Julian Fantino: Minister of Procurement

It was a move during the latest swearing-in of cabinet that made a few observers scratch their heads: an Associate Minister of Defence was named to cabinet, one Julian Fantino. The name of the cabinet post drew some confusion at first but then Ottawa started asking the big picture questions along with the small question of who was up and who was down.

Was this a demotion for Peter MacKay and a promotion for Julian Fantino? Ontario’s former top cop got a promotion from Seniors but splitting up Peter MacKay’s portfolio surely meant demotion, right?

Not necessarily.

While some observers have noted that MacKay is perhaps too fraternal with the Canadian Forces suggesting he was biased in his role and duty to their oversight from cabinet, word from senior government insiders is that any such concern is small and lacking much significance as they say that the Prime Minister continues to have confidence in his Minister of Defence.

Fantino’s new job quickly became known in the shorthand among Ottawa observers as the “Minister of Procurement”. But why was procurement taken off of the plate of Peter MacKay? A recently published Conference Board of Canada report notes that if the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is anchored in Halifax’s Irving shipyards rather than on the West Coast, this would mean over 11,000 jobs for the region. If MacKay oversaw a windfall for the BC shipbuilding industry it would hurt tremendously at home. On the contrary, if he was personally responsible for the same for Halifax, that would be the very example of a conflict of interest. Further, while there is absolutely nothing to suggest anything untoward in the present context, the MacKays have previously had bad luck in association with military procurements on the East Coast.

Cabinets are built upon geography among other incidental characteristics. Landlocked Julian Fantino removes some of the political disaster potential for Peter MacKay. As MacKay has been a solid workhorse and star minister in Stephen Harper’s cabinet, the appointment of Fantino was proactively defensive.

Bad move Christy Clark

Trading a sales tax cut for a corporate tax increase? This is bad tax policy from the Premier of BC. The HST has been a thorny and populist issue. The NDP is against it and when it was brought it many people saw it as a cynical move because former Premier Gordon Campbell brought it in just after the previous election. The Liberals are trying to neutralize it as an issue, but the move is a definite nod to the left of that coalition. The language Clark uses shows the bias of the decision against “big businesses”. A tax cut should be a welcome thing, however it is offset with a tax increase. Instead, it should be offset with a reduction in spending and strategic review of redundant and wasteful programs in the province.

Ralph Goodale is hilarious

The latest from the Regina Monologues,

“The most costly Cabinet in Cdn history would be the best place for Treasury Bd Tony Clement to start chopping. #cdnpoli” — @RalphGoodale

Stephen Harper’s cabinet is equal in size to the largest cabinets of Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin.

Guess who served in Paul Martin’s cabinet?

None other than Ralph Goodale.

A 39 member cabinet is too big, but where one stands is often where one sits. And sit he did, around Martin’s comically large cabinet table.

When Goodale and Martin were in office, they oversaw the cost-overrun from the billion dollar boondoggle that was the long-gun registry.

Only now it seems that Ralph Goodale is interested in trimming the fat.

Perhaps we should ask Goodale about the unnecessary bureaucratic costs of the Canadian Wheat Board?

Cabinet shuffle and senate appointments

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed his cabinet yesterday, and to the surprise of many, three Senators to the Upper Chamber were named just seconds after his press conference concluded at Rideau Hall.

What can be said that hasn’t already been said? Cabinet is too big and government spending needs to come down. Tony Clement’s appointment in Treasury Board is a good one; he’s been the PM’s hatchet man for a while and if the PM is serious about cuts, Clement will get it done. I’ve heard that strategic review may extend beyond 5% per department to eliminate the deficit earlier. Hopefully, this talk about the Tories balking on this promise from the campaign is just the classic lowering of expectations before over-delivering gambit that we usually see every budget.

Leona Aglukkaq’s appointment as Health minister shows that as serious health reforms come due in the next two years, the PM will likely quarterback many of these decisions from Langevin block.

