It looks like everyone and their dog are making cabinet predictions these days as the buzz in Ottawa is that Stephen Harper is about to shuffle his front bench. Based on a few conversations that I’ve had over the past couple of days, I’m confident enough to make a couple of predictions.
No cabinet minister will be shuffled out. When cabinet is shuffled this week, I predict that no current cabinet minister will wake up the next morning and find themselves without a driver and a ministerial portfolio. Every cabinet minister will remain a cabinet minister, but a few might find that they have different responsibilities. As an election is looming and as Harper is coordinating this news event, shuffling somebody out would give the media and the opposition an excuse to latch onto the negative speculation (why did XXXXX lose their job? etc). Underwhelming ministers in certain portfolios will be shifted to other ministerial posts instead of losing their jobs. Competent ministers will find themselves promoted to new portfolios. I also expect the shift to be on a scale from light to lightly-moderate. Since this will be an event to showcase talent, the Prime Minister will not cast a negative light onto anyone in his government.
Another good reason for the former prediction is that Harper has one of the smallest cabinets in recent history. Back in January, a few observers noted that the new Conservative Prime Minister scaled back his cabinet to just under 30 ministers. This brings me to my second prediction: cabinet will grow. It will grow by at least 2 ministers and likely by 3-5.. The Prime Minister will want to showcase talent and promote MPs from key ridings. Watch for cabinet to grow primarily from Quebec, and perhaps Ontario to a lesser degree. Cabinet will not see any new members from Alberta.