Don Martin: Freeland wins a waiver from PMO control
If the new crop of cabinet ministers appear a little lost for words, beyond gushing thanks for their $85,000 pay raise, it's because they don't yet know what to think.
Their marching orders haven't arrived.
The Mandate Letters, still being penned by the Prime Minister's Office, will soon come down from on high as commandments carved into stone tablets. Those who do not faithfully obey every word will endure fire, brimstone and, as Jody Wilson-Raybould found out, demotion and dumping
So let us put to rest the notion that cabinet ministers actually set the agenda for action in their portfolios. They merely and meekly follow orders from the PMO. This is realism, not cynicism, and it has been this way through many prime ministers. But there was one exception to the rule in this week's cabinet swearing in.
It's the Chrystia Freeland waiver.
Whether Freeland deserves the rapture she receives in media coverage is debatable. There are foreign affairs files where she clearly fell flat. But the new deputy prime minister has been given the power to initiate change on the fly in the pursuit of national unity.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clearly believes she is the best way to keep his badly wounded brand away from files that would be hurt, not helped, by his personal intervention.
It's all part of a remarkable transformation in Trudeau's style, if not substance.
Gone is the loose tie and rolled up sleeves of a prime minister relishing the adoration of crowds and cameras. Now it's all business suits minus any sign of his picture-perfect family in tow as Trudeau does a reasonable facsimile of Stephen Harper sneaking in and out of back doors.
So enter Freeland to share power and, hopefully, get the west back in and Ontario on side.
She brings some promising abilities to the daunting task.
Freeland has the brains to know how to win without gloating and when to accept a retreat to save the day. She will not cower from the trifecta of trouble known as premiers Ford, Kenney and Moe, but she won't ideologically bait them needlessly. She will listen first and act when necessary without waiting for the PMO to launch massive meaningless consultation blitzes.
So for ministers of lesser stature, enjoy those briefing books and rehearsing for parliamentary battle under remote control from mandate letters.
Thankfully there's one who can act without permission from a PMO largely drained of superior staffing talent.
In a very tangible way, the prime minister’s job has suddenly achieved gender parity as a shared responsibility.
And why not? Because, after all, it's 2019.
That's the Last Word.