Dion's shadow cabinet questions
[PoliticsWatch updated 4:45 p.m., January 16, 2007]
|Liberal Leader Stephane Dion
OTTAWA — Liberal
Leader Stephane Dion is expected to announce who will get key
critics jobs in his shadow cabinet on Thursday.
And who Dion chooses could reveal more about himself and his
leadership style than the people he picks.
Will Dion be a Paul Martin and build a team that excludes his
leadership rivals and is comprised mainly of his strongest
supporters? Or will he opt for an approach similar to Stephen
Harper and exclude some his strongest supporters for the sake of
experience and regional balance?
And Dion's promises to increase the role and influence of women in
politics will also be the lens that much of the media will see his
shadow cabinet picks.
Here's what to what to look for.
So far Dion has shown he plans to use his key leadership rivals in
positions inside and outside the House of Commons.
Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff, who
finished second to Dion at the convention, has already been named
deputy leader. Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, Scott
Brison and Martha Hall Findlay have all been given key
policy and outreach roles for the party in the lead-up to the
But what roles Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe will play is
still unknown. The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday that Dryden could
be the party's Indian Affairs critic, but if Dion puts Dryden in
that senior's critics role that will bump a female MP, Anita
Volpe was noticeably not present when Dion named four of his
leadership rivals to key pre-election posts in Toronto in December.
While the Toronto MP faced controversy during the leadership race
and is a favourite target of ridicule for the Tories, Volpe does
have 17 years experience in the House and was a cabinet minister in
the Martin government.
And let's not forget the three leadership candidates that did not
make it to Montreal. Maurizio Bevilacqua, Hedy Fry and
Carolyn Bennett all have cabinet experience, but supported
Bob Rae instead of Dion.
Almost 90 per cent of Liberal MPs in caucus bet on another horse in
the leadership race.
But 10 MPs backed Dion before the convention. Most of these MPs have
been in Ottawa since 1993, but not one has ever been in cabinet and
none of them are household names.
Are these MPs expecting a reward from the new Liberal leader?
Four of these MPs already have senior critics posts.
The most prominent of them is Montreal Liberal MP Marlene
Jennings, who is currently the deputy House leader for the
Liberals. Liberal MPs Bonnie Brown and Sue Barnes
also hold senior critics role in social development and justice
respectively. Because of Dion's promises to increase the influence
of women and because they backed Dion these three women are expected
to keep their current posts or get even higher profile jobs.
Liberal MP Bryon Wilfert is believed to be one of Dion's
closest associates and is expected to see his role in caucus become
greater. But where does Dion put him?
Wilfert is the party's foreign affairs critic (Asia Pacific).
Dion could replace current foreign affairs critic Keith Martin,
an Ignatieff supporter, with Wilfert. Although he was never in
cabinet, Wilfert did serve as a parliamentary secretary to Dion when
he was at environment and to Paul Martin when he was finance
minister. The Globe reported Tuesday that Ignatieff supporter David
McGuinty will be Dion's choice for environment critic and the
current grit finance critic is John McCallum, a former bank
The six other Dion supporters are currently "associate
critics" and some could see a promotion. Montreal MP Francis Scarpaleggia,
who was elected to Parliament just two years ago, is rumoured to be
Dion's choice for his Quebec lieutenant.
Veteran MP Paul Steckle is currently the associate
agriculture critic and has been a long-time member of the
agriculture committee. The current agriculture critic is former
cabinet minister Wayne Easter, who was an Ignatieff
Another veteran MP, Charles Hubbard, is also an associate
critic who previously served as a parliamentary secretary for the
ministers of transport and Indian affairs. Transport is currently
held by McGuinty, who is rumoured to be on the move. Colleen
Beaumier, elected in 93, is the associate consumer affairs
critic and previously served as a parliamentary secretary for the
The two other MPs who support Dion are Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell,
who is not running in the next election and Glen Pearson, who
won the recent byelection in London.
Striking a Balance
Another thing to watch for is if Dion decreases the size of the
current Liberal shadow cabinet. It seems everyone is a critic for
the opposition Liberals who have 49 critics and House officials as
well as 33 associate critics.
As well, will Dion increase the number of women who hold senior
critics portfolios? At the moment, 13 of the current 49 senior
critics (26 per cent) are women. Does Dion shoot for 30 per cent
female representation or will his target be even higher?
And if gender balance, trying to reward your supporters, giving a
key role to leadership rivals and finding the right fit for
portfolios was not enough of a task, Dion also has to decide just
how much he wants to renew the party.
Dion has to strike a balance by making use of Liberal veterans Ralph
Goodale, Bill Graham, Denis Coderre and Irwin
Cotler and at the same time finding prominent roles for younger
MPs such as Belinda Stronach, Dominic Leblanc, Ruby
Dhalla and Pablo Rodriguez.
Not as hard as cabinet making, but still quite a task.
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