Cabinet shuffle pre-shuffle information

There’s been a lot of speculation in Ottawa this week about the imminent cabinet shuffle as a number of ministers have announced their retirement from federal politics. Here’s what we know.

Shuffle date:
We’re hearing that the shuffle is now scheduled for tomorrow (Monday)

Who is out:
Confirmed retirements: Toews (Public Safety), Ablonczy (DFATD, Consular affairs), Menzies (Associate minister of finance), Ashfield (Fisheries, ACOA)

Likely retirements: Kent (Environment), Ritz (Agriculture), O’Connor (Whip)

With O’Connor retiring, we’ve independently confirmed that Pierre Poilievre is getting the promotion and will sit as the other National Capital Region minister in cabinet with John Baird.

I’ve also heard that MacKay will be shuffled in a one-for-one swap where his legal skills will be of use (likely Justice). This was a shuffle certainty a while ago but this might have changed since.

With Ashfield out, Rob Moore is his likely (but unconfirmed) replacement.

Nobody expects Jim Flaherty to be shuffled out of Finance as his intention is to balance the budget by the next election.

We’re told the Prime Minister had fireside chats with members of his cabinet and from caucus to discuss their future plans. Older ministers who are retiring have been asked to step aside for new blood. Older ministers who have not indicated an intention to retire may have been asked to do the same (Kent). The only exception to this might be Flaherty and Oliver (both are in critically important political files at key junction points — Flaherty and budget balance and Oliver on the KXL decision).

One of my sources on the cabinet shuffle told me to expect a lot of new faces in cabinet.

Shelly Glover has been spotted in Ottawa today. She is a Manitoba MP who many observers speculate will be occupying a chair at Prime Minister Harper’s cabinet table.

I will update this post as I learn more.

HuffPo shows its cards

Here’s the latest leftwing click-bait from the Huffington Post on offer today,

Stephen Harper’s Wireless Petition Probably Just Trolling For Your Personal Data

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants you to know he’s on your side in the epic battle of consumers against Big Telecom’s big wireless bills.
 
Or maybe it’s the Conservative Party trying to get your name and email address, so they can spam you with political ads.
 
Either way, a post appeared on Harper’s Facebook page Wednesday linking to a Conservative Party petition called “Standing Up For Wireless Consumers.”
 
The Facebook post urges people to “sign the petition if you believe Canadians will benefit from more choice and greater competition among wireless providers.”

Oh, is that so? Here’s Marc Garneau’s Liberal Party data-collection petition on Usage Based Billing. Huffington Post stories about the Liberal Party’s creepy data collection efforts? 0.

And here’s an NDP petition (data collection website) against extra fees on cellphone bills. Huffington Post cynicism about political outreach by the NDP? Non-existent.

I tried to find a Green Party petition on wireless usage, but my wifi signal gave out.

Here, Huffington Post writes about Avaaz’s data-collection website for collecting the email addresses of Sun News haters. As a cynical news story about the political process of issue identification and data collection? No! It was written as a news story about the critiques of Sun News.

There is a trend among Ottawa journalists to write about the political processes as if they were recently unearthed from some dank pit from behind Karl Rove’s creepy house (the one with the unhinged screen door that has the tear). These tried-and-true political tactics are repackaged to ignorant readers in an alarm-raising tone.

BREAKING NEWS! Did you know that Conservatives do GOTV?

BREAKING NEWS! Did you know that Conservatives keep a database of their supporters?

BREAKING NEWS! Did you know that Conservatives call people to identify their levels of support?

BREAKING NEWS! Conservatives use American-style robocalls!

BREAKING NEWS! Did you know that Conservatives use social advertising on segments to test messaging?

BREAKING NEWS! Did you know that Conservatives use petitions to do issue identification?

BREAKING NEWS! Any political party that hopes to win an election in the modern era will do all of the above.

BREAKING NEWS! Obama does it too? Well, nevermind then. He’s doing the best he can.

One or the other

There’s an election in Canada. And the classic divide is between two parties.

One party has been endorsed by the National Post, the other by the Globe and Mail.

One party accuses the other of racism, sexism and homophobia, while the other party acuses the other of runaway spending, patronage and corruption.

One party is supported by Preston Manning, the other by Joe Clark.

One party is looking to end a political dynasty, the other is desperately looking to hold on to the same.

One party advises voters cast ballots based on their values, the other urges voters to vote strategically to stop their opponents.

One party raises issues relevant to the actual interests of the electorate, the other raises red herrings such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

One party has support in a diversity of places, the other is dug in in urban centres.

One party has the support of small business owners and frontline workers, while the other has traded favours for union support.

One party is rooted in Alberta’s character, while the other takes direction from downtown Toronto.

One could have been describing the past,

or the present.

Liberals vs. Liberals

Today, the Prime Minister stated that more Canadians are working today than before the global economic crisis hit.

Dalton McGuinty’s Chief of Staff on Twitter:

Did you know Ontario has recovered 96% of the jobs lost during the recession? It’s true, and shows the plan is working.

