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Friday, April 23, 2010

Planned Obsolescence

Among the unasked questions in the Guergis-Jaffer fiasco is the nature of Ms Guergis' former ministerial perch. John Snobelen, late of the Harris cabinet in Ontario, asks why modern Canada needs a minister for the status of women.

I ran Mathyssen’s “don’t care about women” comment past a number of women who own their own businesses, have held senior positions in government or who work at senior levels in corporations.

They are, to a person, not impressed.

I’ve got some news for Mathyssen; a lot of women resent being appeased. They know that what passes for women’s issues are really societal issues. Glass ceilings, pink ghettos, spousal abuse and Aboriginal women’s rights cost everyone in society.

They also know those issues are not going to be resolved, or even thoughtfully addressed, by political parties that still find it convenient to park them in the status of women ministry.

A non-minister in a non-ministry. Guergis' real value to the government was in ticking off two important checkboxes; being both photogenic and a woman. Placing her in an inconsequential junior post minimized the potential fallout. Yes, le affaire Guergis is messy, but imagine if her portfolio had been finance or industry. Stephen Harper might have been looking at the wrong end of a confidence motion. The now fallen minister was usually stationed just behind the Prime Minister during Question Period. Her blond mane contrasting with the salt-pepper hockey helmet hair of the PM. The end of the former beauty pageant's political career may have the advantage of reminding Canadians they have a minister on the status of women. As Snobelen notes, the ministry was created in response to a government report in Pierre Trudeau's first term as PM. Baby may have come a long way, but politics never changes. Government ministeries never die, they just keep expanding. 

All government ministries have budgets, and budgets are spent. The bulk of most ministerial budgets are expended in handing out large novelty checks to favoured groups. These groups in turn agitate for more money. Should the sluice of taxpayer dollars dry up, they cry foul to the media. The public, inattentive to the machinations of the political class, read the headlines that minister X - whom they have never heard of - does not care about issue Y - of which they know little about, but nonetheless feel obliged to be concerned. We're all concerned about women - yes, even men - and their status is no doubt very important. Government, which in Canada is charged with solving all problems great and small, must care about what Canadians care about. Or at least feel they should care about. Does a minister on the status of women help women? Aside from those directly benefiting from the ministerial largesse? Naturally the answer is no. But government isn't about solving problems, unless those problems involve bombing or jailing someone, it's about making people feel that something is being done. It's pure sentimentality, masquerading as public policy. It's par for the course in the game of big government.

Posted by Richard Anderson on April 23, 2010 | Permalink


Maybe the number of ministers should be a constitutional constant.

Posted by: Anonymouse | 2010-04-23 2:59:29 PM

A minister for the status of women you say! Is there a similiar minister for men? Sounds like sexism to me! How much of this ministry's budget goes to radical men haters? This is just one more program(like the transfer payment scheme) that is just a shellgame.

Posted by: Boch | 2010-04-23 6:29:37 PM

And while we're on the subject of unnecessary and ever-growing govt departments, she was also Minister for Sport.
Why is there a federal minister for sport? More cheques to be handed out.

If you didn't have a federal govt and had to hire one to do necessary things like national defence or foreign relations, I doubt you'd decide that there should be a sport department as well.

Posted by: Patrick Armstrong | 2010-04-24 9:39:50 AM

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