I'm at the family home now, and you can hear the snowflakes as they fall to earth- a softer and gentler sound than rain.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
I'm at the family home now, and you can hear the snowflakes as they fall to earth- a softer and gentler sound than rain.
Friday, February 24, 2006
They're lighting it up over at the Crunchy Con blog at National Review. While daunting, it's well worth reading the whole thing. For a bite-sized taste, read the (brief) manifesto.
Some of the early criticisms leveled against Dreher & Co centred around the red herring of coercion: 'Surely the government won't force us to wear Birkenstocks?'
As Bruce Frohnen points out, the question isn't the out-and-out banning of non-Crunchy conduct, but rather how since government policies cannot be neutral we therefore need to pay close attention to what interest is being served:
Societies and governments are definitely not neutral. For example, our current tax structure punishes families for having children and for making the choice of relying on a single income, along with a stay at home mom. And I do mean punishes. The tax structure assumes that all of us are atomistic individuals who may happen to choose consumption items, like children, for which we will give them some tax relief, because we claim to like kids. A system based on the family as a fundamental, natural basis of society would start from the presumption that the family is the unit taxed... Libertarians, and too many conservatives, buy into the notion that the government can be “neutral” by pretending only individuals exist. In fact, government is going to serve some set of interests, and if we don’t make those interests clear and specific (and crunchy) they will be, as they are, hostile to our most important institutions and communities.Ross Douthat suggests another way to ease the difficulty of adopting a Crunchy lifestyle: tax breaks for telecommuting:
Telecommuting a few days a week gives working parents more time with their kids (if only because it knocks out the time lost in the commute); it also makes it easier for families to live further out from city centers, which not only fosters the "crunchy" virtues that come with rural living, but also drives down the cost of raising one of those large traditionalist families that Philip Longman thinks will own the future. Real estate prices are lower the further you get from urban cores, and so is the cost of basic goods and services...The biggest policy change needed hasn't been mentioned so far: the implementation of true educational choice. Currently, the paradigm of funding only public schools not only discriminates against alternative and religious private schools, but also discourages homeschooling while subsidizing the two-earner family.
But more still can and ought to be done to undermine the liberal materialist culture that surrounds us. A good start could be had by first, regulating the content of commercial advertising to eliminate the lifestyle appeals that add nothing to the public's knowledge of market options but produces a dead-weight loss to the economy while reinforcing the consumerist impulse in modern society. A substantial tax should be slapped on remaining advertising revenues to further combat the consumerist mentality. These measure would have the added virtue of hitting the broadcast media the hardest, reducing the influence of mass-manufactured "culture".
More thoughts later, no doubt.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Over at the Crunchy Con blog Frederica Mathewes-Green linked to her brilliant essay entitled "Let's Have More Teen Pregnancy".
David Warren discusses the movie I mentioned a while back, Into Great Silence (h/t: NorthWesternWinds):
Teen pregnancy is not the problem. Unwed teen pregnancy is the problem. It's childbearing outside marriage that causes all the trouble. Restore an environment that supports younger marriage, and you won't have to fight biology for a decade or more...
But don't young marriages tend to end in divorce? If we communicate to young people that we think they're inherently incompetent that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it was not always the case. In fact, in the days when people married younger, divorce was much rarer. During the last half of the 20th century, as brides' age rose from 20 to 25, the divorce rate doubled. The trend toward older, and presumptively more mature, couples didn't result in stronger marriages. Marital durability has more to do with the expectations and support of surrounding society than with the partners' age.
A pattern of late marriage may actually increase the rate of divorce. During that initial decade of physical adulthood, young people may not be getting married, but they're still falling in love. They fall in love, and break up, and undergo terrible pain, but find that with time they get over it. They may do this many times. Gradually, they get used to it; they learn that they can give their hearts away, and take them back again; they learn to shield their hearts from access in the first place. They learn to approach a relationship with the goal of getting what they want, and keep their bags packed by the door. By the time they marry they may have had many opportunities to learn how to walk away from a promise. They've been training for divorce.
At Pontifications, Al Kimel points to a discussion at Reformed Catholicism and excerpts a little of Perry Robinsons point about sola Scriptura vs. solo Scriptura:
What most interested me, and the person who brought the film to my attention, was a single remark of the filmmaker, about what he had learned from making his documentary. He told the BBC, “When I left the monastery, I was thinking about what exactly had I lived through and it was realizing that I had had the privilege of living with a community of people who live practically without any fears.”