John Baird’s appointment as Minister of the Lester B. Pearson building on Sussex means that some good Conservative changes to that institution are coming.

Maxime Bernier’s reappointment to cabinet in Small Business and Tourism is particularly encouraging. If Bernier delivers some proactive wins in that department, he should see himself moved up to full minister soon.

The Senate appointments of three losing candidates is disappointing. Apparently Josee Verner, Larry Smith and Fabian Manning all support Senate reform but it’s high time we see some real action and wins on this front. I think the PM may be building popular support against the Senate in its present form, a sort of reverse psychology on the electorate. Making real reforms to the Other Place will require the momentum from a critical mass of Canadians. When the PM proposes legislation, the NDP will look quite foolish if they oppose it. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall criticized yesterday’s appointments and called them cynical, but it will require the will of Wall and his colleagues to have Senate nominee elections. One terrible hold-out has been Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach who fears the rise of Wild Rose partisan Senate nominees elected from that province.

As a communications strategy, the move was debated either as good or as bad. Those that argued it bad suggested that the PM big-footed the positive news of cabinet with the Senate story. I’d argue that the move was going to draw much criticism so pairing it with the cabinet appointments allowed the good story to jump on the grenade of the bad.

Next steps

The conservative movement is cautiously optimistic. Many had been holding their fire, guarding their words on a sincerely conservative agenda for Canada. For the movement, the minority Conservative government was an unhatched egg: great potential but ready to be scrambled by the opposition parties, useful idiots, and the media. Now that the egg has hatched, it’s time to teach this Conservative majority government bird how to fly. Parliamentary survival is no longer on the minds of movement conservatives, good policy is, at this time, the only concern.

Now that a plurality of Canadians has granted this government a majority mandate, we have an opportunity to show Canadians the maturity of the conservative movement and show that our ideas are actually quite common among the Canadian electorate. Lower taxes, deficit and debt elimination, and large moves to end the entitlement culture of Canada should be the primary objectives of and truly Conservative government. And for the conservative movement, our job is now two-fold: encouraging and scolding good and bad behavior respectively of this government, and ensuring an environment where future generations of Conservative governments can hatch.

The conservative movement should be a greater influence on the agenda of this government than the NDP in opposition. The conservative movement should also aim its efforts on encouraging Canadians to be more demanding of conservative ideas. If we are vocal and active, we should be able to accomplish much in the next four years and see the re-election of a sincerely Conservative government.

Why any of this matters

Today, when I woke up for an early flight this morning it was raining.  A grey morning with a crisp fresh air that has already briskly permeated a few days in our nation’s capital, these days bring renewal of a long anticipated spring ahead.

Indeed, it is easy to take such days for granted; life comes easy for most in our country, but today though we are blessed to live unburdened, we should not forget how we got to this May 2nd.

It was another day, nearly ten years ago that my generation reached its definitive moment; on a sunny and clear day in September four planes cut through the sky and into steel, glass and soil scarring the American and global psyche and challenging the very nature of the ideals we always strive to live but until that day had long since appreciated in full.

Last night at 11:35 pm in the East Wing of the White House, President Obama announced what many Americans thought they’d never hear.  The monster that masterminded the attacks of September 2001 had finally been brought to justice.  This century’s greatest coward met his end in a hail of bullets delivered by US Navy SEALs yesterday in a city 30 miles North of Islamabad.

I’m thinking of Captain Nichola Goodard this morning.  Nichola was an ordinary Canadian girl like any other; she was an outdoor enthusiast, a kind mother to her cats and dogs and sweetheart to her husband Jason.  Affectionately known as “Carebear” to her friends at home, this hometown all-Canadian girl was revered as a warrior to her brothers and sisters in the Canadian Forces.  Her LAV took gunfire in the Panjwaye District of Afghanistan in a pitched battle. Capt Goddard was fatally wounded and was Canada’s first female combat fatality.  Today, Capt Goddard’s sacrifice weighs heavily on my mind.

