By John Robson
If I asked which cabinet minister you want fired first, the flood of replies might resemble a DDS cyberattack. The Sun’s Brian Lilley recently named five prime candidates, then, after sighing wearily that the list “could be longer,” lengthened it. And it’s a good question why the queue increasingly resembles that at a passport office.
He certainly wanted to dump Karina Gould over the passport fiasco. And to be fair, as minister of International Development, she’s not in charge of it. But one good way to get rid of a minister of International Development anyway is to abolish the whole department, since making other countries advanced would be neither a legitimate function of the Canadian government nor something it could possibly accomplish even if it were discharging its genuine basic duties so well it had time and money to spare tilting at global windmills.
Actually, I’m just kidding. Gould is now minister of Families, Children and Social Development. It’s hard to keep track of the musical chairs. Or the proliferation of ministries whose existence is an affront to common sense (because society does not develop nor do we reproduce thanks to the state) and to our constitutional order (because the ongoing executive seduction of the legislature by drawing so many caucus members into the lucrative confines of cabinet, across jurisdictions and parties, is a major impediment to accountability nowadays).
Speaking of genuine basic duties, the corner of the bureaucratic labyrinth formerly known as “the Passport Office” then “Passport Canada,” subject to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, was abolished on Canada Day 2013 and the mess dumped on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which fobbed it off on Employment and Social Development Canada, which tossed the glowing potato on to Service Canada before mutating into Gould’s FCSD. Though again to be fair, Lilley also rightly wanted to fire Immigration Minister Sean Fraser for the immigration mess. To say nothing of the Afghan refugee fiasco.
It’s one thing to have a disaster smouldering unnoticed beneath your desk. It’s quite another to have it blazing away in public and be unable to pour water on it. And a third to ignite such a mess in a minor portfolio, like Mélanie Joly in Canadian Heritage (again not a government responsibility John Locke would recognize) that you get handed the matches in a major one. But yes, she’s now our Foreign Affairs minister (or “Global Affairs Canada” on the apparent theory that a pompously woke name improves a bureaucratic entity) even though her most conspicuous Heritage foul-up was a Holocaust memorial that didn’t mention Nazis killing Jews. Doh.
So what can we do about a cabinet that supposedly looked good because it was 2015 and now looks terrible? Especially since it’s all fine and good to fire ministers whose ineptitude renders satire obsolete, but who would you replace them with?
Does anyone want Harjit Sajjan back in cabinet after his preposterous tenure at Defence? Just kidding. He already is, having replaced Gould as minister of International Development. So again, let’s ditch incumbent and office lest he be replaced with someone even less competent or conscientious.
Yes, conscientious. One prominent Canadian commentator recently tritely praised Doug Ford for avoiding “culture war hot buttons” to “focus on Bread and Butter instead of Guns & Gonads.” But without rehashing my distaste for amorphous “pragmatism” in politics, surely the Jordan Peterson phenomenon has made very clear that culture wars concern character and competence broadly, not just a few “hot buttons.”
Indeed, Justin Trudeau’s ministers are not putting on a spectacular gong show because they have some special talent for it. On the contrary, they are very typical modern people, with enormous self-esteem, focused on rights not responsibilities, and so ignorant of political economy that they do not even recognize censorship while imposing it. And far from treasuring Sir John A. Macdonald’s reputed retort that people who want a better cabinet should “send me better wood” (I can’t actually document the line but it sounds like exactly the sort of thing he’d have said repeatedly over adult beverages), they probably think he’s some bigoted clown whose statues need vandalizing.
So speaking of leadership, Lilley pointed out that the whole thing is Trudeau’s fault since it’s his cabinet, and Jagmeet Singh’s since he’s propping up Trudeau while denouncing him as a tool of capitalist oppression. Again, fair enough. But don’t stop there. Who can fire those two for smug ineptitude?
Uh, that’d be us. We’re the ones sitting watching a terrible show with the remote right beside us on the couch.
If you want to fire incompetent ministers, don’t send me a list. I probably couldn’t stand to look at it anyway. Stop voting for people who make a mockery of ministerial responsibility, basic competence, and humility, or tolerate such a mockery.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NTD Canada.