The question isn’t whether the Reformers taught solO Scriptura, but whether their position reduces to it logically or not. If on Sola Scriptura every interpretive authority operates with human authority alone, then it seems as if sola does in fact reduce down to solO. What is a council but an aggregate of human views? Consequently, the authority of any interpreative body consists in the logic of their argument and nothing else and hence the need for “clear and necessary inferrence.” This is why an individual can always consult his own judgment because it carries in principle the same authority of any council.
I haven't been able to find the source, but Crosswalk reports a new study on European rates of Church attendence. Not all the countries are included, unfortunately, but here are the numbers:
h/t: Mark Shea
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I caught the "The Olympians" segment on Cindy Klassen, our quadruple medallist on CBC this evening. What does Klassen talk about? Her Mennonite faith, and a mission trip she took to Mexico. Heart-warming.
Well, Canada's Hockey team is out of the medals, losing a tough and well-fought 2-0 game to a talented Russian team. Canada versus Russia is the quintessential hockey rivalry, and so it is a little less hard to lose to them. The pity is that this wasn't a final.
The rest of the day was good for Canada- Cindy Klassen won gold in the 1,500 with teammate Kristina Groves winning silver in the same race.
Chandra Crawford won the women's cross-country sprint gold, and the Canadian women won silver in the speed-skating relay.
There is a tendency for some Canadians to see Men's Hockey as being the only important event in the Olympics. Such an attitude could not be more wrong- we've seen glorious victories and noble efforts from many Canadian athletes representing the best of our nation. Ignoring the champions in other sports denigrates the breadth and the greatness of Canada.
The new book by Rod Dreher on counter-cultural conservatism is almost in bookstores, which means I'll have to see if it makes it into Canadian bookstore shelves. National Review has launched an extremely interesting blog to discuss the book, and has invited luminaries such as Amy Welborn, Frederica Mathews-Green and Caleb Stegall of tNP to discuss the book.
George Nash has ably described the book in an excellent review:
It is a rousing altar call to spiritual secession from an America that Mr. Dreher sees as awash in materialism, consumerism and "lifestyle-libertarian" thinking.Am I a crunchy con? Possibly, but I think I may have to start eating more granola.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The National Post is running a series on the decline of children in Canada this week. Here's a snippet from the opening article, which is probably the one worth reading:
Margaret Somerville, founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, says the most profound impact of this decline in fertility may be in changing attitude. She sees the trend toward delaying or avoiding child-bearing as just another aspect of society's drift toward a culture of "intense individualism," where children are seen more as "a desirable thing to have, rather than as new individuals to repopulate the world."Somerville points out something that's important to realize: the fertility crisis isn't a sui generis phenomenon, but a symptom of the culture of individualistic liberalism Western societies have been cultivating since the enlightenment. In a very real way, we are seeing something resembling cultural suicide.
There's also a quote from Alain Belanger, a demographer at Statistics Canada, who was kind enough to answer a question I sent him a few years ago.
I wrote at some length on the implications of demographic change about a month ago here.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Teemu Selanne has just scored the first goal of the Canada-Finland hockey game. He's had a brilliant Olympics- six goals thus far. A number of Finns declined to play for the national team at the Olympics, including Mikka Kiprusoff, perhaps the best goaltender in the world. Selanne publicly rebuked those who declined to represent their country, and so his present success (and that of the Finnish team as a whole) is particularly wonderful.
lest I be misinterpreted...
Monday, February 13, 2006
In conversation with a learned friend of the Reformed persuasion last night, I made an attempt at bridging the Reformed notion of total depravity with the Catholic identification of mortal and venial sin. Total Depravity takes very seriously the notion that "the wages of sin are death" and appears on the surface at least to be directly contrary to the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sin. My suggestion was that while any particular venial sin does not separate us eternally from God in the abscence of Grace even venial sins are corrosive, and lead inexorably to greater sin and ultimately seperation from God through mortal sin.
Update: On reflection, is this moot? Does the mortal/venial distinction only apply in within the context of the Christian life?