I am also thinking of Fawzia Koofi, Afghanistan’s most popular female Member of Parliament. While Capt. Goddard and Koofi had likely never met, these two have worked together to advance the liberty and hope of countless women in that Central Asian oft-forgotten country.  At great personal risk, Koofi stresses social and political change in a nation that is shamed by its history of brutal neglect and abuse that has high rates of infant and maternal mortality exacerbated by malnutrition and girls married off before they have reached their teenage years.  Now, while progress is slow, it is taking root; millions of girls are going to school.  Koofi’s has two daughters that reflect a changing mood; one wants to go into science and the other politics like her mom.  Koofi’s own ambitions may see her in a bid for the Presidency in 2014.

Today is election day in Canada.  Millions will vote and millions will wonder why they should be bothered. While take our spring days for granted, lest we forget the fall.  We are blessed with liberty and as a consequence, granted an easy path to let it drift into neglect.  There is no more poignant a reminder of our base responsibility as citizens than the violent exit of a sadist that brought ordinary people to accomplish the selflessly extraordinary.

Osama bin Laden is dead

Reaction from world leaders:

Barack Obama (United States):

Stephen Harper (Canada):

Julia Gillard (Australia):

I welcome the death of Osama bin Laden, I welcome this news, and I thank President Obama and the US forces who have made this possible

David Cameron (United Kingdom):

The news that Osama bin Laden is dead will bring great relief to people across the world. Osama bin Laden was responsible for the worst terrorist atrocities the world has seen – for 9/11 and for so many attacks, which have cost thousands of lives, many of them British. It is a great success that he has been found and will no longer be able to pursue his campaign of global terror. This is a time to remember all those murdered by Osama bin Laden, and all those who lost loved ones. It is also a time too to thank all those who work round the clock to keep us safe from terrorism. Their work will continue. I congratulate President Obama and those responsible for carrying out this operation.

Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel):

This is a resounding triumph for justice, freedom and the values shared by all democratic nations fighting shoulder to shoulder in determination against terrorism.

John Key (New Zealand):

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Newspaper endorsements for #elxn41

The Globe and Mail:

Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have shown the leadership, the bullheadedness (let’s call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs. He has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper’s successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.

The National Post:

In other words, if the Tories do not get a majority, we could end up with a government led by quasi-separatist socialists, propped up by full-blown separatists and leavened by a rudderless Liberal party in a state of leadership flux. No one has any real idea what such a government would look like. And so the only way we can guarantee stability is if the Tories win at least 155 seats

The Toronto Star:

The New Democrats have been reinvigorated under the leadership of Jack Layton. After Monday, they may well challenge the Liberals as the principal national standard-bearer for the roughly two voters in three who disagree fundamentally with the course charted by the Harper Conservatives. Progressive voters should give them their support on Monday.

Sun Media:

If a Harper majority is not achieved, however, we shudder at the destructive path Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals or Jack Layton’s NDP — alone or in cahoots — will take by refusing to address the over-sated public service, refusing to reduce taxation, and then pushing the deficit to truly unaffordable heights.

Montreal Gazette:

In light of how this election campaign has unfolded, and what it has told us about the strengths and weaknesses of the parties and their leaders, it appears the optimal party to form a majority government is Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. During the five years they have held minority office, the Harper Conservatives have been rightly criticized for a panoply of failings, including Harper’s rigid centralization of power in the prime minister’s office, his government’s excessive obsession with law-and-order legislation and prison-building, and its insufficient concern with climate change and green energy development. However, the Conservatives have kept Canada on an even economic keel to the point where, in this post-recession world, its economic indicators are among the most positive on the planet. Furthermore, the Conservatives are the only party likely to have strong representation in all regions of the country, a highly desirable feature of a national government.

