Here are five important takeaways from today’s Cabinet shuffle. As the old saying goes, 'plus ca change, plus c'est la même chose'.
1. Economic (In)action Plan
Canadians hoping the government would signal willingness to address pressing economic concerns such as growing inequality, rising youth unemployment, a manufacturing crisis, and the rise of precarious work will be disappointed.
Most of the key economic files (Finance, Natural Resources, Trade, and Treasury) did not change. The Prime Minister appears committed to staying the course on ill-considered oil pipeline proposals and the negotiation of as-yet murky trade deals as the lynchpins of his economic vision.
2. Pierre Poilievre as Minister of State for... democratic reform?
At a time when democratic crises are undermining Canadian’s faith in government, one would expect to see some serious action taken to improve accountability. We are not likely to get that, as Mr. Harper today appointed partisan-extraordinaire Pierre Poilievre as Minister of State (Democratic Reform).
Poilievre, remember, recently argued that former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright did an “exceptionally honourable thing” by paying Senator Mike Duffy's Senate expenses with a personal $90,000 cheque. The unapologetic MP is also known for his handling of questions in Parliament around the in-and-out scandal and is a vocal proponent for the anti-democratic, Republican-style ‘right-to-work’ legislation.
3. Environmental "radicals" take note: Joe Oliver remains
Canadians should welcome the departure of perhaps Canada’s worst Environment Minister ever, Peter Kent, from Cabinet. But temper the excitement, as there is little sign that there will be any changes to the government’s deplorable approach.
Controversial anti-environmentalist and pipeline-pusher, Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, remains in his post and thus we can expect the primacy of unbridled resource extraction to stay, too.
4. The gender gap
It is certainly welcome to see four new women join cabinet; but women still make up only 17% of the Conservative’s 164 sitting MPs. Disappointingly (and tellingly) there is still no dedicated Minister for the Status of Women despite the persistent and unacceptable gender gap in this country.
The new Cabinet also remains under-representative of the ethnic and cultural diversity of Canada, particularly of visible minority groups and francophone Quebeckers.
5. The farce of real "generational change"
Yes, Mr. Harper has added some relative youth to the bench. But all in all, the shuffle brings little that is new or inspiring in terms of a vision for Canada's future.
Mr. Harper had no aces in the deck to play in this shuffle. From the economy to environment, on democracy and accountability, what the re-jigged Cabinet signals is more of the same.