Saturday, February 11, 2006
The Olympics are here, which has brought out the naysayers. But for those who prize competition and who have not thrown off national patriotism the Olympics are an opportunity for joy & nationaly unity.
Who am I rooting for? Canada, of course, first & foremost. Some of my ancestral nations: the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany & Latvia. Some countries I will be rooting for, even though they're not very much winter nations are Greece (ancestry), Australia and New Zealand (the Imperial connection). I'll also be pulling for sentimental favourites Denmark (on account of what they're going through) and Liechtenstein (showing the world an appropriate balance between monarchy & democracy).
Friday, February 10, 2006
When I first started this blog, I wrote a brief explanation of why I named it "Et In Arcadia Ego". As you can tell from my subtitle and my profile blurb, I'm not exactly enamoured with our modern age. The Arcadian ideal is of a pastoral relationship with the land; of a simple and elegant existence focused on small, natural communities based around the family, and a beneficient stewardship of the land. At the same time, however, I recognize that the prior age which I look back too was far from perfect. In the painting on the right, Nicholas Poussin has inscribed upon a tomb the words "Et In Arcadia Ego" meaning "And I too was in Arcadia". The speaker is Death.
So much I was striving for when I first named this blog. But shortly after, it was pointed out to me that the first book of the Catholic classic Brideshead Revisited is entitled "Et In Arcadia Ego" as well. This connection manages to infuse some Englishness as well as buttress the original meaning.
As fortunate as I was in my blog name, I also managed to find good fortune in symbols when I bought a necklace. I added a crucifix and an old miraculous medal, but decided to keep the original fleur-de-lis ornamentation as well, thinking it a nice connection to pre-revolutionary France and my countrymen in Quebec. As a friend pointed out, however, the fleur-de-lis is also a symbol for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
A few days ago, Washington had its annual National Prayer Breakfast. Bono spoke at the breakfast, and got most of the media attention. But at a lunch specifically for Evangelical leaders, King Abdullah of Jordan spoke on the need for each of the Abrahamic religions to overcome intolerance and ill-will. What struck me, however, was this:
Joseph Lumbard, special adviser to the king on interfaith affairs, said the king wants to engage in a deeper dialogue with Catholics and members of other Christian traditions.Interesting- the King speaks to a group of evangelicals, and singles out Catholics as the focus of engagement. Why mention Catholics specifically? It's incredibly optimistic, and I realize there are other possible reasons his advisor mentioned Catholics particularly, but could it be King Abdullah is feeling drawn towards the Church? Heaven knows conversion would make things terribly awkward, but I would trust divine Providence to ensure things work out for the best.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
So, despite my resolution to move away from the political, dp expresses surprise that I haven't commented on the new Cabinet. So, with trepidation, I'll offer my reaction.
There are some appointments I love. Rona Ambrose for Environment. Gary Lunn getting Natural Resources. Maxime Bernier moving into the Industry portfolio. Chuck Strahl in Agriculture and Stockwell Day in Public Safety. I'm also a fan of Tony Clement, and I'm confident he'll impress in Health. Hearn in Fisheries, Prentice in Indian Affairs and Bev Oda for Heritage were all obvious picks, and for good reason. Leaving James Moore out was similarly well-judged; though a strong QP performer, there's a wealth of difference between opposition & government, and his other qualifications seem to spring solely from the media's love for him, which is hardly an unalloyed virtue in my mind.
The vast majority of the rest of the picks were sound, if not spectacular matches as the above are. My reservations are highest when it comes to Justice. I'm doubtful Toews has the gravitas to deal with the Justice system, and I'm concerned he'll overreach. We'd have been better off putting Peter MacKay or Flaherty in Justice. I'm disappointed Monte Solberg didn't get a higher profile slot, and he would have been a wise choice to guide the Tories through their first budget. He could also have replaced MacKay in Foreign Affairs extremely ably.
I'm worried that Harper's pick for Finance, Jim Flaherty will have too negative a profile in Ontario due to his close association with the Harris era in Ontario; better to have put Solberg in Finance, or even to have given Maxime Bernier the job.
I'd have preferred to keep Social Development as a separate portfolio at least until the Tory programme on Child Care Choice has gone into effect; Josee Verner would have been a good choice there.
