Tag Archives: Letter to the PM

Cabinet Making: Pick Talent, not Balance

Dear Prime Minister:

Congratulations on your winning Government for a second term. As you ponder your caucus and your cabinet choices, I should very much like you to break with a long-standing tradition in the interests of the needs of the country at this time. Pick Talent and then worry about Balance.

External economic conditions are turbulent and will remain so. World energy supply is constrained and the cost of extraction and preparation for use continues to climb: the price may be suppressed temporarily through some reductions in demand and the currency turbulence, but this is temporary. At the end of the day, the environment (in the form of resource accessibility and fully-burdened costs of bringing these into use) controls the economy, not the other way around. Incessant growth, in other words, has reached an end of the road: we will need a new economic model — not based on the manipulation of financial instruments — if growth is to be resumed at any level.

For this reason, you will need your best people leading the Departments. Ministers must all master their domains. They will need to stay in place long enough to do so. You will need them to make hard choices about the purposes of those Departments going forward — and whether programmes (or even, in some cases, the Department itself) should continue to exist. At the same time we will need, as a nation, to invest as heavily and as urgently in a 21st century infrastructure that supports local, self-sufficient and vibrant communities suited to the new energy equation. They will have to champion the right actions — often across Departments — and champion against the ne’er-do-wells that inhibit change in the Finance Department and the Treasury Board, as well as in their own domains that these take place and in adequate measure.

Now it may likely be that the right woman or man for the job is not an MP from the appropriate province. Do not let that inhibit you. Your caucus represents every part of the country except Newfoundland & Labrador, and reaching out to keep that newest province in your sights is not difficult. So a Ministerial appointment should in no way turn on balancing regions and provinces, so that “everyone gets their share”. By all means invite people over for pie if you want to ensure everyone gets a slice. Make sure your Cabinet table is small, and filled with “the right stuff” — even if where they come from unbalances the “representation”.

I would not presume to judge your talent pool for you. Only you know who you can work with, for these will be dynamic women and men with strong voices — this second term needs those voices both for what they can accomplish, and to broaden the Conservative Party’s appeal. So, again, find those whose voices augment, strengthen and amplify your direction, and don’t worry about which riding they represent.

Were you to do this, I, for one, would sleep very soundly at night, knowing that any errors in judgement brought about by precipitate action (and we will need some of this, as, for instance, the current Finance Minister has acted today, and time will tell whether this was a positive or negative action) — the issues facing Canada must be dealt with. Years of study are also no longer an option. Ministers will act, correct their course, and act again. This requires leaders with strong ethical formation and the willingness to stand their ground in the face of the media, the Opposition, the interest groups and the braying hordes. But Canada will be far better for it.

May you bring this Dominion through the years ahead, for although your predecessor, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, was premature in declaring the twentieth century to be Canada’s century, we are, indeed, capable of claiming a strong share of the twenty-first. Those foundations will be set in this term. I trust you to make the hard decisions and do what is right for our country.

I have the honour to remain, your humble servant.