Vancouver Province:

[W]e are urging British Columbians on Monday to vote in a Conservative majority government. After four federal elections in less than seven years that produced dysfunctional minority governments, Canada needs a stable majority government to move forward.

Winnipeg Free Press:

Canada needs political stability to grow its economy and sort out its affairs, particularly its finances and soaring health-care costs. The most certain way Canada will get the stability and policies it needs now is by electing a majority Conservative government on Monday.

Hamilton Spectator:

This election, The Spectator’s editorial board feels closest to that latter group. We believe Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are the best and most logical choice to form the next government of Canada. But we come to that conclusion not easily, not with great pleasure, and certainly with some trepidation.

Brampton Guardian:

Canadians on Monday will once again be asked to make a decision on who should govern this country and it’s a chance once and for all for the minority status of the Stephen Harper government to end.

Harper is not lovable or sexy, but he deserves a majority and a chance to lead the country to a complete economic recovery and beyond— a recovery that his government is partly responsible for and which is the envy of the industrialized world.

Le Devoir:

La perspective du Bloc est différente. Elle consiste à s’appuyer sur les consensus qui s’élaborent à l’Assemblée nationale et à ne rendre de comptes qu’aux Québécois. Il est un parti souverainiste qui agit à l’intérieur du Canada, ce qui, aux yeux de certains, est une contradiction. Celle-ci n’est qu’apparente. Sa présence est de plein droit et il incarne dans l’enceinte parlementaire le caractère distinct du Québec. Certes, il a choisi d’oeuvrer dans l’opposition, mais ce travail, il le fait avec conviction et efficacité depuis 20 ans.

Edmonton Journal:

Also, it’s time we were able to judge the Conservatives by what they actually do with a majority, rather than by what opponents say they’d do. The betting here is that a wish to be re-elected in four years would keep the “hidden agenda” hidden. But either way, in four years we’d be able to vote based on reality instead of supposition.

Maclean’s:

Much of the resistance to a Conservative majority is based on the perception that it’s something to be feared. But it would be foolish to let ephemeral, poorly founded fears stampede us into an embrace with positive risks to our prosperity.

Vancouver Sun:

The Conservative government has given Canada a leading role on the international stage, especially its speedy and generous response to the earthquake in Haiti and participation in military interventions led by the United Nations and NATO. Under the Conservatives, Canada has taken a principled stance on foreign policy issues, a dramatic departure from the “soft power” dogma of the Liberals.

Windsor Star:

As you prepare to cast your ballots, consider what the Conservatives have provided in terms of economic stability and growth. Assess how having Tory MPs in Ottawa can strengthen our region even more. We believe the choice is clear. A majority Conservative government works for Windsor and Essex County.

The Economist:

The Economist, like many Canadians, would be relieved if there were a better alternative to Mr Harper. But there is not.

Burlington Post/Oakville Beaver:

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government have made several well-publicized mistakes during their tenure, we still believe they are the best choice to provide strong leadership through the uncertain times that lie ahead.

Etobicoke Guardian:

We call on Canadians to vote for a Conservative majority government on May 2 – and we think the federal influence of Torontonians is in peril if there isn’t a smattering of Tory blue on the city’s election map once the election is over.

The Suburban:

It is not the policy of The Suburban to give endorsements in every election. But we feel endorsing the Harper government in this election has an import equal to our endorsement of the Equality Party in Quebec and the strong positions we took in both referendums.we believe this Conservative government best reflects Canadian values, provides robust leadership and is the best defender of a united Canada.

Sudbury Star:

Canada, is seems, is destined for another minority government. We believe the most prudent outcome is that the Conservatives remain at the head of that minority.

Waterloo Region Record:

When we weigh all the options, we conclude that despite their abundant flaws, the Conservatives, with their experience and vision, would be best for this country.

Durham Region News:

It’s time for Durham Region — and voters across the nation — to choose stability and provide Mr. Harper’s Conservatives with the coveted majority they have been patiently building towards since 2006.