Ballooning cabinet size and cost: With two new cabinet posts, Stephen Harper’s cabinet now has 38 ministers, ballooning from 27 ministers in 2006. After boasting in 2006 that a smaller cabinet would save money, Stephen Harper has let his cabinet expand by 12 ministers and allowed their office budgets to soar by 16.5% over the last two years – a $10 million increase. In fact, a dozen cabinet ministers exceeded the Treasury Board guidelines for maximum office budgets in 2009-10, including the Finance Minister who exceeded his by 17.7%.
Revolving-door environment minister: Stephen Harper has named his 5th environment minister in five years today – and still has no plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the last time Peter Kent commented on climate change was to pour cold water on the Copenhagen climate summit, saying a month in advance of the summit that the chances of a global agreement were a “long shot.”
No Status for Women: Status of Women became a part-time job when Rona Ambrose took over from Helena Guergis – and Stephen Harper missed his chance to appoint a full-time Status of Women minister.
Endorsing Julian Fantino’s controversial comments: By naming Julian Fantino to cabinet, Stephen Harper is standing behind his comparison of a democratic opposition party to the Nazi regime. Last week Mr. Fantino dug himself in deeper, saying “The whole passage in history is unpleasant. And some of the things that happened to me on my campaign were unpleasant too.”
Same-old, same-old? Dimitri Soudas spun that the Prime Minister is “staying the course” with a small shuffle – which is disappointing since the old cabinet accomplished little. Consider the incompetence of the following ministers who could have used a career change:
- Tony Clement: Stephen Harper’s most incompetent minister scrapped the long-form census, stuffed his riding with G8 pork, misled Canadians on the cost and benefits of the F-35s, and flip-flopped on rural internet cutbacks.
- Jim Flaherty: The Finance Minister ran our deficit up to a record $56 billion, has never met a deficit target during this tenure, and admitted that his latest targets won’t be met either. He is now borrowing $3 billion more to fund additional corporate tax breaks that came into effect on January 1st.
- Diane Finley: The Human Resources Minister suggested families should use “vacation time” to care for sick or aging loved ones and cut eligibility to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors – until the Liberal Party forced her to backtrack.
- Lawrence Cannon: The Foreign Affairs Minister thought Canada was a lock to win a UN Security Council seat mere hours before suffering an unprecedented embarrassment. He bungled relations with the UAE so badly that Canada was evicted from our airbase, costing taxpayers $300 million and forcing taxpayers to pay costly new visa fees.
Missed opportunities on representation:
- Quebec: There are currently only 5 cabinet ministers from Quebec. Stephen Harper chose to add additional cabinet ministers from outside Quebec, diminishing the influence of Canada’s second largest province in the Harper government with only 13% of the cabinet seats.
- Women: Paul Martin set the record for women in cabinet at 11 – which has since dropped under Stephen Harper. Today Mr. Harper passed up the opportunity to increase the number of women in cabinet, now making up only 26% of the cabinet – the lowest total in years.
- Diversity: Just before Christmas, Stephen Harper slashed funding to immigration and settlement agencies that help New Canadians find jobs, housing, and access language training. Stephen Harper did nothing today to make his cabinet more reflective of Canada’s diversity.