So what has Harper done to give Mr. Ivison fits? He has sent secret "mandate letters" to all his cabinet ministers which tighten their already short leashes to "choking point":
Each letter has a detailed list of priorities on which the Prime Minister expects to see results. There is next to no leeway for Ministers to promote projects they may feel are deserving.
Each member of Cabinet was told not to bring forward any unfunded proposals to Cabinet committees without receiving the Prime Minister's prior approval.
Only those proposals that address a threat to health, safety or national security will be added to the list of priority projects by the Prime Minister.
Mr. Harper warned his ministers that even the projects considered priorities are not guaranteed funding and will be reviewed, not by the Priorities and Planning Cabinet committee, as has been standard, but by himself and Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister.
That's it? This is the evidence that the Prime Minister is running Ottawa like Hugo Chavez runs Caracas?
Please. The federal government is running a deficit during a severe economic slowdown, and although recovery seems to be underway, a return to prosperity in the short term is not a sure thing. Governments at all levels are starved for funds and a round of severe belt-tightening is imminent. The guy in charge has a list of spending priorities and expects support from the cabinet, which he appointed. The PM and the Finance Minister, who are responsible for the economic big picture, have forbidden cabinet ministers from bringing unfunded spending proposals to the table unless they concern a threat to health, safety or national security. This is a bad thing?
Never having attended a cabinet meeting, I imagine them to be like a nest of newly hatched birds with mouths agape, each chick trying to shoulder the others out of the way for its share of the worm. The fact that the PM is imposing some fiscal discipline on cabinet from the top down is reassuring to me - maybe they'll actually start acting like conservatives for a change.