Now that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has finally satisfied speculation about his retirement, another surge of second-guessing surrounds his replacement.
With a cabinet shuffle looming, possibly as early as today, that speculation has settled on three names -- Portage Lisgar MP and parliamentary secretary for public safety Candice Bergen, Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia MP and junior cabinet minister for transport Steven Fletcher and Saint Boniface MP and parliamentary secretary for finance Shelly Glover.
Most MPs would not guess who might become Manitoba's next regional minister, though Fletcher allowed he would prefer to see more women in cabinet. Most said it was Toews' day and praised him as a strong voice for the province.
'He is a wonderful constituency politician -- people down the street always knew who he was -- but he always understood the big picture'
"I've learned a great deal from him," said Winnipeg South Centre MP Joyce Bateman. "He is a wonderful constituency politician -- people down the street always knew who he was -- but he always understood the big picture."
In a statement, Toews said he is retiring from politics to focus on his young family and work in the private sector.
"It takes a great deal of deliberation on the part of those who decide to enter politics. It takes an even greater amount of consideration and effort to step out of office when one still enjoys the support of those who elected them," he said. "However, for me, the time has come to step aside and begin the next chapter of my life. I am leaving public life in order to focus on my family and to pursue opportunities in the private sector."
Toews has a young son with his second spouse following an acrimonious divorce from his first. There is no word yet where in the private sector Toews will land.
Toews, often a divisive and partisan figure, followed Liberal heavyweights such as Lloyd Axworthy and Ron Duhamel in the job of Manitoba's top cabinet minister. Carrying Manitoba's water at the cabinet table is no small task, given the province's tiny number of seats and relative lack of economic clout.
But Tim Powers, a Conservative strategist, said Manitoba's Tory caucus is fairly strong, and it's possible the province could continue to have two voices in cabinet. Also top of mind will be boosting the number of women in the inner circle.
"It's clear Bergen and Glover have performed well and are viewed well by the prime minister," Powers said. Prime Minister Stephen Harper tends to reward MPs who deliver, and both have handled their assignments well, especially Bergen, who became the national face of the party's successful elimination of the long-gun registry. Her professional, reasonable style has also earned kudos.
But Fletcher has also done well, most recently chaperoning the transportation file, and could benefit from being a veteran during a significant cabinet shuffle that brings in many rookies, said Powers.
Fletcher, widely respected and with a friendly working relationship with the province, has earned praise even from New Democrats. He was name-checked by Premier Greg Selinger in a recent television appearance when the premier was asked who might succeed Toews as Manitoba's top MP in Ottawa. He has also earned the respect of outspoken NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre).
Some say the smart political money is on Glover. She holds a seat the Tories stole from the Liberals and are keen to keep. She speaks French and is M©tis -- two key assets when weighing the diversity of cabinet. A former police officer, she is a natural communicator, though often seen as doctrinaire and petty.
"Shelly can be a tad more assertive in the partisan sense," allowed Powers.
And Glover's recent battles with Elections Canada over her 2011 election returns could dampen her chances of a cabinet promotion.
Glover has since corrected her returns, allowing her to sidestep a possible suspension from the House of Commons. Now the question is whether she exceeded the spending limit by more than $3,000.