Monday, February 11, 2013

Define "junior", oh great Toronto Star!

Kathleen Wynne's new Ontario cabinet is being announced today, and my local MP, Liz Sandals, has apparently been tapped to become the new education minister.  But that's not the observation that leapt out at me from today's Toronto Star article about the cabinet shuffle.  Authors Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson note that former Education Minister Laurel Broten has been "demoted" to Intergovernmental Affairs, calling it a "a ministry so junior McGuinty ran it himself for years."

 [ETA: Interesting to note that the updated version of the article calls Intergovernmental Affairs: "barely a stand-alone department because the premier usually handles all its major files personally."]

To me, this drives home just how ill-served we are by many of our journalists these days.  Just because a portfolio is held by the premier does not make it junior or unimportant.  Indeed, given how Canada's system of federalism works (or doesn't), the role of intergovernmental affairs minister can be quite important indeed.  Federally, that role was once held by Stéphane Dion, in the aftermath of the 1995 referendum.  Many Canadian Prime Ministers also acted as their own foreign affairs minister.  And what does it say that Wynne is planning on running the Ministry of Agriculture herself?  Just last Wednesday, the Star ran an article arguing that this decision was a way of signalling the importance of this ministry!

Just to be clear, I do think that the decision to move Laurel Broten out of education is probably a demotion.  But to conflate that with implying that the Intergovernmental Affairs ministry is insignificant betrays a woeful lack of perception of how Canada's system of government operates.

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