Friday, Dec 13, 2019 (updated Monday, Dec 16)

It's the froth of the town. Ottawa, that is. Who's in, who's out.

With the sudden and inevitable end to hapless Andrew Scheer's reign of error atop the Conservative Party, now the speculation, posturing, and trial-ballooning of who may jockey to take over the party.

One thing is certain, this time around, whoever becomes the next Tory leader has a very real chance to become the next Prime Minister of Canada. It's for all the marbles. The stakes are that high. And no doubt the tactics used by some pretenders will be equally low. From the outside looking in, a realtime current affairs drama is about to unfold.

With early-bird special Brian Brulotte first-in, it really is still too early for the big names, but it can be confirmed that drooling eager beavers Peter MacKay & Erin O'Toole are secretly all-in. Both nice guys, but their weaknesses ? a) Pete was PC leader, oh, a decade and a half ago, so nothing new there. b) Erin couldn't beat duds Scheer & MadMax last time out. And we now know how weak they turned out to be.

As well, Pierre Poilievre is sure to enter the leadership contest, he's even received an endorsement from fellow MP Len Webber. Also worth noting that Michael Chong is dancing around the idea like a june bug at a porch light. And, of course, Candace Bergen is toying with the idea, although Christmas shopping seems to be a current priority.

For now, these are the early-birds. Given the seasonal spirit, call them the ghosts of Christmas past and present. But what of the future, will someone new and exciting enter the race and steal all those marbles ? A Mulroneyesque personage not of the current stable of elected, nor of the past ?

That aside, and despite come-ons from myriad political personages from across the land, one name likely not to be in the mix is that of highly-regarded Conservative ex-interim leader Rona Ambrose, said to be on the short list to be Canada's next Ambassador to the United States. '99% she will not be in the race', said one Tory insider. In fact, many key Tories told Bourque today (Friday) there is nothing to suggest a campaign team is coalescing around an Ambrose candidacy.

Add to the 'not in' column ex-Premiers Mike Harris & Bernie Lord, as well as defeated Ontario MP Lisa Raitt, of course, and Calgary's Michelle Rempel Garner (MRG) after, it seems, having 'de-selected' herself over the weekend from any potential run.

Of course, things are moving rapidly and who knows what the landscape will be in 24 hours. But for now, this what what those 'in situ' have shared.



Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

What to do with top Trudeau glom-on Gerry Butts ? Good question !

Last night at a spiked eggnog & catered nibbles soiree in a snooty Ottawa neighbourhood, that parlour game took on a life of its own. Butts, of course, the PMO thingie who fell on his sword at the height of the still-festering JWR/SNC debacle last spring, and since then generally thought to be at loose ends.

Lo and behold, two tantalizing Senate vacancies appear on the horizon, one next month in Ontario with the imminent retirement of Harper appointee Nicole Eaton, of all people. January 21, 2020 to be specific. Then, on April 29th, little-known Nova Scotian Tom McInnis departs the august chamber of sober second thought. Gerry, of course, is a proud expat Cape Bretoner.

And with Justin Trudeau's designated proxy in the Senate, Peter Harder, begging off onerous partisan duties in this new Parliament, that leaves him in a quandary as to who will carry his can in the Upper Chamber during this minority parliament.

So, back to last night's canapes and the jibber-jabber about Gerry Butts becoming an 'Honourable Member' early in the New Year. Let's face it, all it takes to make it happen is the stroke of Justin's pen.



Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Choice Ottawa eateries and dark smoky corridors of power across the country now abuzz with Conservative leadership speculation. Here are some of the early possible contenders:

ex-Justice minister Peter Mackay, ex-interim leader Rona Ambrose, finance critic Pierre Poilievre, western MP Michele Rempel, and ex-leadership candidates Erin O'Toole, Steven Blaney, & Michael Chong. Sadly, ex-MP Lisa Raitt announced on Ottawa radio today that she would not yet again seek the leadership this time.

One thing clear is Mad Max, who finished 2nd in the last contest, will not be among the pretenders this time around, nor will fellow contenders Tony Clement, Kevin O'Leary, Kellie Leitch, or the late Deepak Obhrai.

And it would take a stretch to see either Ontario's Doug Ford or Alberta's Jason Kenney in this cycle. In fact, Kenney told a Calgary paper he had 'no intention of doing that', when asked. Ex-Sask Premier Brad Wall also declined.