From Global Toronto:

The NDP would scrap $850 million a year in planned corporate tax cuts of $1.4 billion this year and $1.8 billion next year to offset the lost HST revenue, said Leader Andrea Horwath.

“The HST is simply a shifting of tax burden off the corporate sector onto the backs of individuals,” she said.

“We would claw back the corporate tax cuts the government has implemented and cancel the future ones.”

Scrapping such a big slice of corporate tax cuts would hurt the fragile economic recovery by raising taxes on the struggling forestry and automotive sectors, warned Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

“It is about the most short-sighted, dumb public policy pronouncement one can envision,” said Duncan.

Dwight Duncan is the Ontario Finance Minister.

Meanwhile Michael Ignatieff suggests freezing corporate tax cuts. And Scott Brison is none too pleased about the Conservative record and believes that the federal Liberals can do better.

UPDATE: David Akin asks the question,

Alright, I admit it. When a journalist asked Liberal Finance Critic Scott Brison a devastatingly worded question there was no way to answer safely, I smiled.

Here’s the question put by Sun Media’s David Akin:

“The Liberal finance minister in Ontario was asked this week about corporate tax cuts, his program. The NDP there would like tax cuts to be cancelled and his response was, and I’m quoting now, ‘It is about the most short-sighted, dumb public policy pronouncement one can envision to cancel corporate tax cuts,’ and I wondered if he knows something you don’t.”

Frankly, any honest reporter would admit there is great pleasure in seeing a politician squirm because of your question. Upon hearing the question, Brison did squirm. Then his response went from refusing comment to repeating his line that the previous Liberal government in Ottawa cut corporate taxes when the government was in surplus and he called on the current Conservative crowd to adopt that same policy and cancel the cuts scheduled to go into effect next year. All in all, Brison made the best of a situation he couldn’t win. When your provincial cousins call your policy “short-sighted” and “dumb” what possible response can you give? Something tells me there were probably some interesting calls between Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park not long after Brison’s news conference.

Omar Khadr questions for Jack Layton, Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff

Mr. Layton, now that Omar Khadr is a convicted and sentenced murderer, do you believe that a future Canadian government will owe an official apology to him? And since you’re running to be Prime Minister, will you take the initiative to do so should you lead a future government?

Mr. Harper, your government acted in concert with opposition parties to expedite legislative reform on pardons earlier this year. Given Khadr’s sentence and reported plea deal, what is your government going to do on judicial reform to delay his repatriation? What was your government’s role (if any) in the plea negotiation? If the government had a role, what were its objectives and how probable was an alternative less desirable outcome?

Mr. Ignatieff, which is the travesty of justice in your view? The detention, trial, conviction and incarceration of Omar Khadr? Or that Omar Khadr will only serve what is projected by some to be two years of a 40 year sentence for murder that was handed down by a jury in a US military tribunal today?

UPDATE: The NDP’s justice critic Joe Comartin is on the record regarding his party’s position (pre-conviction and sentencing),

“The thing they should do is (give him) a whole chunk of money, much as they had to (with) Maher Arar, because there is nobody who believes Omar Khadr has any chance of being acquitted in a military tribunal and he will probably be sentenced to a lengthy period of time inprison in the U.S.,” he said. “They could compensate him for all those years that he is going to lose.”

Michael Ignatieff silent on Nobel Prize Committee’s “Megaphone Diplomacy” with China

Jailed Chinese pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Xiaobo was arrested in 2008 for being an author of “Charter 08″, a manifesto demanding greater free speech, improved human rights, and open and free elections in China. His award is a statement for those seeking democratic reform in the world’s most populous nation and is a positive impetus for liberty in the world.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following statement regarding Xiaobo’s prize,

“Our government has expressed concerns in the past about his imprisonment…

I would hope the fact that he is now a Nobel Peace Prize winner would cause our friends in the Chinese government to look seriously at that issue of his release from prison.

But, as I say, I think more than anything, we’re delighted for him and send him our congratulations.”

In the past, the Prime Minister’s vocal criticism of China over its human rights record has been a point of conflict between Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Harper.

Ignatieff, during a tour to China earlier this year criticized the Prime Minister,

[A Chinese student] said Ignatieff properly praised China for pulling so many people out of poverty with the success of its economic engine, but he had avoided saying anything substantial about human rights challenges, “the fact, for example, that there are many activists currently imprisoned for no apparent reason. He just avoided that.”

In an interview, Ignatieff said he didn’t believe in “megaphone” diplomacy — a reference to Prime Minister Harper’s early, high-profile, public criticisms of China on human rights.

The Nobel Prize Committee released this statement regarding its awarding of the 2010 Peace Prize to Xiaobo,

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2010
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the “fraternity between nations” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.

Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world’s second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Scope for political participation has also broadened.

China’s new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.

For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

Michael Ignatieff released a statement congratulating Barack Obama on his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize the day it was announced that the US president had won it. However, it’s Monday, and Ignatieff has yet to weigh in on the Nobel Committee’s bold statement that may promote positive change and more freedom in China.

