However, the usual knowledge is that cabinet in fact grows prior to an election to promote seats and as many faces as possible.

The Prime Minister is likely to prorogue Parliament and go ahead with a throne speech this fall. This shuffle is also timed to give ministers enough time to process their MCs and move forward before the fall. The PM will also draw thoughts from his new ministers for the expected throne speech.