Now that the omnipotent Vic Toews has stepped down as Provencher MP and Manitoba’s senior political cabinet minister, the race is on to replace him.
There are 10 remaining MPs in the Manitoba Conservative caucus. To simplify matters, we’ll divide them into two distinct constituencies: the "no chance" camp, and the "have a chance" camp.
Conservative party insiders believe the following MPs have really no chance to move into cabinet; Merv Tweed (Brandon-Souris); Robert Sopuck (Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette); Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona); Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul); James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake); Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South) and Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre).
The reasons for these disqualifications vary. Some are too inexperienced. Others have earned persona non grata status with their lack of ambition, or their propensity for political naivety.
That leaves an interesting, if smaller group of have-a-chance MPs that are led by junior minister Steven Fletcher, (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia). Anytime a regional minister moves on from a province, the junior minister (if he or she exists) would certainly be considered for a promotion.
As the first quadriplegic elected to the House of Commons and appointed to cabinet, it would be impossible to ignore Fletcher in this shuffle. However, despite his remarkable achievements, there remain concerns about whether his health will allow him to take on the extremely demanding role of regional minister.
Beyond Fletcher, there are some interesting options.
The national media like Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar) after she gained attention by sponsoring a private members bill to kill the long gun registry. And Shelly Glover (Saint Boniface), a contract enforcer for the Conservatives who frequently is called upon to mix it up on cable news panels, has certainly earned some consideration even as she fights allegations she broke election finance laws.
What factors will go into the final decision? Cabinet appointments must be made with consideration to experience, regional concerns and gender. There is no doubt this PMO would love to appoint its first woman regional minister for Manitoba.
As well, there is an urban-rural issue to be dealt with. Toews represented Provencher, a rural riding. With Fletcher as the junior, there was an urban-rural balance. Would the PMO risk alienating a strong party core outside Winnipeg by appointing two city ministers?
Or, perhaps the PMO doesn’t think Manitoba deserves two ministers. It has never been written in stone that this province gets two seats at cabinet. Perhaps the PMO can solve the problem by giving Fletcher a minor promotion and leaving the other, thorny issues unresolved.
At this stage, we only know for certain there will be change in the power structure of federal politics in Manitoba. What kind of change remains to be seen.