- Dan Gardner nicely sums up how any Con cabinet shuffles are utterly irrelevant since Stephen Harper prefers ciphers to functional ministers in any event:
In the past, parties in power always had factions, and ministers with their own political clout, and these provided at least a modest check on the power of the prime minister. “In the old Progressive Conservative (party), you had Flora MacDonald who ran for the leadership and had her own base of support. You had Joe Clark, who was a former prime minister,” Hicks says. When Mulroney said he was going to cut foreign aid, Clark threatened to resign. Mulroney backed down. That’s inconceivable today.- And the Economist (which, let's not forget, managed to make the "Mr. Dithers" label stick to Paul Martin) is also rather less than impressed with Harper's anti-democratic actions - including a "tendency to play fast and loose with the rules".
There’s nothing like this in the Conservative party because it is new and Stephen Harper built it from the ground up. “It’s a corporation in which one person controls all the mechanisms for fundraising, for distribution, for marketing, for organizing nomination contests in everybody’s riding. It’s all centralized. That’s unique to this party.”
Harper has never had to deal with ministers who wield their own political clout. “The closest one you had was Peter MacKay,” thanks to his leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. But when the PMO told MacKay he couldn’t hire the man he wanted to be his chief of staff, MacKay bit his lip and did as he was told. Ever since, he’s been a loyal soldier. Today, he has the political stature of a hobbit.
Next to the prime minister, all the cabinet ministers do. That’s not an accident. Napoleon suffers no rivals.
So what are reformers left with? We’ll have to wait — for the Emperor to meet his Waterloo in 2015, or to retire when it pleases him.
- Aaron Wherry starts digging through the 2011 Canadian Election Survey data and finds yet more evidence that actual voters need less convincing to consider the NDP as an option than some seem to want to claim:
During the campaign and in a post-election survey, the CES asked for respondents to identify their second-choice party and in both cases the NDP bested all other parties—28.4% during the campaign and 28.7% after. During the campaign, respondents were asked if there was a party they would never vote and only 10.4% identified the NDP (compared to 18.8% for the Liberals and 33.1% for the Conservatives).- Which is to say that there isn't any reason to think for a second that trying to change the NDP's successful set of values would accomplish much of anything. But as Bruce Anderson notes, if there was ever a need for the NDP to try to look more moderate, the Cons' hard-right radicalism is largely doing the job already.
- Finally, Pat Atkinson points out that we can't take Medicare for granted. And that of course holds true for all of the social gains that are now under attack by corporate interests who look to the robber-baron era as a model.