30 October 2007

And this took three weeks?

New provincial cabinet.

No major change in major portfolios.

There are a few demotions, most notably John Hickey, Tom Hedderson and Kevin O'Brien.  The latter goes from being a potentially high profile minister in a high profile department with lots of big announcements to the minister of licenses and permits.

Hedderson goes from a lead portfolio in the arts and tourism to being, essentially, the guy who sends pay cheques to our man in a Blue Line cab on behalf of the guy he really works for, namely the Premier. Intergovernmental Affairs doesn't have the profile it once had and it doesn't look like it will become a Action central in the near future.

The table - shamelessly lifted from labradore -  shows the number of ministers and parliamentary secretaries from 1996 to the present.  The figures between 1989 and 1996 are comparable to the early Tobin period on the chart.

The official excuse is that these are new times and the province's finances are in better shape.

The real reason for the increased size of cabinet, largely through the creation of minor ministries, was politics. 

The enlarged cabinet wouldn't look so obviously political if there had been some changes to the arrangement or to the faces.

rideout toqueThen again, given the lack of significant change, one wonders why the House of Assembly hasn't been called back into session or why this shuffle took three weeks. Deputy premier Tom Rideout's excuses offered up when he announced the cancellation of a fall session don't seem to hold much water in light of events. 

Keep an eye on municipal affairs.  Rumour has it there is a cabinet paper on amalgamation that was put on hold pending the election;  there's a strange line in the Tory campaign platform about "no forced amalgamation."  In the absence of any discussion of municipal amalgamation, the comment just stood out. St. John's and Mount Pearl won't be dragged to the altar but on the northeast Avalon, there's always the chance a new supercity will be crammed together out of the other towns or the existing cities will swallow up bits of their neighbours. One prime candidate for elimination:  Paradise. 

One interesting observation:  With the exception of Danny Williams, Tom Rideout and Trevor Taylor, there is no one in cabinet who was elected before 2003. Keep an eye to see if the House opens only once a year in the future. The majority of members - Opposition benches included - have such little interest in the House and display such an obvious lack of interest in being there, that they'd just as soon keep it locked tight. If that happens, democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador will take another body blow.  Don't look to the opposition benches for too many voices of genuine dissent.

Big surprise:  despite all the signs of a rapprochement and much media speculation, Beth Marshall still sits on the back benchers.