Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Steven Fletcher Dropped from Cabinet

Steven Fletcher, MP for Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia
He was first elected in 2004 stealing back an open Liberal riding in a battle with Glen Murray, the popular city mayor who chose the wrong riding and the wrong time to run as a Liberal.

Fletcher was a long time conservative party worker and endorsed Stephen Harper early on.

In 1996, as an engineering student at University of Manitoba, his vehicle struck a moose and he became a paraplegic as a result. Prior to the injury, he had been quite an outdoor athlete.

By 1997, he had struggled back to re-entering university for a MBA with the assistance of 24 hour attendant care. By 1999, he was running for president of UMSU at the University of Manitoba.

Ever the partisan, he went after those he said were left wing and was a controversial figure despite leaving the student union with a surplus. In 2000, he endorsed anti union and anti tenure policy positions. At the same time, he sought the provincial nomination for the Progressive Conservatives in Tuxedo.

While serving as student president, he conducted searches of offices looking for campaign material stored in contravention of UMSU election rules. In 2001, he became president of the Progressive Conservatives of Manitoba.

The fractious times he had at university was extended to his time as party president. He was a constant thorn in the side of the Stuart Murray, party leader.

It was around this time that Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation decided that they would no longer pay for an assistant to help attend to him during party business. It was a bitter fight and he eventually sued an NDP member and tried to push it twice to the Supreme Court.

In 2003, he turned his focus to federal politics and not once but twice secured the nomination In Charleswood. In 2004, he became the new MP for the area and four years later became a junior cabinet minister. Vic Toews was the senior minister.

In his time in Parliament, Fletcher has been most successful in getting the federal government to recognize disability and under Liberal and Conservative governments, they ensured he had an attendant present on the floor him. Some important health issues were pushed through Parliament by him even if some questioned his commitment to the Canada Health Act.

As a junior minister in various portfolios, he was the flag carrier and loyal foot soldier for funding announcements all over the place. He remained ever the partisan but it was from the Prime Minister's Office handbook. Moreover, the big decisions were always made by the inner cabinet and he was assigned the nuts and bolts of making it work. In some cases such as democratic reform, it appeared he was powerless on anything to do with his mandate, specifically the Senate

As 2013 moves past the halfway point, Harper looked to dump some ministers. In some cases, a few retired such as Toews, some left for health reasons, others indicated they would not run in 2015.

Three ministers were dropped unceremoniously. Peter Kent, Gordon O'Connor and Steven Fletcher. Kent seems to have known in advance and may have even volunteered to be an MP. He has said he is running again but you never know.

Steven Fletcher handled the announcement that he was out with humour. It could not have been fun. There are no open Senate seats, no Lieutenant-Governor position open for now so no place to jettison a dropped minister in the province.  There are no judicial appointments for a non lawyer. Even the lawyers such a Vic Toews didn't land such an appoinment.

By the way, it is my opinion although I have no proof whatsoever that Vic Toews will become the new president of the University of Winnipeg next year when Lloyd Axworthy retires.

However, back to Fletcher...what does a man do when dropped from cabinet? In Fletcher's case maybe run again and expect that a new Tory leader could be only three years away and represent a chance back in.

At the moment though, Charleswood looks vulnerable to a challenge. And I don't means just a challenge from Liberals. At the very least a few people might be wondering if now is not the time to challenge Fletcher for the nomination.

What happens next is anyone's guess. However, there are winners and losers in this shuffle and Fletcher is now a man on the outside looking in.

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