Home > Federal, Liberals > Liberal Shadow Cabinet: Bob Rae The New Michael Fortier

Liberal Shadow Cabinet: Bob Rae The New Michael Fortier

October 9, 2007

It looks like Dion has shuffled his shadow cabinet and caucus in preparation for the next Parliamentary session. I’ve got to say, two things jumped out at me.

First of all, Bob Rae is the Liberal foreign affairs critic. You know, the same Bob Rae that has not been in Parliament since 1982. I guess this shows how talented Dion thinks his caucus is: he has a pool of 96 Liberals to choose from in the House of Commons, and he has to pick an unelected outsider. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt if you are one of those 96! It’s gotta hurt even more if you are Bryon Wilfert: I mean, if your leader obviously distrusts you so much that instead of appointing you as foreign affairs critic until such time as Bob Rae gets elected, you get to be second in command to an unelected person. Again, ouch!

Secondly, Garth Turner has been appointed as Dion’s Special Advisor for Riding and Constituency Outreach. Now, what I don’t understand is: why is this important enough to be made public. As a regular citizen, I’d be dealing with the critics. As a grassroots Liberal, on the other hand, I’d be dealing with an Advisor for Riding and Constituency Outreach, and you’d think that the Liberals would have communications channels to talk to their grassroots. So in the end, I must be cynical and conclude that this is yet another example of the Liberals talking the grassroots talk while not really doing the grassroots walk (you know, like maybe reform the structure of the party).

So yeah, I can’t really figure out what Dion is trying to do with the Shadow Cabinet shuffle here.

Categories: Federal, Liberals
  1. Jan Johnstone
    October 9, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    so the lib leader picks an unelected liberal hopeful to be in the shadow cabinet, and we wonder what the libs “hue & cry” was about a couple of years ago and the unelected con was appointed to public works. Another person unaccountable to the electoriate.
    Libs are sure not taking the high road here.

  2. Drew Adamick
    October 9, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Well, at least Bob Rae is waiting to be elected to the House of Commons in an upcoming by-election (or the next federal election, if it happens in a couple of weeks). M. Fortier on the other hand was appointed to the Senate and had 3 opportunities to enter the House of Commons in the Quebec by-elections (where chances are he could have won),but has stated that he will not resign from the Senate until the next election (and who knows if he’ll even do that).

    Besides, didn’t Jack Layton, after becoming NDP Leader in 2003, not take up a seat in the House of Commons until the 2004 election? He could have run in a by-election to get into the House (which is usually the norm for the new leader of a party with representation), but he did not- instead appointing Bill Blaikie to act in his place in Parliament until the next election. I don’t know about you, but it seems kinda hypocritical to say that the Libs are appointing an “unaccountable” shadow cabinet critic who doesn’t have representation in the House (not yet anyways) when your own leader waited several months to seek representation in the House.

  3. Northern BC Dipper
    October 9, 2007 at 6:58 pm


    Comparing a leader to a cabinet minister/critic is kinda like comparing apples and oranges. A leader is elected, in various ways, by the political party. A cabinet minister/critic, on the other hand, is appointed by the leader, traditionally after that person is elected. So your attempt at spin falls down flat.

    The question for the Liberals really, is why is it right for Bob Rae when it is wrong for Michael Fortier?

    Liberal, Tory, same old story, I guess.

  4. Ticked off
    October 9, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    I have to agree with Drew Adamick on his post Northern Dipper.

    The question for the Liberals really, is why is it right for Bob Rae when it is wrong for Michael Fortier? You forgot to add NDP to that question

    Liberal, Tory, same old story, I guess. * You again forgot to add NDP to that statement.

  5. Northern BC Dipper
    October 9, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Ticked Off,

    Because the NDP didn’t do it. The Liberals and Conservatives have.

    If you are going to tell me that an apple is the same as an orange, then you’d better have proof.

  6. October 9, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    My suspicion is that Rae got that job because Dion wants to give him a role which will put him on TV and give him a chance to start up an assault on the NDP. It’s no secret that the NDP have been hacking away at the Liberals for quite a while now, and it paid off recently in the humiliation which Thomas Mulcair and Jack Layton orchestrated against the Liberals in Outremont. You didn’t think that we were going to get away with that and not have to incur the wrath of the almighty Liberal Party did you? 🙂

    I suspect that the Dion is going to be just chomping at the bit to get Rae on the talking heads circuit because it’ll give Rae a chance to let loose his pent up aggression against the NDP. I suspect that it will be fairly nasty as things get rolling, but I reckon that Jack and his crew are smart enough to have already considered what I’m telling you and I’ll bet they’ve already got plans for the NDP’s version of Benedict Arnold.

  7. Northern BC Dipper
    October 9, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    Okay, maybe a simple overview of our political system is in order here.

    A lot of political debate and lawmaking in contemporary Canada is done in the House of Commons. It is theoretically where the government can answer to the people. Now, the House of Commons is made up of 308 MPs, elected as individuals.

