Thursday, September 16, 2010

Politics: Changing Files


Member of Parliament Gerard Kennedy spoke at a local community meeting at St. Pius X Catholic School in Toronto, Ontario on 16-September-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - While I'm far from a political junkie (I almost never figure out the mystery voice on The House and I don't watch Power and Politics), I do pay reasonable attention to Federal politics in Canada, or so I thought. Then, I went to a meeting held by my local Member of Parliament (MP) tonight and found out that his portfolio had changed.

For the bulk of the last two years since his election, Parkdale-High Park MP Gerard Kennedy has been the Official Opposition Critic for Infrastructure, Cities and Communities. In other words, he was the member of the "shadow cabinet" within the Liberal Party charged with holding the Minister of Infrastructure, Cities and Communities from the ruling Conservative Party accountable. Indeed, Kennedy has been rather visible in this role, frequently appearing in the media to criticize the government's management of stimulus funds, for example.

Not anymore. As of last Tuesday (7-September), Kennedy is now the Official Opposition Critic for the Environment. With all the talent and experience in the Liberal Party on the environment, this might seem an odd pick. However, Kennedy did earn a lot of acclaim for the "Carbon Challenge" he organized in the riding when he was still a candidate, and the riding seemed to respond to the Liberal "Green Shift" policy by electing him, about the only riding in the whole country to so readily embrace that environmental policy.

A pointed question came from the audience tonight about how St├ęphane Dion, architect of the "Green Shift" and then-party leader, felt about Kennedy getting the environment portfolio. After mentioning that Dion had already called him, Kennedy pointed out "Those who remember Liberal Party history may recall that I had something to do with Mr. Dion becoming party leader." That ended the discussion. [Kennedy endorsed Dion when he dropped out of the leadership race in 2006, giving Dion momentum that eventually led to his becoming leader.]

Another audience member asked how the transition between portfolios works in the shadow government. Kennedy stated that it tends to be much more flexible than in the government, as there is information to be transferred (instead of bureaucratic briefings to attend). He expects to provide assistance to new Infrastructure Critic John McCallum on several initiatives, which as he pointed out still have overlap with his new portfolio.

"The way I view it, the environment isn't really a ministry," Kennedy said, "It's a philosophy that should underlie your whole government." He told his constituents that they should expect to see the influence of sustainability across the policies of the Opposition, as that was now part of his job.

That is, it is his job until Michael Ignatieff appoints him to some other post while I'm not paying attention.

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