Buckler to resign top comms job in PMO


Wow. Not entirely unexpected.

Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor breaks the news:

Today, Sandra Buckler (left) informed her friends and colleagues that she’ll be leaving the Prime Minister’s office as Director of Communications. Buckler started with the PMO shortly after the Conservatives took power in February 2006 and has served the PM for 28 months. She served in the Conservative war-room during the election and was one of the most effective communicators during that time. Her skills impressed Stephen Harper and the Prime-Minister-elect hired her on as his Comms boss.

When she took the job of communications director to Harper in March of 2006, few members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery knew who she was and almost all gave her a few months — tops — before Harper would fire her, as he had done to William Stairs (the comms director who got him through the election successfully), or Geoff Norquay before him (technically quit but the Grewal affair may have exhausted him) or Jim Armour before him. Harper was getting a reputation with Comms Directors that George Steinbrenner had with managers.

In any event, she defied the pundits and lasted on the job longer than just about anyone thought she would.

Harper's chief of staff Ian Brodie is also departing at the end of this month. Presumably, it will be up to his replacement, Guy Giorno, to name a replacement for Buckler.

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What to buy the Liberal leader who has everything …

200806252242“You’re a gadget geek but you’re trying to be better about being a resource hog. You’re juggling world-changing conferences, phone calls to rally voters, hikes to save the rainforest. What’s a hyper-connected greenie to do?

Enter the solar backpack.” Do read on (H/T to the folks at one of my favourite annual conferences, PopTech)

That nightmare is your foreign affairs minister

David Emerson

I couldn't but help recall, as I stood around the entrance to Rideau Hall today, what David Emerson said on the evening of Jan. 23, 2006 as it became clear that the Liberal government in which he was a minister was clearly about to lose: “”We have got to look at this as Ground Zero for rebuilding a stronger, more vibrant, healthier, winning Liberal Party,” Emerson hoarsely shouted. “I would like to be Stephen Harper's worst nightmare.”

And now today

Emerson is widely viewed in the capital as among Harper's most capable ministers, just as he was in former prime minister Paul Martin's cabinet, where he served as industry minister. Emerson was vilified by many in his riding of Vancouver-Kingsway when, after being elected as a Liberal in the 2006 election, he crossed the floor a week later, to join Harper's first cabinet.

On the night of that 2006 election as Martin's government was falling, Emerson vowed to be “Stephen Harper's worst nightmare.” Ironically, he may have become Harper's dream minister, a reliable policy-problem solver who, among other things, chairs two powerful cabinet committees, one on Afghanistan and another on economic affairs.

First question for Minister Paradis — this one from the Greens

Newly minted Public Works and Government Services Christian Paradis is from Thetford Mines, Quebec, sometimes known as the asbestos capital of the world.

That's about the all the Green Party needed to know to be first off the mark with this tough question for the new minister:

Christian Paradis’ appointment raises new concerns over asbestos in public buildings, Greens

OTTAWA – The Green Party is expressing concern today over the appointment of Christian Paradis to the Public Works portfolio.

Mr. Paradis has made comments supporting asbestos use and has previously served as President of the Asbestos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Secretary of the Asbestos Chapter of the Management Club of Canada.

“Mr. Paradis’ history of supporting ‘safe use’ of chrysotile asbestos is very worrying,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “Many Canadians are not aware that asbestos is still legal and in use in Canada, even though ‘safe use’ of asbestos is like drinking anti-freeze safely – neither is possible. The Green Party is concerned that Mr. Paradis’ appointment may mean increased asbestos content in the construction of public buildings. Will Mr. Paradis commit to eliminating all asbestos in public projects or will he increase asbestos content in new construction?

“The Green Party has long called for an asbestos ban in Canada, safe removal of asbestos from existing buildings and an end to mining and export with a just transition strategy for workers. The federal government’s continued subsidization of the asbestos industry and funding for industry associations is a disgrace.”