However, outsider names bandied about include ex-Premiers & Bernie Lord, and the incandescent tory commentator Tim Powers, of all people, who's name was previously floated as a possible candidate for Tory leader in Newfoundland as a preamble for a run at the premiership.

It can be confirmed, however, that there is no truth to any rumour that ex-PM Stephen Harper will take another crack at the leadership, nor is there any hope of a crazy-ass takeover by ex-Lib MP Leona Alleslev, recently appointed as improbable deputy-leader of the now deeply-turmoiled Conservative Party of Canada.

One thing clear, an exciting generational opportunity to re-imagine the Party has emerged. Developing.


Monday, Nov 18, 2019

'Trudeau's mayor', the big-city broadsheet labelled him the other day. That may be so, but Naheed, it seems, is on the move. And Justin needs a dancing monkey to rep Alberta in his Cabinet. Let's unpack the scenario.

For starters, few know Nenshi is jetting to Ottawa tonight, reasons for which remain cloaked in a deep mystery. We know he longs for greater glory now that his brightness has faded in the Oil Patch. However, we also know that all Alberta Senate seats are taken, unless Gery Butts can convince Senator Grant Mitchell to accept an Ambassadorial posting to somewhere prestigious. Ireland, for instance. And don't look for any quick-access points into a Liberal caucus via a sudden Alberta by-election.

But, let's not forget, a cabinet post does not require its occupant to be an MP. Nor a Senator. Anyone can be summoned to the Cabinet. Even you. Just imagine, a voice at the table. A portfolio. A car and driver. The 'Honourable' honorific that ordinary MPs drool for. It sticks with you for life !

But for poor Naheed, how ? Where ? When ?

With Trudeau's new cabinet set to be revealed in less than 48 hours, and with key spots still up for grabs, Nenshi's sudden appearance in Ottawa Tuesday morning will certainly be cause for significant idle speculation.



Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

It's the talk of the town mere days before the 'big reveal'. A smaller caucus, so, hey, why not a bloated cabinet ? Yes, because it is 2019.

Ok, so who's in, who's out. Who's up, who's down. 'Change is coming', as the CBC's Katie Simpson warned Saturday. Those who posit insight likely have none. Those who profess ignorance are likely awash in it. So tight is the circle of people who will determine the make-up of Justin's next Cabinet, they can be counted on the fingers of one hand, give or take. That scruffy Gerry, of course. Telford & hubby. Justin's mom. The guy who ladles his chowder at Cats. A couple others.

So, here is what we are hearing from key sources who claim to know, as culled from myriad elbow bends at the usual watering holes in the Capital. The Met. Red Baton. Darcy's. Riviera. Shore. Even the Laff, don't laugh, because many an otherwise cautious politico has nattered confidential knowledge over pickled eggs and pitchers of cheap lager.

Let's not get bogged down in the weeds, but here are some highlights from the chattering class.

For starters, Freeland, a whirling dervish of self-propelled hype who's failed on key mission-critical files. She's banned in Russia, for Pete's sake, and the Ukraine remains a bone to pick. China is holding our citizens hostage and our trade deals there are a mess. Ok, ok, so then what about the much-ballyhooed Nafta 2.0, you ask ? Well, despite 3 years of trying, she still hasn't buttoned it up and the guy doing most of the ballyhooing about it is art-of-the-deal'ster Donald Trump. So, how good of a trade deal can it really be for Canada when its chief ballyhooer is the head of the other country.

All of which may mean, hey, let's shuffle Chrystia pronto and get someone else to swan around the world to patch things up. Someone, finally, with veritas. Marc Garneau, the ex-astronaut, knows his way around the globe and is extremely palatable for this function, it is whispered. Or perhaps Champagne. As for Chrystia, play to her massive ego, give her the Deputy-PM gig, whatever that is, and then saddle her with the thankless interprovincial affairs file.

Up next, Morneau, the unapologetic face of failed fiscal promise, massive deficits, and, ya, that secret love nest tucked away in France. 'Leave him at Finance, he's a known quantity, how much worse can he get,' it is suggested. Others say shuffle him, perhaps to Treasury Board, as benign a paper-shuffling post that you can find in Ottawa.

