Friday, April 20, 2012

On shadow boxing

Aaron has already listed and commented on Thomas Mulcair's shadow cabinet assignments. But there are a few additional points worth adding into the mix.

First, while others have pointed out Nathan Cullen's promotion to House Leader, the exact choice of positions is very much worth emphasizing. As the leadership candidate whose message centred on how to approach other political parties, Cullen has been put in charge of...approaching other political parties, at least to the extent of managing business in Parliament. And if "cooperation to defeat Harper" continues to be Cullen's guiding principle, then it will be well worth watching whether that habit has some impact beyond Parliament Hill.

Second, the choice of Linda Duncan as critic for Public Works and Government Services may make for a neat bit of strategy. A strong Alberta figure charged with criticizing patronage, waste and mismanagement should serve to raise serious questions among the Cons' base- and that may not only help to shake loose populist votes on the prairies, but also put at least somewhat of a dent in the Cons' fund-raising and activist networks.

Third, while it's a bit surprising not to see Nycole Turmel assigned any particular policy area, her effectiveness in keeping the NDP's caucus united through trying times looks to fit nicely with her new role as whip.

Finally, it's worth noting which MPs have somewhat less responsibility in the shadow cabinet than one might expect based on their profile and experience - including Niki Ashton (assigned the Status of Women portfolio), Yvon Godin (who sees Labour removed from his responsibilities), Tyrone Benskin (moved from Heritage critic to deputy Official Languages critic) and Rathika Sitsabaiesan (going from Post-secondary Education critic to outside the shadow cabinet structure altogether). But there's plenty to be done in building toward government beyond criticizing the incumbents - and it wouldn't be surprising to see all given important organization-building responsibilities to accompany their work in Parliament.

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