Liberal Meme Watch

Liberal Meme: Stephen Harper is not the internationalist that Michael Ignatieff is, the latter more worldly, well-traveled and well-lettered. Stephen Harper has tarnished Canada’s reputation on the international stage through a style that eschews Canada’s traditional “nuanced” approach and “honest-broker” status.

Today’s sighting of this Liberal meme: Susan Delacourt’s blog

Susan Delacourt publishes screenshots from the UN webcast and CTV newsnet that show the differences between the audiences that Stephen Harper, Barack Obama and the President of Switzerland received at the UN. As you can see from Delacourt’s blog, PM Harper’s speech wasn’t very well attended while Obama’s speech and that of the Swiss President were packed.

You see, as the tipster (one presumes) that sent Susan the screenshots would argue, Michael Ignatieff would have packed the house and could convince the world to welcome Canada back to the the cocktail parties in midtown Manhattan!

However, the presumed tipster neglected to send other screenshots of the audiences received by other leaders. These pictures would have helped put things in more context:


China – a permanent member of the UN security council and most populous nation


Iraq – certainly the focus of much international attention over the past few years


Malawi – larger audience. Why? Switzerland preceded Obama’s speech and Malawi followed it. (delegates were probably still gathering their briefcases before ditching the Malawi speech)

So the audience sizes are more related to the ability of the US to draw a crowd. Isn’t context important? If Canada was snubbed, was China snubbed, was Iraq snubbed?

Most notable previous use of the media to falsely push this Liberal meme: Stephen Harper snubbed at the White House! (do check out the link)

You can almost sense the Ignatieff envy.

Journalist shows up at wrong event, writes juicy story for Ottawa reporters

One of the favourite narratives of the Ottawa media is that the Prime Minister doesn’t talk to them on enough occasions. This, of course lazily and unfairly extends to “doesn’t talk to reporters”. However, while some in Ottawa may yearn for more face-time with the PM, the PM’s comms focus has always prioritized local and regional news to get the story told outside of the “Ottawa bubble” and outside of the pack mentality of some in the Ottawa press gallery.

Yet, here’s a local reporter, getting a lot of buzz in Ottawa this morning among my fellow flacks and hacks on Twitter. Brad Bird’s story about a Prime Ministerial “snub” at a shellfish research centre in BC fits the Ottawa press narrative but has me a bit puzzled because it goes against the PMO local media outreach strategy. Or does it? Local reporter Brad Bird wrote,

For the media it was an odd dance, since no talking with the PM was permitted, and he allowed but that single comment to acknowledge them, during the quarter-hour allowed.

“Give ya 30 bucks if ya ask a question,” one scribe said to another. But it wasn’t that easy. He was too far away for that, and engaged with others. Interrupting would have been rude.

Reporters gathered for an event and no questions? Why? Here’s the event notice from the PMO that went out to all reporters,

September 7, 2010
Ottawa, Ontario

Public events for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Wednesday, September 8th are:

Deep Bay, British Columbia

1:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will Tour the Vancouver Island University Centre for Shellfish Research. He will be joined by James Lunney, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Alberni.

Vancouver Island University
Deep Bay Field Station
Deep Bay, British Columbia

*Photo Opportunity Only

There are no questions at photo ops of course, but can we really have a PM that only does photo ops? Oh wait. There were two media avails later that day. From the same notice,

Nanaimo, British Columbia

3:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make an announcement at Nanaimo’s Cruise Ship Berth. He will be joined by Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway; and James Lunney, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Alberni.

Nanaimo Port Authority – Assembly Wharf
11 Port Way
Nanaimo, British Columbia

*Open to Media

NOTES:

• Media are required to present proper identification for accreditation.

Victoria, British Columbia

6:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will deliver remarks. He will be joined by Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway; and Gary Lunn, Minister of State for Sport.

Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University
2005 Sooke Road
Victoria, British Columbia

*Open to media

NOTES:

• Media are required to present proper identification for accreditation.

From Bird’s article,

This wasn’t Jean Chretien, who enjoyed engaging with media.

Chretien would come over and talk to us. Sometimes he’d get all choked up about it, or someone else would, he was that intimate.

If Bird remembers the days of Chretien, surely he’s enough of a press vet to know the difference between a photo op and a media avail?

UPDATE (2/25/2011): Brad Bird sends me an email and I’ve received his permission to publish it below.

For what it’s worth…

My sources are telling me that this Hill Times story about Bruce Carson being Prime Minister Harper’s next Chief of Staff just isn’t true.

Bruce Carson wasn’t even in Ottawa last weekend.

The Hill Times reported today:

Conservative insiders say they expect to see a “softer side” from Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Bruce Carson as his new chief of staff after news broke last week that current chief of staff Guy Giorno is leaving the job.

Mr. Carson, the executive director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment and former senior adviser in the PMO, was in Ottawa last weekend meeting with Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and sources told The Hill Times that the Prime Minister will hire him to bring a less adversarial approach to politics when Parliament resumes later this month.

UPDATE: Hill Times publishes online retraction: Carson not expected to replace Giorno as chief of staff