THUNDER BAY – Prime Minister Harper has shuffled his cabinet. The move offers a fresh start for the Conservative government which has been mired in recent months. “These changes to the Ministry feature both younger Members of Parliament ready for new opportunities, and steady hands that will continue to deliver strong leadership in key portfolios. In particular, I am proud to welcome four new strong and capable women to the Cabinet table,” stated the Prime Minister in announcing his new cabinet. There are four more women into cabinet, and four new men who will now sit at the cabinet table.
The Conservatives are going to seek to put a new face on the government. It is needed. Over the past two years, the Conservatives have started to show their age, and some of the expected exhaustion that the stresses of the job of Minister entail.
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs states, “I am ecstatic at hearing the news that MP Rickford is Minister of Fednor and point person for the Ring of Fire. Minister Rickford is a good personal friend and also knows well the North and Northwest. I look forward to working closely with Greg on issues affecting Thunder Bay and area”.
While however, there are several major shifts, Peter MacKay is now the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Jason Kenney is now the Minister of Public Works. Many of the front bench members remain. James Flaherty remains at Finance. This is a portfolio that the Finance Minister wanted to keep. For the most part the efforts of the Minister while under attack from the opposition have remained solid and without a lot of controversy.
It is also likely the last major shift, barring scandal that Prime Minister Harper is likely to put in place before the next election.
The move for Greg Rickford into cabinet comes after a lot of quiet work by the Kenora MP behind the scenes. Rickford has proven himself to the Prime Minister, sometimes at the expense of his reputation in the riding. Now it will be up to Rickford to demonstrate that from the cabinet table he can raise the bar and produce the results that Northwestern Ontario needs.
Being responsible for technology should be an interesting shift for Rickford who has been working to grasp all of the intricacies of changes in the technology world. The move by the Prime Minister will also likely put Rickford and Tony Clement shoulder to shoulder to become the full face of the federal government in the Ring of Fire.
Provincial Minister for Northern Development, Michael Gravelle states that the province is seeking a bigger role from the federal government in the Ring of Fire. Minister Gravelle in a pre-shuffle interview with NNL commented that his Ministry is ready to work with the federal government to ensure that the Ring of Fire meets its full potential and benefit.
The Prime Minister is working to put the issue of Senate scandal behind his government.
It likely has rankled both the PM and the Conservative base when Conservative Senators have been accused of slurping up public funds at the public trough. Some Conservatives have commented that their future support of both the party, and the Prime Minister will depend on how fast the problems are cleaned up.
The effort forward now, has the new ministers having the time to fully grasp their new roles over the summer and likely hit the trail in September when Parliament resumes sitting, to offer the needed new directions.