Saturday, December 30, 2006

To Premier: Wrong Marshall in

Premier Williams has announced that Tom Marshall, Minister of Justice, will leave that post to take over Finance leaving Tom Rideout to do double duty as acting Justice minister on top of Fisheries/Aquaculture.

This can't be more than temporary and the fact that Rideout is only the acting minister of Justice seems to indicate that. But why didn't Premier Williams just bite the bullet and make the permanent moves now? There are three reasons I can think of.

The first one is timing. There is no rush to get an election cabinet in place and there's no doubt that's what the next cabinet will be. In any case, the dead period between Christmas and New Years is not the optimal time for this announcement to have maximum impact.

So whatever plans the Premier has in mind, he's wise to hold off until just before the House opening.

Then there's the question of what to do with who. I've already suggested the return of Elizabeth Marshall to cabinet in the Finance post but I suspect that won't be happening. In answering a question on just that issue, the premier passed up on yet another chance to praise his most valuable, capable and competent non-cabinet member in favour of a bland "all the caucus are competent" remark.

That begs the question of what it will take for the Premier to recognize the simple fact on which virtually all political observers of all political stripes agree - that his cabinet would be immeasurably stronger with Ms. Marshall on the inside.

Then there is the possibility that he simply does not want any of his backbenchers to move up because they are, in his view, incompetent, untrustworthy, unreliable or useless*.

But as thin as his choices might be, there are some very competent choices. Shawn Skinner, for one, springs to mind. God knows Mr. Skinner has taken every opportunity to defend the Premier against all comers (including me).

In the end, the premier's choices are no thinner than they have been for any other Premier.

It may be that he simply is not sure who to put in what spot and so will take the time he needs to take to firm up a final decision. His remarks that "So from that perspective. it's a chance for new people to come in, new blood, new infusion" may point to the unusual move of recruiting new cabinet ministers from the outside (as suggested by Bond Papers) and placing them in safe seats.

Only time will tell what will happen.

There is one other thing worth noting. A sign that a person's alcohol consumption is out of control and needs to be reined in is when it interferes with normal life and regular functioning.

If maintaining a political grudge is the reason why Elizabeth Marshall has not invited back into cabinet then clearly that kind of political grudge-holding is interfering with the optimal functioning of this government on behalf of the people of this province; it's time to put it aside.


* In fact, like any caucus, there are stars, journey-people and those who would never see the inside of a ministerial suite unless they broke in under cover of night.

There's an old joke about NL cabinet formation which, in fairness, applies to most if not all provinces. It used to be thought that building a cabinet was about building political coalitions or balancing left/right or rural/urban or Catholic/Protestant.

On the contrary, the Premier looks at his caucus, eliminates all the obvious fools and what's left is the cabinet.

No comments: