Only Premier MacLauchlan knows what motivated his somewhat unexpected cabinet shuffle yesterday. Was it to initiate the much-talked-about rejuvenation of his government? Was it done out of necessity to shore up a floundering ministry and minister? Was it to appease a disgruntled and fractious backbencher? Whatever it was, I think on balance the new cabinet is better, more diverse and more suited to our needs.
First a few words on the Premier’s choice of inspirational branding for 2016 – to “rejuvenate” government. As with all such carefully applied labels, it is most important in its emotional impact on those intended to be impressed by it. Exactly what it means is anybody’s guess. In a strictly literal sense, rejuvenate means to make young again. Youthfulness has a lot to recommend it, but during my own adolescence, I was definitely no font of wisdom and perspective, or any of the other necessary qualities of good governance. Perhaps reinvigorate – to fill with life and energy - would have been a better choice. At least that makes some sense.
If this is indeed what our Premier has in mind –a more lively and energetic government - it seems odd then, that he would continue to exclude the youngest member of his caucus, and an MLA who has proved his worth in the House, Jordan Brown. No doubt geography, gender balance and all the other tangly criteria that dictate cabinet-making played against him. Jordan is also the very able chair of the committee on democratic renewal – a group that is steering a real opportunity to truly reinvigorate politics on PEI. I for one, am glad that his work in this critical and exciting area will be uninterrupted.
Perhaps the most important move from my perspective in the great shuffle kerfuffle is the creation of a stand-alone Ministry of Family and Human services under the guidance of Tina Mundy. Lumping this Ministry together with the biggest portfolio (Health and Wellness) as was the case before yesterday, made little sense. And installing Tina in this Ministry holds great promise. While I have discovered that it is hard to develop true friendships in politics, especially with members of other parties, as seat-mate over the first two sittings of this assembly, I was struck by Tina’s genuine concern for those in our communities who are most in need. I believe that she will do a good job as their advocate around the cabinet table.
But maybe all this chatter is much ado about nothing. We don’t play cribbage or poker to ogle at the skill of the shuffle. It is a necessary interruption between the sessions of the serious business at hand. And without taking this analogy too far, or suggest that politics is little more than a trivial pursuit, a winning hand depends not only on how the cards are dealt, but on how skilfully the hand is played.