To the controversies. Just to give a quick brief, David Emerson, a former deputy Minister in British Columbia and ex-CEO of Canfor had been the Industry Minister in the Liberal government. He's crossed the floor and taken on International Trade & the Olympics in the Tory administration. The other big controversy involves Harper's appointment of Michael Fortier to the Senate (on a temporary basis) and to Cabinet. Fortier's from Montreal (which didn't elect any Tories this time round), and a major figure in the Conservative machine in Quebec.
Firstly, the Emerson kerfluffle. I'm critical of the entire endeavour. A great number of people are comparing Emerson to Belinda. Now, I believe that Emerson switched parties for nobler reasons than Belinda, out of a desire to serve the country rather than seeking greater power for himself. Emerson didn't get into politics to become a player, and he's consistently failed to exhibit any leadership aspiratiohs whatsoever. Add to that the fact that Emerson probably will lose his riding running as a Tory, and I think it's pretty clear that Emerson isn't exhibiting the vaulting ambition that Stronach did. What makes his flip as bad as Belinda's is the timing. Emerson just ran as a Liberal in his riding, fighting off the NDP in part by saying a number of harsh things about the Tories. He should not have campaigned as an anti-Tory unless he was one. At the very least, Emerson should have waited to see a budget before saying 'I'm on board with the Tory agenda'. Belinda at least was known in her riding to have reservations about the socially-conservative element of the Conservatives.
Where the Belinda comparison goes off the rails is by thinking Harper & Martin's actions were equivalent. To my mind Harper ought not to have promoted Emerson's rapid shunting aside of his loyalty to his constituents (which, to my mind is to give the Liberals a fair shake in opposition and retain a reasonable skepticism for a time about Tory virtues). Still, that is nowhere near Martin's grievous assault on our constitutional & legal system. It seems almost certain to me that a quid pro quo was offered to Belinda in exchange for her vote on a resolution before House. As the Ethics Commissioner's report on the Grewal affair shows, that was a crime. That, however, was not the worst of it. If we cast our minds back, we'll remember that Martin's government had already been defeated on a confidence vote in the House, which for technical reasons, he refused to accept as a formal vote of non-confidence. However, a firm constitutional convention states that when there is a government defeat in the House, and it is uncertain as to whether the Government holds the confidence of the House, the Government must put forward, at the shortest reasonable juncture a formal resolution of non-confidence. Martin did not, violating the Constitution of Canada. Instead, he delayed for across a weekend, which gave him enough time to persuade Belinda to cross the floor and save the government.
On the Fortier affair, I haven't the faintest objection to Senators being in Cabinet. It's hardly a novel thing to do, and any questions asked in the House can be answered by his Parliamentary Secretary. Nor have I an objection to Harper appointing Senators. I further think that this temporary appointment doesn't violate the spirit of Harper's pledge to institute an elected Senate. I do however, find the "we need a Montrealer" rationale to be silly. We don't need cabinet representation in the big cities of Montreal & Toronto. Sure, it's nice, but hardly essential. The Liberals lacked cabinet representation from the conservative ridings in the country. Just because the liberal ridings in this country are more geographically concentrated doesn't make Tory non-representation any worse than that of the Liberals.
There is a final mini-controversy, which is the appointment of retired Brigadier-General Gordon O'Connor to head the Defence Department because he worked as a lobbyist in the industry for some time. But conflicts of interest are about ensuring no government official acts with a few to securing some future exterior benefit; in short if he were to return to lobbying that would be problematic, for he may have favoured some companies to generate goodwill. Going the other direction shouldn't create such problems.
Via Drudge, news has hit of a major discovery of new species in the New Guninean mountains. What you see on the right are four species either completely unknown to the world, or largely thought of as myth before this expedition. This first is the Berlepsch's Six-Wired Bird of Paradise, which had never been seen alive before. Birds of Paradise only live in New Guinea and the North-Eest tip of Australia, and are incredibly beautiful.
A new species of red-faced, wattled honeyeater was discovered in the mountains; apparently the team had barely arrived at camp before coming across them.
Scientists also discovered at least twenty new species of frogs, four new species of butterfly, five new species of palm, and what may prove to be a Rhododendron with the largest blossom in the world. This frog is an unknown species of the genus Albericus.
The rare Golden- Fronted Bowerbird was seen performing its mating ritual. This was the second time it had been recorded in the wild by western scientists.
