Interest in the new Martin cabinet was a lot higher than is normal when appointments are announced. This is not because there’s anything extraordinary about it — cabinets are almost always “a mix of new blood and prudence,” as this one has been characterized — but because of the government’s minority status.

The dangling question is: How will these cabinet choices affect the drama of minority government as it unfolds? More specifically: Are any of them ticking time bombs that will pop at inopportune moments, perhaps even bringing down the government?

But before speculating on that, let me check off an irony. Here in Nova Scotia, with our own minority government, we’re more politically relaxed than I’ve seen us for decades. A summer without a political crisis — imagine that! The Hamm government has had its tics and kinks straightened out by being subject to the discipline of the opposition parties, and I’d say that’s the first thing we’ve liked about politics around here in a long time.

This was noted during the federal election campaign as minority government loomed, the question being whether minority at the federal level could pick up the hint and be as laid back as it is in Nova Scotia. The assumption among the commentators seems to be that, no, it will be a screeching catfight in the middle of a minefield.

Whether this is so or not, the first indications aren’t promising. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s reaction to the cabinet was that Prime Minister Paul Martin, the dirty dog, had deliberately provoked the Conservatives by giving important posts to Scott Brison, a former Conservative; Ujjal Dosanjh, a former New Democrat; and Jean Lapierre, a former separatist.

Meanwhile, one of the key people for any minority is government House leader — the one who does the up—close negotiating with other parties on crucial votes in Parliament. Tony Valeri is the one — but he’s unilingual. The Bloc Québécois will be relegated to talking with his assistant, and they’re not happy about that.

Finally, NDP Leader Jack Layton complained that the cabinet represented a lurch to the right. Who knows? The Liberals are masters at lurching wherever the circumstances call for. But for public relations purposes, at least, Martin has taken a little jig to the left by putting the limelight on Dosanjh, who was premier of British Columbia in the dying days of the former NDP government, but was recruited by the Liberals. Martin made him minister of health, the very topic that will put the new dispensation to its first test as the federal government and the provinces try to hammer out a deal, before the TV cameras no less, to overhaul the health system at a conference starting Sept. 13.

The Dosanjh appointment was hailed as a deft move by some — a little tilt to the left, and a Western voice at that. Take that, Ralph Klein! The Alberta premier — he of the loose comments about medicare that helped sink the Conservatives — has kicked into gear again and bad-mouthed Dosanjh as a frigged-up socialist who led the B.C. NDP to oblivion.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, the NDP will no doubt not appreciate facing a turncoat, especially one trying to appropriate one of their main issues, any more than the Conservatives will appreciate facing their own deserter, Brison, as his fresh face as public works minister helps the public forget the Conservatives’ big issue, the sponsorship scandal. It could all be venomous, and dangerous for the Liberals and their minority.

There are other twists. Environment Minister David Anderson was kicked out of cabinet. Stéphane Dion, a Chrétien loyalist who was kicked out in Martin’s first cabinet, is brought back to replace him — also a deft move, healing in part the rift with the Chrétienites. However, there are suspicions that getting rid of Anderson is also a signal that oil and gas drilling will be allowed off the sensitive B.C. coast, where it has been under moratorium for some time. If so, watch for a screecher there, with Greenpeace involved and fur flying.

Oh, dear. If only federal politics could be as civilized, refined and gracious as Nova Scotia politics!