The New Cabinet

Today at Rideau Hall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper elevated three MPs to cabinet and gave one cabinet minister a new job.

Peter Kent becomes the new minister of the environment. Having weathered storms from Bali to Copenhagen, environment should cool down as an issue as the world tires of talk of slowing production during a time of austerity in Europe (and growing in the US). Further, Japan is in little mood to play green after its economic devastation. China and India don’t appear to be entertaining the notion of joining the coalition of the cooling either.

Ted Menzies gets a new cabinet post created just for him. His new business cards say that he’s the minister of state for Finance. This is a reward for an MP who is well liked among his caucus colleagues and by political watchers in Ottawa. This doesn’t necessarily refocus on increased activity in Finance, this is more a move to put a good man into cabinet.

Diane Ablonczy moves to Minister of State for the Americas to replace Peter Kent. The job is a busy one with much travel. A year ago the devastating Haitian earthquake hit, pushing much responsibility on this portfolio. While the principle responsibility for Haiti lies with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the political coordination among the states of the Americas is important as the rebuilding is underway. Indeed, there are always political fires burning in the western hemisphere.

Julian Fantino, former OPP commissioner, star candidate and rookie MP, gets a starter ministry with Minister of State for Seniors. He replaces Ablonczy in this job. Many predicted that he would be immediately elevated to Public Safety, Justice or Citizenship, however, these are too serious and involved for a freshman. The PM is putting Fantino in so that he can find his feet first in the cabinet environment.

Interesting note: While Menzies gets a new post as MOS (Finance), Guergis was not replaced in cabinet with a stand-alone minister at Status of Women. That responsibility still lies with Rona Ambrose who also is in charge of Public Works.

With the promotion of Peter Kent and Julian Fantino in cabinet, Stephen Harper is knocking loudly on Toronto’s York region door. It seems that the PM thinks that the path to majority seems will be blazed anew through the Toronto wilderness and less and less through Quebec as previously thought. This past year has been one of modern conservative firsts in the Big Smoke; the election of Julian Fantino and Rob Ford as mayor have shown that Torontonians (and those in the surrounding areas) are getting tired of their representation as usual.

York region has considerable influence in this latest refresh of the Prime Minister’s cabinet. This cabinet has a full minister and minister of state from York region in cabinet while as a region, southwestern Ontario has but one representative.