If August is the Sunday of summer, mid-July is the Saturday, when there are still chores to be done before you can lose track of what day of the week it is.
For the Liberals, that is likely to mean a cabinet shuffle next week to put in place the front bench team they will take in to the election.
For the prime minister this offers the happy prospect of burnishing his feminist credentials after recent local difficulties involving allegations he groped a woman 18 years ago.
This shuffle might not have the same carnival mood that greeted Justin Trudeau as he left Rideau Hall, flanked by his gender-balanced cabinet, after the last election. His explanation for the balance — “because it’s 2015” — encapsulated the kinder, sunnier change of direction the country had just taken. Supporters maintain the “cabinet that looks like Canada” — an equal number of men and women, not to mention a cohort of turban-wearing Sikhs, a former Afghan refugee and an Indigenous justice minister — will prove to be one of Trudeau’s lasting legacies.
But the halo has slipped, in light of the recent claims that he was guilty of some unwanted touching at a music festival in British Columbia nearly 20 years ago — an allegation that would surely have seen him booted from cabinet, were he not the one doing the booting.
So there is every likelihood that the prime minister will return to the well next week and promote some young women, preferably those who also boost the “diversity” quotient in cabinet.
The problem, at least on the surface, is that there are few vacancies and as much as the prime minister might like to retire one or two of his underperforming ministers, the prospect of a second-term majority means they are less enthusiastic about the idea than he is.
It may be that one or two do not run again — there are rumours around agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay, but if he goes, he will be replaced by another Liberal MP from Prince Edward Island — and they are all men.
There are two potential vacancies: House leader Bardish Chagger is also small business and tourism minister; science minister Kirsty Duncan has been doing double-duty as minister for sport and disabilities since Kent Hehr was demoted after allegations of sexual harassment.
Sources are tipping Mary Ng, a close friend of chief-of-staff Katie Telford who won a byelection in Markham, Ont., to be elevated. Other backbenchers from Ontario whose stars are rising include Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Ruby Sahota, MP for Brampton North and Kim Rudd, who represents the rural riding of Northumberland-Peterborough South.
Trudeau’s problem is that he has a number of other MPs due promotions, but unfortunately they are men and some are over 50.
Bill Blair, who guided the pot bill through Parliament, might expect some reward, while parliamentary secretaries like Jonathan Wilkinson, Marco Mendicino, Marc Miller, David Lametti and Steve McKinnon are all deemed to have performed well.
The latter three represent Quebec ridings and this Liberal government can never have too much representation from that province.
This would prove an intractable problem for most organizations — there are no vacancies, a limited budget and a number of ambitious team members whose energies you would prefer be directed outward, not inward.
Fortunately for Trudeau, the federal government is not most organizations. The solution, as Stephen Harper discovered in the run-up to the 2011 election, is simply to grow the cabinet. The Harper cabinet started off being 27 strong but bloated to 39, as ministers of state were added for finance, foreign affairs, transport, seniors and Western Economic Development (among others). It’s possible we could see new portfolios created to specifically cater to seniors, or green technology, or rural Canada in order to appease the Liberal caucus — and targeted voter groups.
There is also speculation that ministers who are likely to face tough election battles, like environment minister Catherine McKenna, might be taken off the front lines to allow them to spend more time in their ridings.
But MPs don’t expect major changes to the complexion of the cabinet. The feeling is that if, for example, finance minister Bill Morneau or defence minister Harjit Sajjan it would have happened before now. “I think it will be ‘steady as she goes’ with a couple of tweaks — a couple of friends of the prime minister being brought in,” said one MP.
As always, these calculations are made with a cynical eye on the electoral map, rather than what might be in the best interests of voters.
There is work to be done before we slip into the Sunday of summer. And it is likely to prove costly for the taxpayer.
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