CANADA

OTTAWA’S FRESH FACES

KIM CAMPBELL’S ‘NEW WAY OF DOING POLITICS’ BEGINS WITH A TRIMMED CABINET AND A VISIBLE ASSAULT ON SPENDING

Anthony Wilson-Smith July 5 1993
CANADA

OTTAWA’S FRESH FACES

KIM CAMPBELL’S ‘NEW WAY OF DOING POLITICS’ BEGINS WITH A TRIMMED CABINET AND A VISIBLE ASSAULT ON SPENDING

Anthony Wilson-Smith July 5 1993

OTTAWA’S FRESH FACES

CANADA

KIM CAMPBELL’S ‘NEW WAY OF DOING POLITICS’ BEGINS WITH A TRIMMED CABINET AND A VISIBLE ASSAULT ON SPENDING

Shortly before Kim Campbell took office as Canada’s 19th prime minister, Canadians witnessed several examples of politics in its most unseemly form. Ignoring a public outcry, senators voted themselves a $6,000 increase in their tax-free expense allowances—and then promptly adjourned for the summer. With less fanfare, but continuing the relentless pace of recent weeks, outgoing prime minister Brian Mulroney named more friends and political sympathizers to government posi-

tions—bringing the total of such appointments in the past six months to more than 600. Against that backdrop, Campbell’s promise to show Canadians “a new way of doing politics” appeared almost a lost cause. But when the new Prime Minister emerged from her swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall on June 25, the less admirable aspects of political life were at least temporarily eclipsed. In the months ahead, Campbell promised, Canadians will see “a new approach to government and a new generation of leaders.”

With her first act as Prime Minister, Campbell showed herself capable of making both tough decisions and delicate compromises. Her 25-member cabinet has 10 fewer ministers than the previous one, and is the smallest since 1963. Her decision to award ministerial posts to seven backbenchers attests to her recognition of the need for fresh blood. And the elimination of nine departments, with an accompanying reduction of the number of deputy and assistant deputy ministers, federal officials claimed, was the start of a cost-cutting program that could save more than $1 billion a year.

Campbell’s attempt to put a new face on government was made easier by the fact that most senior ministers from the Mulroney years are now leaving politics. But even those who intend to run in the next election were given new portfolios. Two of the best-known are Perrin Beatty, the bland and almost painfully cautious former communications minister, whom Campbell promoted to External Affairs; and Gilles Loiselle, the soft-spoken but tough-minded former Treasury Board president, who is now finance minister. Through a deft series of trade-offs of titles and other considerations, Campbell appeared to placate her former leadership rival and new deputy prime minister, Jean Charest, who also becomes minister of two other portfolios: industry, science and technology, and consumer and corporate affairs. Charest has most, although not all, of the powers he sought for himself, while his former campaign manager, Jodi White, an Ottawa lobI g byist and popular veteran Tory || organizer, is Campbell’s new chief of staff. At the same time, 19 of the 24 appointments in her cabinet went to supporters of her own campaign.

Perhaps most significantly, by eliminating six of the cabinet’s 11 planning committees, Campbell sent Ottawa insiders a powerful signal that she is serious about wanting to make the decision-making process “smaller, simpler and faster.” But while Campbell wanted to demonstrate a commitment to reform, she also had to grapple with the traditional problems of ego, region and petty rivalries. Despite its smaller size, the new

cabinet reflects a sometimes baffling set of duplicate portfolios, overlapping responsibilities, confusing job titles and uncertain priorities. Surprisingly, Campbell resurrected Veterans’ Affairs as a separate ministry and gave it to a newcomer, Nova Scotia MP Peter McCreath; previously, the job had been folded into her former duties as defence minister. And Environment, once one of the government’s highest-profile portfolios, has been shunted to the sidelines. The new minister, Pierre Vincent, formerly minister of consumer and corporate affairs, is regarded by some of his colleagues as a lightweight—and the cabinet committee on the environment is one of six that Campbell eliminated.

