Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Shuffle Kerfuffle, and reading between the lines

So, there it is. A very minor shuffle; tweaking borne of necessity. With Mr. Prentice having left government, the Environment portfolio needed full-time minding. This was the principal driver for the shuffle and the main move of note.

What does all of this tell us? On the surface, not much.

- We have Mr. Kent as the newly appointed Minister of the Environment...a clear promotion.

- Ms. Ablonczy replaces Mr. Kent as Minister of State (Foreign Affairs)...essentially a lateral move, though to a role with more profile and travel.

- Mr. Menzies becomes Minister of State (Finance)...an elevation from being the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, with greater (or perhaps just additional) responsibilities.

- Mr. Fantino walks into the House and virtually straight into the Minister of State (Seniors) role vacated by Ms. Ablonczy...not the "crime and security" type role that had been envisioned, though security is probably a bigger concern to seniors so it sends a decent message.

That's what we saw. What we didn't see were any existing Ministers being moved out of their portfolios, either because of performance or due to the fact that they will not seek re-election. We also did not see any shuffling among Ministers, and the major economic portfolios were untouched.

Yes, this was essentially a "steady as she goes, let's just focus on what needs to be done" shuffle. Fair enough.

What I found more interesting was the commentary by the government and by the opposition. It's here where you don't have to read too much between the lines to see how the parties are trying to frame the ballot box question.

In terms of the government, the focus will be on the economy and their management of it through the economic downturn. Hence the messaging about "staying the course" and "time for stability."

The government's hope is that the voter sees that it has a plan and a team in place, on the job and delivering results. And just in case anyone was in doubt, it would be a coalition that would prevent the government from getting on with managing the number one priority for Canadians.

In terms of the opposition, things are inevitably more difficult. I think all parties would agree that the economy is the priority, so the key will be in making distinctions between their respective positions and that of the government.

For now I will focus on the Liberals. I think their positioning will highlight two things. First, they will focus on the choices that the government has made in its management of the economy; choices which they will argue do not reflect the priorities of Canadians.

We will see corporate tax cuts, fighter jets and prisons contrasted with investments in people, skills and social programs. Their hope will be that voters see the government's choices as out-of-step and short-sighted and not contributing to building an economy and a society for the 21st century.

Second, they will need to distinguish themselves from the NDP. This will mean continued focus on being the only real alternative to the government. This was the messaging that came out of the by-elections and it is the messaging we will see during a campaign.


1 comment:

  1. Finally back in Twitter, it drives me crazy!!

    Was reading your last post too, missed a few!
    I think it is time to let the games begin! Smooth move on the PM's part, getting ready in case an election happens this spring (I highly doubted!)It seems it was a good call with Mr. Kent and Mr. Menzies, a safe one but visible enough for Fantino.

    The Liberals need a better economic agenda, they have to go very bold with it, it's their only option if they want to get any attention, the biggest gap between voters right now is educated ones versus less educated ones and guess who is ahead? And also be a lot more aggressive denying the coalition with the NDP, if they even consider it for a second, it will be the end of the party for years to come, they are better of waiting another 4 years for the next election, than make more damage to the brand!

    Nice post!!


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