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An auto industry inflection point: Mexico soon to trump Canada on production


Auto analyst Dennis Desrosiers says the day is fast approaching when Mexican factories will produce more cars and light trucks than Canadian ones.

The reason is pretty simple, says Desrosiers:

Mexico is low labour cost and Canada is now the highest labour cost jurisdiction in the world (at least in our unionized plants). Mexico wages are in the $4.50 per hour range and in response to the difficulties experienced by their OEM producers the Mexican unions have agreed to two tier wages with new workers starting at $2.00 per hour. To put this in perspective, it costs GM, Ford and Chrysler about $78 dollars an hour in Canada. Now this isn't quite fair since this includes costs for retirees and benefits costs which are NOT included in the Mexico hourly rate mentioned above but needless to say the gap between Canada and Mexico labour is massive.

Desrosiers says Mexico tends to make smaller vehicles while the larger, more valuable products are made in Canada. Of course with gas prices where they are, people are not buying the bigger cars, they're buying the small ones made in Mexico. As a result, Mexico is on pace to make about 2.2 million cars this year. Canada will likely make around 2 million. Once upon a time, Canadian factories used to make about 3 million cars a year.

Consumer and business confidence plunging

Merrill Lynch's David Wolf looks at recent consumer and business confidence surveys and says things don't look good:

Confidence measures have turned lower in both the US and in Canada. It was reported yesterday that US consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level in 15 years in June, with 6-month expectations at their worst since the mid-1960s [It was the fifth-lowest reading ever – Akin]. The NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism fell to a 28-year low. Canadian figures have scarcely been better, in line with the Q1 decline in GDP. Consumer confidence here dropped 7 points in May to 85.8, the weakest since 2001. And today, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released its latest survey of small companies, the “CFIB Business Barometer index”. The survey covers nearly 2000 business owners, and was conducted during the first two weeks of June. The results were weak ? in Q2, the index dropped to 100.7, down 3.3 points from Q1, to its weakest level since Q3 2001.

Cabinet by the numbers

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's micro-shuffle today involved David Emerson, Michael Fortier, Christian Paradis, and James Moore. It is Harper's fourth cabinet configuration. Here's some numbers on the current set-up:


Prime Minister: 1

Ministers: 26

Secretarys of State: 5


Men: 25

Women: 7


There are nine ministers who have the same jobs they had from Harper's original cabinet of February, 2006: Harper (PM), Blackburn (Labour), Thompson (Veterans Affairs), Lunn (Natural Resources), Clement (Health), Flaherty (Finance), Hearn (Fisheries), Day (Public Safety), Cannon (Transport).

Provincial breakdown:

Ontario: 10

B.C.: 6

Alberta: 6

Quebec: 5

Saskatchewan: 1

Manitoba: 1

Nova Scotia: 1

New Brunswick: 1

Newfoundland: 1

PEI: 0

Nunavut: 0

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Alright, last chance for cabinet predictions …

OK, reading what I already wrote,

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will appoint “new members of the Ministerial team” Wednesday morning, in a widely expected fine-tuning of his cabinet triggered by the resignation last month of former Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier.

The new ministers will be sworn in at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General, at 11 a.m.

Christian Paradis, a rookie MP from Quebec who is the Secretary of State for Agriculture, is the likely candidate to get the job of International Trade minister, leaving the incumbent, David Emerson, free to focus on the Foreign Affairs portfolio, a job handed to him on an interim basis in the wake of Bernier's resignation…

and then reading what my friends and Campbell and Gloria wrote

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper will place the recently troubled portfolio of Foreign Affairs in the safe hands of David Emerson, the Trade Minister who has been doing double-duty for a month, when he shuffles his cabinet Wednesday, sources say.

Conservative sources said the mini-shuffle will probably move only three or four ministers and revolve around filling the gap left on May 26 when Maxime Bernier was forced out as foreign affairs minister for leaving classified documents at the home of an ex-girlfriend with past biker ties.