Elsewhere, duplications abound. One of Charest’s responsibilities is science—but the cabinet also has a designated minister of science, Robert Nicholson of Niagara Falls, Ont., another one of the new faces in the cabinet. While Toronto MP Pauline Browes is now Indian affairs minister—and the only minister from Metropolitan Toronto—the newly appointed Treasury Board president, Jim Edwards, the Alberta MP who finished third in the recent leadership contest, will be what the Prime Minister’s Office described as the “federal interlocutor for Métis and non-status Indians.” And four different ministers will deal with aspects of becoming—and being—a Canadian: Bernard Valcourt will handle immigration; Gerry Weiner is minister of citizenship and multiculturalism; Charest will oversee the creation of a ministry of Canadian heritage; and Secretary of State Monique Landry will eventually oversee the same ministry.

Similar overlaps occurred in the allocation of political roles—less formal than ministerial appointments but often more important in the day-to-day process of governing. In Quebec, Charest is the senior minister, but Campbell described Landry as the “political minister” for the province—without defining the difference.

Those uncertainties could cause friction in the months ahead. But Campbell made sure that there were few obvious losers in the shuffle, despite some lingering bitterness between her supporters and those of Charest. Except for Campbell, none of Mulroney’s prominent anglophone ministers—including Michael Wilson, Joe Clark, Donald Mazankowski and Barbara McDougall—is running for re-election. As a result, they expected to be dropped from the cabinet. The most obvious omission was former labor minister Marcel Danis, a highly respected organizer from Quebec who stayed neutral during the leadership fight. But he told Campbell before her shuffle that he is unlikely to run again because to do so would jeopardize his position as a tenured law professor at Montreal’s Concordia University.

Despite his promotion, Charest looked sombre at the swearing-in. Although he insisted that he is “delighted” with his new role, some Tories speculated that he was dissatisfied that his list of responsibilities was not even larger. He had expected to gain control over international trade issues. Instead, that portfolio was given to Ontario’s Thomas Hockin. As well, Charest failed to obtain a formal understanding that Landry, as political minister for Quebec, would report to him.

Campbell’s next task is to convince Canadians of the sincerity of her call for “a new team” and “a new, lean streamlined government.” One obvious and immediate step would be to persuade senators to rescind their $6,000 expense allowance increase. After Campbell described the senators’ attempt to give themselves the increase as “entirely inappropriate,” Liberal and Tory Senate leaders said that they were prepared to call the Senate back for a new vote. But several Liberal and Tory senators appeared determined to dig in their heels. Said Liberal Senator Leonard Marchand, 59, of British Columbia: “It is quite an important job being a national legislator, and we are some of the lowest-paid people around.” (Before the increase, senators received an annual salary of $64,400 and a tax-free expense allowance of $10,400 until age 75.) Tory Senator Michael Forrestall, 60, was equally unrepentant, declaring: “The average person making $35,000 a year is not called upon to be in Ottawa or do the travel or make the public engagements.” Unswayed by such arguments, Campbell asked Tory Senate Leader Lowell Murray to consider recalling the upper chamber for a new vote—which Murray said he would do if he is convinced that a motion rescinding the increase would get the required two-thirds majority.

That decision was relatively easy compared with the more complex challenges awaiting Campbell. Before she calls an election, she must demonstrate both a firm grasp of government and a firm plan to satisfy the public hunger for change. Ño sooner had she taken the oath of office from Gov. Gen. Ray Hnatyshyn than Campbell issued an invitation to the premiers to meet her in Vancouver on July 4, just before she departs for the Tokyo economic summit, to discuss Canada’s weak economy. Several, including Ontario’s Bob Rae, have already suggested that they are unlikely to attend.

Another step will be through further promises of belt-tightening: Loiselle said that the Tories will introduce a detailed plan to reduce the deficit. Another step is less tangible: Campbell said that she wants her ministers to “represent the people of Canada to the government, rather than the government to the people of Canada.” If all that gains public support for the Conservatives, a senior party official said, she may call an election in early August for Sept. 27. That would leave Campbell and her cabinet only about six weeks to prepare for a race in which they can afford few, if any, missteps.

ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH with GLEN ALLEN, LUKE FISHER and E. KAYE FULTON in Ottawa

GLEN ALLEN,

LUKE FISHER

and E. KAYE FULTON