Shuffling The Deck in Ottawa

Canada’s Prime Minister must be somewhat nervous this morning, as media reports over the weekend said he would be shuffling his cabinet today. It is the third time in as many months.

Cabinet shuffles used to be rare things. A Prime Minister would assemble the best talent possible and run with it. You could expect a shuffle a year before an election, with cabinet minsters planning on retiring being replaced by the best and the brightest up and comers, who were given time to learn their ministries before the vote.

It doesn’t seem to happen that way with this Prime Minister, who has already had five ministers of Veterans Affairs in a little more than three years. Maybe he didn’t start with the best talent possible. Maybe he is difficult to work with or for.

The PM shuffled his cabinet in January. In February a cabinet minister quit, in the wake of allegations the Prime Minister’s office (and perhaps the PM himself) had tried to pressure her to go against her convictions as to how she was to perform her duties. That necessitated another shuffle, which took place on a Friday.

The following Monday another cabinet minister quit, citing ethical concerns and saying she had lost confidence in the Prime Minister. That is what has prompted today’s reassigning of posts – and what has the PM nervous as he tries to figure out who should hold what position.

I am sure in the past couple of weeks he has been checking in with his MPs, making sure everyone is onside with his agenda, even if they may not be too thrilled with his leadership at the moment. The SNC-Lavalin Scandal that has been at the media forefront in Canada for six weeks now isn’t going away. Whenever PM Selfie talks about it, he seems to make things worse. His poll numbers are dropping, never and encouraging sign in an election year.

Prime Minister Selfie’s father had the same job 50 years ago. He famously referred to Opposition Members of Parliament as “nobodies.” Perhaps the son has absorbed that much of his father’s teaching and extended it to his own Members, many of whom were elected on his coattails in 2015. They must be a little worried for their jobs now that his personal brand has been brushed with scandal.

Why do I think the Prime Minister is nervous as he makes his changes? That resignation after the last shuffle must be haunting him. The timing just looked so bad.

Maybe the minister in question came to her crisis of confidence over the weekend after the February shuffle. But it must have seemed to PM selfie as if the resignation was a deliberate slap in the face to make his life more difficult. If he had known she was quitting, he could have replaced her then. Now he has to go through the process again.

There must be that nagging feeling. Are people being honest with him, or is someone else poised to quit cabinet and just waiting for this shuffle to be completed, to make him look bad? Will there be another cabinet resignation tomorrow, or the next day? Can his leadership survive another indication of non-confidence from his inner circle?

If I were a betting man, I would say that it is unlikely he will lose another cabinet minister over this current scandal. His MPs, who have already had to swallow a number of his ethical breaches, have become adept at swallowing camels.

Then again, I have been wrong before. And with a federal budget due Tuesday, the last one before the October election, it would be a huge blow should someone else quit, say on Wednesday, citing ethical concerns and the mismanagement of the economy.

So, if the man seems a little nervous today in media coverage, he has reason to be. Because he really doesn’t know what is going to happen next.

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