Harper Cabinet Shuffle: Swedish for Common Sense Revolution

The Prime Minister’s cabinet retooling is complete. Funny how the loss of a key member or three (Lawrence Cannon, Josee Verner, Jean-Pierre Blackburn) can set up a really high stakes version of musical chairs. Sources say that’s EXACTLY how it happened, by the way, with Tory MPs gathered in a room with 39 chairs. They all circled them nervously, while the Prime Minister played Nick Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind” on the piano. When he stopped — Yahtzee! Maxime Bernier had successfully knocked Rob Moore to the ground, and taken his seat as Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism.

Maxime Bernier: “Hon, you haven’t seen the Allen key, have you?

It was Bernier who’d made musical chairs necessary in the first place. He’d bought the Prime Minister’s new cabinet at the IKEA outlet in Nepean last night, but forgot the instructions at his girlfriend’s house when he left in haste this morning. By the way, IKEA  has an excellent selection of parliamentary cabinets, including the popular “Sinterblok,” as well as the twin-cabinets, the “Deef” and “Bakker.” Prime Minister Harper was hoping for the high-end, well-appointed “Sennit,” but Tony Clement, who’d had a premonition he was going to be seated in the “President of the Treasury Board” chair, asked that the Prime Minister relent and settle for the cheapest cabinet available, the finely trimmed “Budjitt.”

But, back to musical chairs. Bev Oda never did get up from her seat and remains Minister For Term Paper Grading International Co-operation Minister. John Baird flexed his considerable muscles of diplomacy and convinced a harried Julian Fantino to “get the hell out of my seat, you glorified mall cop!” Fantino shifted his buns one seat over, to become Assistant Minister of Defence. Uh, Assistant to the Minister of Defence.

Among others to find chairs they’d already been seated in were Jim Flaherty (Finance) and Peter MacKay (Defence). They both hovered over the Finance Minister’s chair, but Flaherty’s newly re-soled budget shoes gave him the agility of Hines Ward to MacKay’s Ralph Macchio. (Proud to say, I had to look that last reference up)

Magnanimously, the PM glanced up from the piano and waited for a couple of Toronto-area MPs to hover over vacant seats, proving that, while he won’t dance to Toronto’s tune, Toronto can damn well stop dancing and sit when he commands.

All in all, a nice, big shiny cabinet. Apparently, it ties the record shared by Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin. Maybe on the next trip to IKEA, they can set the stage for a record membership, by buying the Deluxe “Kokkis.”

Unveiled: Top Secret Rookie MP Guidebook

The Parliament Hill Cafeteria Can Be a Scary Place For a Newcomer

With 105 rookie Members of Parliament being sworn in on The Hill, there’s bound to be some concern, confusion and consternation among them. Kind of like the first day of high school, without the threat of being hung, by your underwear, on your locker hook. At least, I don’t think they have to worry about that, although John Baird strikes me as someone who’d find that funny.

Rookie MPs: Almost exactly as depicted.

To ease the first day jitters of the fresh meat – er, wide-eyed, super-intelligent, rookies ready to inject a fresh, new energy to their caucus – the Clerk of the Speaker of the House of Commons sends them each a guide to rules and regulations of parliamentary life. It’s not meant to be seen by non – parliamentarians, however, I’ve managed to secure a copy and will give you some of the more important guidelines.

Today, I’ll focus on the rules of the Parliament Hill cafeteria. Here are some verbatim highlights:


As you make your way into the cafeteria for the first time, you’ll be handed two trays. One is for you, the other, for the veteran MP you’ve been assigned to serve. In some cases, NEITHER tray is for you. This means you’ve been assigned a senator. After bringing the tray, or trays, to your designated Luncheon Lord, or Lady, stand quietly, hands clasped behind your back. Wait, silently, until a request for napkin dabbing is made, or you are waved away contemptuously.

Sit in ROOKIE DESIGNATED AREA  ONLY. If you have trouble finding it, as it is not clearly marked, just follow the unmistakable smell of innocence and idealism dying.

“At my signal, unleash butterscotch pudding hell!”

If the Prime Minister enters after you are already in the cafeteria, you have TWO choices: Stand up immediately, or dive under your table until the threat of him seeing you has passed  (This does not apply to opposition members of Parliament, as there is no possibility of the Prime Minister actually noticing you). Do NOT make eye contact with the Prime Minister. If eye contact is inadvertently made, your dessert will automatically be forfeited to backbench scavengers.

Delivery of food items is available for members of the governing party ONLY. First time MPs will do the delivering. It will be guaranteed in 10 minutes. To assist you in speedy delivery, The Honourable Jack Layton has determined that his hip is sufficiently healed, and he no longer needs his EZ-Go cart. He has graciously donated it to Delivery Services. NOTE: Cart availability is subject to suspension, based on how energetic Senator Mike Duffy is feeling that day.  Plan ahead.

Food fights are not uncommon, but are to be started by governing party members ONLY. You will know that one is imminent, if The Honourable Jim Flaherty enters wearing a toga.

Seating arrangements are based on election results. Conservatives and members of the NDP in the main dining hall, Liberal Party members at the kiddie tables in the Centre Block Daycare. The Honourable Leader of the Green Party has not opted in to a meal plan, based on the unavailability of bean sprouts and willow bark tea.

Menu changes: With the securing of a majority government, it has been determined that “Pro-rogies” will no longer be available. One item has been added to the breakfast menu: Sausage, inside a rolled pancake. However, instead of being called “Piggies in a Blanket,” a Royal Commission on cafeteria foodstuffs has determined that they will be known as “Pork In A Barrel.” Not all food items will be available; the menu is subject to change, at any time, at the whim of The Honourable Bev Oda.

Finally, make sure to fill out the “How’d We Do?” comment cards after each and every cafeteria visit. As a newcomer to the Hill, your fresh perspective and new ideas on how the Government of Canada commissary is serving you are very important, and greatly valued. The Harper Government Action Plan Eatery is tired of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Just eat your food and get out.

[box type=”info” border=”full”]Next: Part 2: Handling the Media[/box]