    Now over the years, a political party system has been grafted to the House of Commons. First these political parties where groups of MP, but as time went on, they became massive organizations consisting of public member, all set up to promote certain policies and ensure that their members get elected. Of course, the political party system as it exists today is quite alien to the House of Commons as it was originally set up; that’s why topics such as electoral reform are so popular.

    A political party, at it conventions, elects leaders. Now, because these leaders are elected by the members of a political party, they are responsible for promoting that political party’s policy, and to do that at a greater level then anybody else.

    Now, when a political party leader is assigning critics or cabinet ministers (in which he gets his/her authority to do so by the political party), what they are doing is ensuring that the government bureaucracy in question is being run to the wishes of the people. Now, a critic simply cannot do if if he/she is not present in the House of Commons. You can’t ask questions or debate if you ain’t in the House.

    A political party leader is in a different situation. They are responsible to their political party, because they were elected by that political party. They are therefore given then authority to assign roles and do stuff to promote the party as they see fit, within the bounds of the law and the party rules.

    So, it seems quite obvious to me. A Party leader is a Party leader, a critic/cabinet minister is a critic/cabinet minister, an apple is an apple, an orange is an orange.

  8. Northern BC Dipper
    October 9, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Wow, I have to say that the above is contorted. Political reform, anyone?

  9. Drew Adamick
    October 9, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Some kind of reform is necessary, NBCD, if it’ll encourage more people of different stripes to stop bickering and to start to work together.

    The question is, who will be brave enough to take that first step? And without getting lambasted in the process…

  10. Brian in Calgary
    October 10, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Sounds like you analysed the situation quite nicely, NBCD. You and Drew (in his last post) also acccurately point out the need for reform. There is far too little civility in politics as things stand right now.

  11. October 10, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Wow, you are sure reaching. The difference between Fortier and Rae? Fortier’s appointment was to gov’t, the hands of power and having money to splash around. Rae is appointed as a ‘critic’. You know, ask questions? Kind of like the things the media is suppose to do but tends not to, depending upon the edicts of their editors.
    Rae is already ready to run in an election, there is a seat open. It’s a matter of the people of Toronto Centre to vote for him or against him.
    But the other difference? Rae will answer questions and ask questions. Fortier is basically hidden in Harper’s Cone of Silence, where only pre-approved messages and lies come out.
    Grasp at straws much?

  12. Northern BC Dipper
    October 10, 2007 at 12:34 pm


    I don’t see how I’m reaching at all. The theory behind having a opposition critic is to have the person be able to take that portfolio over if the opposition is called to govern. Seeing as Rae does not have a seat and Fortier does not have a seat, it seems like the same thing to me.

    It’s nice that Rae is ready to go for an election ASAP, unlike Fortier, but I don’t see why Dion can’t wait until Rae actually gets elected to be a critic. So until then, Rae is the new Fortier.

  13. October 10, 2007 at 5:37 pm


    The Dosanjh government named Ed John to the BC cabinet in 2000 despite his having no seat in the Legislature. Given that John later ran as a New Democrat in Prince George-Omenica, I’d have to say John wasn’t really into getting elected. I eagerly await a “yeah, but Ujjal’s a LIBERAL now.”

    Rae’s position seems more Laytonish than Fortierish — on the outside of Parliament, no risk of being in power, but still a party figure hanging about and giving soundbite at scrums. Come to think of it, it’s an area that both Rae and Layton are pretty skilled in..

    I’d say there’s more “pent up rage” from New Democrats toward Bob Rae than the other way around.

  14. Northern BC Dipper
    October 10, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Ian King,

    Yeah, gotta say that running Ed John in Omenica (aka supersafe BC Liberal seat) is really stupid way to try to get elected as a BC New Democrat. That kinda statetgy’s proably one of the reasons why the BC NDP lost big time in 2001. The irony is kinda delicious though, even from this side of the fence.

    As for Rae’s position being more Laytonish rather than Fortierish – I’d say that’s an interesting angle to look at it. But I’ve kinda tried to explain why I think it is the other way around, and I think this is going to be an agree to disagree thing. I think, though, that Dion’s shadow cabinet seems to be a wierd way to allocate Liberal human resources, though.

    As for rage between Rae and the NDP, I think that both sides are flinging it at each other pretty well. It’s a nice sideshow to watch, really.

  15. October 11, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    There’s an assumption that Bob Rae is going to win that by-election (or seat in a general election) hands down in Toronto Centre, but I don’t think that will be the case. I’m living in Toronto Centre, and I’ll tell you that not only are Liberals in this riding having a hard time accepting Rae as their, the NDP from this riding and all over Toronto are chomping at the bit to get at Rae themselves. Add on to the fact that the NDP has nominated a very popular candidate from the riding, El-Farouk Khaki. I’m hoping that Stephane Dion rolls over for Stephen Harper and keeps them afloat long enough to make that by-election happen, because that will just make beating Rae that much easier.

  16. October 11, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    From what I’ve seen, New Democrats tend to have a lot more venom for former comrades than at other parties. (Just mention Hazen Argue to a few oldtimers!) B’sides, Rae has to divide his bile between his old mates in the NDP, the Tories, the Bloc, maybe a few people within the Liberal Caucus…

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