Mackenna is ripe for a move, possibly to Heritage, it has been floated. And if so, look for Wilkinson to pick up her slack. Guilbealt, the eco-warrior would have been a logical choice, it he is thought to be a loose cannon on the oily 'oleoduc' file, so he may go elsewhere to 'season' for a while, perhaps to Heritage, with Mackenna to Infrastructure. It's a juggle at this point, natch.

Blair would replace Ralph at Public Safety, a ministry that should logically see 'Border Security et al' folded into it as a much-needed streamlining and cost-saving measure, tho perhaps an oxymoron in the making, given Trudeau's penchant for oversizing his spendings.

As for Pablo, National Defence beckons, with the affable Sajjan moved elsewhere. Fisheries is one thought-bubble. Or can we see Pablo as Gov't House Leader instead ?

If not, Fergus & Holland may become Justin's 'Ding et Dong' on The Hill. One Gov't House Leader, the other Whip. McCrimmon is ripe for a promotion too. She may find herself finally at the big table, possibly in charge of Seniors.

And then there are those two western Senatorial ticketyboos mentioned the other day (below). Sask's Kline & Alberta's Mitchell, with one or both headed to minor portfolios as stop-gap placeholders. Another scenario floated had the Edmontonian Chretien-era cabmin & frequent Trudeau go-to Ann McLellan appointed to the Senate and right into the Cabinet as the 'defacto' western voice of reason. Minister of Democratic Institutions, or some such knick-knack, but, sadly, no Alberta Senate seat opens up until 2021.

And speaking of Senate appointments. History shows that many a former Premier ended up in the Senate. Hatfield, Buchanan, Callbeck, for instance. With one Senate vacancy currently awaiting a lucky BC'er, what to make of rumours it will be filled by Christy Clark ? Or ex-AB premier Alison Redford, who would face the same small Alberta roadblock McLellan has, lest she go in rep'ing a different province than the one she used to run. Stranger things have happened. The mind boggles.

Last spitball on Senate appointments, a sneaky rumour suggesting embattled Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson may be looking for an exit package pronto to distance himself from the ever-deepening LRT debacle that has seized the municipal agenda in the nation's Capital and hints at unfolding into a major scandal filled with suspect oversight, missed deadlines, budget-busting cost-overruns, potential lawsuits, and epic fingerpointing as fed-up commuters abandon the LRT for more reliable alternatives, including winter bicycles, of all things. If so, Mayor Jim may be eyeing Nicole Eaton's seat, which conveniently opens up in 8 weeks when she retires.

We could go on, of course, but you get the idea. Lesser mortals, the elected ones, will have to hold their breath as they await possible gigs as parliamentary secretaries, committee stackers, or some other subservient what-not.

All of this is inspired speculation by insiders quaffed by ale and spirits, not to mention the odd carafe of Beaujolais Nouveau, a popular pour on these surprisingly cold late-fall days in the Capital. And the pickled eggs, of course. Yes, let's not forget those pickled eggs.



Nov 10, 2019

Rumours swirling in Ottawa late Sunday evening about as many as two 'western' Senators to be appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his Cabinet.

The city lives for this mumbo-jumbo, of course. But, according to sources not unfamiliar with Justin's eminence grise Gerry Butts nocturnal eating patterns (an affinity for double-stacked smoked meat sandwiches of late, if you believe the scuttlebutt), meetings and schemings have occured in recent days to suggest that Sask Senator Marty Klyne and/or his Alberta counterpart Grant Mitchell may be appointed to the Cabinet to cover western alienation concerns and assorted other check-boxes such as First Nations interests and white man syndrome, a desultory bromide that upon reflection checks no useful political box whatsoever.

Our sources, who spoke exclusively on condition of anonymity, could not confirm if PMO pulse-taker Dan Arnold (aka 'Calgary Grit') was out testing the waters, but warned the plan may be iced if it becomes public in a leak to media before an official announcement can be cobbled. Indeed.

That aside, the addition of two more guys to Trudeau's 'woke' cabinet has some male cabinet ministers worried, although the loss of both Goodale & Sohi in the election and the uncertain status of health-challenged stalwarts LeBlanc & Carr should allay the fears of even the most nervous of Nellies (Ⓒ - Chretien, circa 1993). Fellas like .. well, we all know who they are.


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