I often talk about the "Ottawa Bubble" in my MP reports.
The news reported by the parliamentary media often seems disconnected from my constituents' experiences, as I hear on my annual summer listening tour. This tour helps me determine whether my efforts as a Member of Parliament are in sync with my constituents' aspirations and challenges or whether they need to be reassessed.
Based on this year's tour, my constituents' main concerns are the cost of living, housing, and health care, which are probably consistent with the government's own focus groups and polls that have led to this significant cabinet shuffle.
While I have often criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for retaining ministers well past their prime out of loyalty, while demoting or outright pushing out those who show any semblance of independent thought, this shuffle was different.
This time underperforming ministers, who were either too long in the tooth or clearly beyond their capacity, were replaced rather than retained out of sheer loyalty to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
However, from a British Columbia perspective, the reshuffle was not positive.
One of the most important jobs of a prime minister is to build, if not maintain, national unity. As the most western province, British Columbia often does not look for leadership from Ottawa.
Having strong voices in the cabinet, coupled with important portfolios, allows British Columbia, Canada's third-largest province, to have more impact on the power dynamics in Ottawa.
It was expected that the previous minister of fisheries and oceans would eventually retire, but the demotion of Carla Qualtrough from one of the biggest positions in employment to sport, while promoting a former parliamentary secretary to a new and relatively benign minister of citizen services, is disappointing.
While some point to the lateral move of the minister of international development to emergency preparedness, both citizen services and emergency preparedness roles do not come with a stand-alone department with their officials. These ministers must work under the supervision of a senior minister.
This shows that the prime minister has chosen to diminish rather than increase the voices of British Columbia in the cabinet.
The prime minister, his finance minister, environment minister, natural resources and industry minister have stayed the same, signalling that Canadians should not expect a complete or partial reversal on many vital files.
Unless demonstrated otherwise, the status quo will continue with out-of-control inflationary spending, a rising carbon tax to 61 cents/litre, anti-energy policies that increase the cost of living while stifling jobs and investment in our country, and more multi-billion dollar subsidies to mature profitable industries.
One of the more minor but thorny issues I hope the new minister of health will address is Health Canada's recent regulatory proposals on natural health products and their associated user fees.
Consumers and Canadian producers of health products are gravely concerned about what they consider over-the-top labelling requirements and new fees that will hollow out choice and competition.
Lastly, let's be mindful that at a time when Canadians are looking for leadership on the cost of living as well as crime, drug policies and rampant homelessness, it will be a steep learning curve for all these new ministers: instead of decisive action, many will be acquainting themselves with their departments, stakeholders and new cabinet committee assignments.
As an opposition member, I know my job is to criticize the government. Still, I also want the best for my country and its citizens.
My constituents are struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, and the country is more divided than ever. I wish these new cabinet ministers well as they tackle these issues.
My question this week:
Do you view this cabinet shuffle positively, or is it just another example of the "Ottawa Bubble"? Why or why not?
I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.
Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.