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Cabinet shuffle: Nicholson to Foreign Affairs (bizarre!), Poilievre to Employment (insulting!)

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Photo: flickr/mostlyconservative

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Rob Nicholson, Stephen Harper's new Foreign Affairs Minister, is not only fluently unilingual, he has never shown much in the way of charm, affability, wit or any other of the skills one normally associates with diplomacy. 

His personality in the House of Commons could be summed up in two words: dry and sour.

But, as we said in this space after John Baird took his leave, the Prime Minister's taste almost never fails to baffle. 

Just consider the so-far successful federal political career of one Julian Fantino.

Better yet, consider the new Employment and Social Development Minister -- and new big gun in the cabinet from the National Capital District -- Pierre Poilievre.

The man who gave us the Fair Elections Act, and who once said Aboriginal people need to learn the value of hard work, is now responsible for one of the biggest and most complex departments in government. 

Employment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, job-training programs, programs for the elderly, any homelessness strategy the government might have, measures to assist families with children -- the Employment and Social Development Ministry is responsible for them all. 

This is a department that has to deal with the provinces, with civil society groups and with the millions of Canadians who depend on its services.

The job of leading that department is normally reserved for someone with at least a modicum of professional, political and life experience.

But Prime Minister Harper has now made Employment and Social Development the plaything of a still very young career politician, who was first elected to public office at the age of 25 (like John Baird), and who is best known for his scoffing, sneering and partisan-beyond-partisan manner in the House. 

Poilievre's one cabinet post thus far has been the junior job at Democratic Reform, where he was the sponsor of the shabby and decidedly undemocratic "Fair" Elections Act.

That piece of fatally flawed legislation was so bad Poilievre could find virtually nobody to speak in its favour before the House and Senate committees that considered it. Scores of qualified experts appeared to excoriate it. 

Poilievre himself was the Act's main -- and almost sole -- advocate and supporter, and his tactics in defending his nightmarish Bill included playing fast and loose with the truth.

That same Poilievre now has his hands on the tiller of the good ship of federal social policy.

Not only that: he is also the minster responsible for the federal government's participation in National Capital affairs. That includes everything from light rail to the future of Gatineau Park to potential expansion of public transit in the Capital. 

The thought of the great power and responsibility given to a person of Poilievre's qualifications, experience and temperament is almost enough to make a grown person weep.


Photo: flickr/mostlyconservative

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