But some movement is expected in the ranks of Quebec ministers as Mr. Harper seeks to maintain the province's weight at the cabinet table …

I'd now like to slightly modify my guess — and it surely is a guess for I haven't made any extra calls on this one, it being the hour when most normal folk here in Ottawa are asleep …

As I'd mentioned, briefing books are/were being prepared at HRDC, home to Ministers Solberg, Blackburn, and LeBreton. Campbell and Gloria talk about Quebec ministers being in play and they mention Sen. Michael Fortier.

That's got a good ring to it and could happen. But let me float another possibility involving Quebec ministers: Josée Verner to International Trade; Jean Pierre Blackburn to Heritage; Christian Paradis to Labour. That could work…

And now to bed …

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On the eve of a cabinet shuffle

A PMO source says Prime Minister Harper will halve David Emerson's workload — he is both Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Trade (as well as carrying the regional portfolios of the 2010 Olympics and Pacific Gateway) — before Canada Day. That's next Tuesday.

Harper was in Québec today but he is back in Ottawa Wednesday. So we're on what passes for high alert here in an Ottawa that largely emptied itself of its federal politicians last week.

And on that note, if you haven't had the chance to read Barry Campbell's series in The Walrus, I recommend it. In the third and final installment in that magazine's June issue, he has this MP's-eye view of the rumour and speculation the press here have been involved in recently on this issue:

It’s not clear which is psychologically worse: getting bounced from Cabinet or being passed over for a position. Not being considered one of the stars is deeply embarrassing and hard to explain to family, friends, and supporters. Grown men and women, accomplished and respected in their fields before coming to Ottawa, are reduced to nervous, insecure children when the rumours start flying about a Cabinet shuffle. I got passed over, and I’m not sure I could have swallowed additional humiliations . . .

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Your new British Columbia cabinet

Here in Ottawa, we have our own cabinet shuffle rumours. I'm on the record that it will be a shuffle of precisely one: Rookie MP Christian Paradis to get a big bump up to International Trade before the end of the week. Others here in Ottawa tell me that briefing books have been prepared over in Human Resources. That's Monte Solberg's department. If he's moving, that's a big shuffle and I'd tend to believe what the PM said last week about big shuffles.

But enough about Ottawa. Here's what B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell did today:

New ministers appointed today include:

* Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations – Hon. Joan McIntyre

* Minister of Community Development – Hon. Blair Lekstrom

* Minister of Healthy Living and Sport – Hon. Mary Polak

* Minister of Labour and Citizens' Services – Hon. Iain Black

* Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts – Hon. Bill Bennett

Ministers with new portfolios include:

* Minister of Agriculture and Lands – Hon. Stan Hagen

* Minister of State for Mining – Hon. Gordon Hogg

* Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for the Olympics – Hon.

Colin Hansen

* Minister of Forests and Range – Hon. Pat Bell

* Minister of Housing and Social Development – Hon. Rich Coleman

* Minister of Small Business and Revenue and Minister Responsible for

Deregulation – Hon. Kevin Krueger

* Minister of Technology, Trade and Economic Development and Minister

Responsible for the Asia-Pacific Initiative – Hon. Ida Chong

Ministers retaining existing portfolios:

* Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation – Hon. Michael de


* Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development – Hon.

Murray Coell

* Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism – Hon.

Wally Oppal

* Minister of Children and Family Development – Hon. Tom Christensen

* Minister of State for Childcare – Hon. Linda Reid

* Minister of Education and Minister Responsible for Early Learning and

Literacy and Deputy Premier – Hon. Shirley Bond

* Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources – Hon. Richard


* Minister of Environment – Hon. Barry Penner

* Minister of Health Services – Hon. George Abbott

* Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General – Hon. John van Dongen

* Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure – Hon. Kevin Falcon

Any and all gossip, inuendo, rumour and gospel truth about any and all gratefully welcomed 🙂

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