All of the pictures are from the New York Times story.
Update: Here are a few more pictures available from the Beeb.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
It seems a number of exceedingly awesome films are, or are quite likely to be upon us in a short time. The Russian metaphysical action film "Nochnoi Dozor" (Night Watch) is apparently opening in a few weeks or a little later, depending on where you are.
Still more fascinating, Mel Gibson's tale of a civilization collapsing in upon itself (parallels, anyone?) will open this summer. And yes, Apocalypto (meaning "unveiling") is all in a language no one understands (Mayan this time).
And, a movie I greatly hope to see, Into Great Silence, a meditative exploration of the life of the monastery of Grand Chartreuse.
As for interesting little bits of culture, Superman Returns appears to be going with the messianic theme for all it's worth. Just listen to the voiceover towards the end of the trailer. Sure, it's a little on the Pelagian side, but how much can one really ask of secular, effete Hollywood?
Friday, February 03, 2006
It's not even two weeks since the Tories won the election, and they've already been proved right on the question of supporting families with young children versus subsidizing daycare. It was bound to happen, but it's encouraging just how quickly it did happen. The study looked at data from StatsCan's National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth for Quebec and the rest of Canada both before and after Quebec instituted its massively subsidized daycare programme. The results, according to the authors:
"We uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioural and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills and illness... Our analysis also suggests that the new child-care program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health and lower-quality parental relationships."
Of course, the daycare flacks are in denial. In the Globe and Mail, they quote Martha Friendly, co-ordinator of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit at the University of Toronto who accuses the authors of making a "real conceptual leap" between daycare and child behaviour. Apparently drawing conclusions based on data is beyond the scope of academic work now. Heaven forbid you link different concepts!
Of course, that's not the only non-sequitor offered. Dr. Friendly also offers this gem: "Do you think anybody would say being in kindergarten makes children more aggressive?" Firstly, the issue isn't kindergarten, it's younger children in daycare. To see the flawed reasoning behind this, let's say Dr. Friendly had said that middle school doesn't make kids more aggressive. Even if this is the case, it is not necessarily the case for all age groups. Even if five-year-olds don't have a problem being separated from their parents for most of the day, that has no bearing on whether two-year-olds would have the same reaction. Secondly, I think there are a fair number of people who would say that for some children, kindergarten does make them more aggressive. Certainly I think that was the case for one younger relative, and most people can probably think of kids they've known for whom kindergarten wasn't a wonderful thing.
Dr. Friendly also offers this gem of wisdom: "From my reading of this study, I don't think there's enough information available to be able to make the assertion that is being made in this study." That's a perfectly vague criticism. I don't even know what it means. Does she mean that the correlation isn't statistically significant? Or does she mean there's an alternative explanation for the correlation? For someone who is a professor at U of T, you'd think she'd know the difference between assertion and argumentation.
You can get the summary of the study here. The study itself is supposed to be here, but I haven't gotten it to work.
I've put up a few new links recently on my sidebar. Iain Benson runs a notable political/cultural institute, the Centre for Cultural Renewal. I've known Iain for almost all of my life; back when I was a small boy we went to the same church together. Then he became Catholic and started the Centre. I'm indebted to him for showing me that faith & the intellect can be integrated, and furthermore for demonstrating that Catholicism is a viable way of following Christ. He blogs at CentreBlog (Iain, a trifle uncreative, don't you think?). I fully recommend checking both out, particularly if you're Canadian.
On a slightly different note, I've linked to Dappled Things, a new online Catholic literary journal. Read them; write for them if you're so inclined.
Last week, I got home at 3.30 after an in media res concert at the Railway Club. This week, a little earlier, 10ish after a choral performance at the Chan Centre out at UBC. A trifle eclectic, I'd agree.
Anyways, the University Singers performed one of Palestrina's masses, which was beautiful, and finished off with a piece by Respeghi, which I didn't find all that interesting. In the middle of the performance, however, they sang Arvo Part's Stabat Mater. Now, while this was the first time I'd heard a piece by Part, one of the speakers at the CCO conference talked at length on his life- how he'd been one of the Soviet Union's most accomplished composers, but in the late 70s fell into a creative morass, unable to write anything. Part eventually sought spiritual renewal, retreating to a monastery for a lengthy period. Part emerged not only with a strong faith, but a completely new and vigourous approach to his compositions. The key to his new style was his idea of tinntinnabulation, "whereby one part moves in stepwise motion while the other voices sing broken arpeggios of the same minor-mode triad." Part focused on sacred music, one of his new compositions being an arrangement of the Stabat Mater.
