Stephen Harper's cabinet trivia: From Flaherty to MacKay to Baird and back again

Defence Minister Peter MacKay
Defence Minister Peter MacKay speaks to the media as he unveils the Afghanistan Memorial Vigil on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. MacKay told reporters this was not going to be his final public appearance as defence minister. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

On the eve of a widely expected cabinet shuffle, some trivia on Stephen Harper and his cabinet history:

  • Harper has only ever had one Minister of Finance in the 2,710 days he has been prime minister. That, of course, would be Jim Flaherty. He has also only ever had one Leader of the Government in the Senate in his cabinet. That would be Marjory LeBreton. She, though, has stepped aside from that position and government sources say when Harper does shuffle his cabinet, LeBreton’s successor will not be in cabinet. In fact, there will be no senators in cabinet.
  • Rob Nicholson is the country’s longest-serving justice minister. He has been justice minister since Jan. 4, 2007. That’s 2,378 days or more than 6 years to the date of this post. Next to Flaherty, he holds the record in Harper’s cabinet for longest continuous service in one portfolio. The only other individual to be a justice minister in Harper’s cabinet was Vic Toews.
  • After Flaherty and Nicholson, the next two longest continuous service in one portfolio award goes to: Peter MacKay in Defence (2,156 days) and Gerry Ritz in Agriculture (2,156). There have been any number of stories over the last several years in which MacKay was about to quit or get fired and yet, there he is, one of the country’s longest serving defence ministers. (Perils of punditry: Here’s the Globe‘s Ibbitson, writing in Nov. 2010 that MacKay was about to head to Bay Street, and closing his piece with: ” it would not be wise to bet that a MacKay will be running in Central Nova next time out.” ) Today, as he unveiled a memorial to Afghanistan veterans in the House of Commons, MacKay was “grilled” again about his future,  with reporters asking if that unveiling was going to be his last public event as the country’s defence minister. Here’s what he said:

    Well, first of all, this is not my last public appearance, I can assure you that. Not as Defence Minister. Look, I’ll simply reiterate what I’ve always said and that is working with members of the Canadian Forces has been the single greatest honour of my life. They are our greatest citizens. They are selfless in their pursuit of excellence. They have a work ethic that is admirable from any profession. And they show a degree of patriotism and loyalty to their country that, quite frankly, I wish was emulated everywhere because you cannot help but swell up with pride when you see the work that they do, particularly outside our country. And, again, I wish there was a greater window of opportunity for Canadians to see the admiration and appreciation on the faces of people in places like Haiti and Afghanistan and Africa when a Canadian soldier with his Canadian flag prominently displayed shows up and comes there with nothing other than goodness in their heart and a desire to relieve pressure, violence, and discrimination. Canadians enjoy a stellar reputation in the world in large part because of the work of our Canadian soldiers and our diplomats and people that work in the foreign service. But working with them, in a word, inspirational.

    UPDATE JULY 10 0900 ET: Note this media advisory from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about an event Thursday morning in Alberton, PEI in which MacKay and Revenue Minister Gail Shea will welcome a new Coast Guard vessel to the fleet. So MacKay appeared to quite right when he said Tuesday the event in the House of Commons was not his last public event as Defence Minister. Also: If you believe MacKay and Shea will be part of the next cabinet shuffle, then presumably, this advisory means that Thursday as a cabinet shuffle date is out of the question.

  • After Flaherty, Nicholson, MacKay, and Ritz — there are a small core of ministers that Harper has been reluctant to move since the general election of  Oct. 14, 2008.  After that election, Harper named Diane Finley to be Human Resources and Skills Development Canada minister, Jason Kenney to Citizenship and Immigration, James Moore to Heritage and to Official Languages, Leona Aglukkaq to Health, Gordon O’Connor to Chief Government Whip, and Lynne Yelich to Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. Finley, Kenney, Moore, Aglukkaq, O’Connor and Yelich have not moved since.
  • There are some portfolios Harper likes to shuffle a lot. He has had five ministers of International Trade, five environment ministers, five foreign affairs ministers, five House leaders, and five revenue ministers. Notably, one minister — John Baird — has held three of those positions (environment, foreign affairs, and House Leader) at various times. He has shuffled the following portfolios four times: Industry, National Revenue, Transport, and Treasury Board.  Here we find Baird again having held two of those (Transport and Treasury Board).
  • There are 37 ministers of the Crown who hold 50 portfolios. (That 37 includes Vic Toews who, technically, has resigned effective today)
  • The average age of Harper’s current minister is 54. The oldest, at 74, is Sen. LeBreton. The youngest, at 37, is James Moore.  Three ministers are under 40. Eight ministers are aged 40-49.
  • The following ministers have indicated they are either retiring, have asked to be excused from cabinet or have said they will not run in 2015 and, as a result, expect to step down from cabinet: LeBreton, Diane Ablonczy, 64, Ted Menzies, 61, Keith Ashfield, 61, Vic Toews, 60.

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