My academic knowledge of music is incredibly limited- but I can tell you that Stabat Mater worked on both the aesthetic and the spiritual levels. In short, one of the more riveting musical experiences I've had.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
As I noted before, I picked up the February issue of First Things earlier this week. I've been reading FT since high school, and this month's issue reminds me why. I haven't got through it all yet (I'm a little worried that it looks like one of those issues where you have to read it all); but I've enjoyed a wonderful reflection on the history of a Polish parish, now about to close its doors; Amy Welborn's lovely review of a book on the Gunpowder Plot, which takes place in a period of history I have great interest in (though, as one can judge by the lack of flux on the sidebar, not too much time to read about); Timothy George's extremely enlightening look at Evangelicalism over the psst century, particularly with regards to their ecumenical outlook (or, at times, antipathy to); and Fr. Neuhaus' Public Square, and marvelous reflection on the risk of a "Truce of 2005".
But perhaps most interesting theologically is Avery Cardinal Dulles' essay on Pope Benedict's thinking on the Second Vatican Council, with a particular care for changes in his view of the Council's work from his days as a theologian at VII to his years in the CDF.
I'm afraid no excerpt will really do justice to the essay, so here's a little bit that amused me:
The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes in final form was primarily the work of French theologians. The German group did not control the text. At the time of the council Ratzinger already noted many difficulties, beginning with the problem of language. In opting for the language of modernity the text inevitably places itself outside the world of the Bible, so taht as a result the biblical citations come to be little more than ornamental. Because of its stated preference for dialogue, the constitution makes faith appear not as an urgent demand for total commitment but as a conversational search into obscure matters. Christ is mentioned only at the end of each section, almost as an afterthought.Goodness. Can't the French do anything right?
So, after my half-hearted effort last week, I thought I'd design the strongest Cabinet available to the Conservatives. Then, I decided what would actually happen. You'll find a few of the titles have changed to a more dignified form.
The Perfect Cabinet:
Deputy Prime Minister
& Domestic Security: Lawrence Cannon
Finance: Monte Solberg
Foreign Affairs: Stockwell Day
Secretary of State for International Trade: Garth Turner
Secretary of State for International Cooperation: Diane Finley
Justice & Attorney-General: Peter MacKay
War: Jim Flaherty
Health: Tony Clement
Secretary of State for Public Health & Sport: Stephen Fletcher
National Revenue: Jason Kenney
President of the Queen's Privy Council: Peter Van Loan
Constitutional Relations: Rona Ambrose
Immigration: Diane Ablonczy
Agriculture: Gerry Ritz
Indian Affairs: Jim Prentice
The Natural Patrimony: Gary Lunn
Natural Resources: Jay Hill
Industry: Maxime Bernier
Transportation: Carol Skelton
Heritage: Bev Oda
Fisheries: Loyola Hearn
Rural Development & ACOA: Greg Thompson
Human Resources: Rob Nicholson
Social Development: Josée Verner
Veterans' Affairs: Gordon O'Connor
Housing & Labour: Vic Toews
Leader of the Government in The Commons: Chuck Strahl
Leader of the Government In The Senate
& President of the Treasury Board: Hugh Segal
General justification for all of this? Firstly, the obvious: Bev Oda for Canadian Heritage; Loyola Hearn for Fisheries; Jim Prentice for Indian Affairs and Hugh Segal for Senate Leader. Counting votes, it would seem that one is best off keeping Milliken as Speaker, so there needs to be a role for Chuck Strahl, but preferably one that is not too demanding due to his health. House Leader fits his capabilities well, and should mean his days aren't as long as his Cabinet colleagues. That means Jay Hill really ought to get into Cabinet.
For Finance, I've heard four names mentioned: Solberg, the current critic, Flaherty, former Finance Minister under Mike Harris, Maxime Bernier, an economic whiz from Quebec, and Rob Nicholson, a well-respected Ontario MP. It's hard to see Nicholson sneaking in, as he has the drawbacks of both Bernier and Flaherty without the positives. A budget has to be delivered in a few months, so experience is needed, ruling out Bernier. Solberg is from Alberta, which is a detraction, but Flaherty isn't nearly as familiar with federal finances as Solberg, so Solberg gets the nod. Maxime Bernier needs something economic, both because his talents lie there and because I've given non-economic posts to the other Quebec Ministers, so he fits into Industry, from whence he can move into Finance if the wind so blows.
Vic Toews hasn't impressed me as Justice critic, and there needs to be found a prominent place for the current Deputy Leader, so Peter MacKay, a former prosecutor gets Justice. Vic Toews, a former provincial Labour Minister, fits into Housing & Labour. Stockwell Day needs to be in one of the top slots, and the obvious one is Foreign Affairs, where he's done an excellent job as critic, and proven himself able to function within the team, rather than as leader. Can Stockwell restrain his enthousiasm for our Southern neighbours sufficiently? I'm betting so.
Where to put the Ontarians? Jim Flaherty and Tony Clement both merit and will prove boons in senior Cabinet roles. Clement seems to be tipped for Health all over the place, and I concur. Stephen Fletcher gets the junior portfolio. As for Flaherty, National Defence would appear apt, as we've already filled the senior economic portfolios. Lawrence Cannon needs a role as well as Deputy PM, and Public Safety makes a good deal of sense.
The Tory position on Child Care faces its toughest challenge and greatest opportunity in Quebec, so Josée Verner gets the job- it also helps that she's a mother of three children. Rona Ambrose was an Intergovernmental civil servant in Alberta, and will step into that role in an inexperienced Government. Diane Ablonczy steps Cabinet in the same role she played in Shadow Cabinet, while Jason Kenney needs to find something respectable, without much prominance so he can continue to be one of the chief intellectuals on the right of the party; a Minister-Without-Portfolio slot with a portfolio. So he gets Revenue, while Peter Van Loan, PC organizer extraordinaire needs a similar position, and so takes the Queen's Privy Council position.
We've still got Environment open, and Bob Mills is one of the victims of the surfeit of Alberta talent. Trouble is, there's nobody obvious to take the role. While I thought briefly on Clement landing here, I've decided to give it to Gary Lunn, an extremely able fellow and charming; both qualities needed to be Environment Minister in a Tory administration. He also comes from the BC Coast, where Environmentalism is strongest, and his riding contains the greatest concentration of Greens in Canada. Jay Hill from Prince George reflects the other side of BC, the resource industry side, and so gets Natural Resources.
As another blogger pointed out, the new Government is going to need someone intimately familiar with the workings of the Federal Government to oversee the Treasury Board and help implement Gomery's recommendations, and so Hugh Segal gets a portfolio to go with his leadership in the Senate. O'Connor ends up in Veteran's affairs, while Garth Turner goes to International Trade, where his financial background will suit and he can act as a counterbalance to Stockwell in the senior position. Saskatchewan gets Agriculture via Gerry Ritz, which leaves a Baird, Finley, Skelton and Greg Thompson without portfolios; and only three obvious portfolios to be had. So I've created a portfolio for Thompson, which is basically ACOA with a slightly broader theme. Assigning the last portfolios between Finley, Skelton and Baird was essentially arbitrary. Purposefully out of Cabinet: James Moore who gets displaced by the lower-profile but more admirable Gary Lunn.
As for the Cabinet I'll bet Harper will actually choose, I'll take my advice as above, with a few changes: Jason Kenney takes over Treasury Board, which allows James Moore to take charge of Revenue. Flaherty to Finance, Solberg to Foreign Affairs, Day to National Defence. Greg Thompson takes the Environment Ministry while Gary Lunn fails to make it into Cabinet and the Rural Dev/ACOA Ministerial responsibilities no longer stand alone.
I picked up Maclean's yesterday, and read Paul Well's excellent epic story of the recent election. A well-told tale (I certainly found it more interesting on the page than as it unfolded), with many inside details I hadn't heard before. However, the most interesting aspect of the story was Well's description of the Tory, Liberal and NDP post-mortems on the 2004 campaign. The short lesson: the NDP and the Tories learned from 2004; the Liberals learned all the wrong things.