Tuesday, June 28, 2005

There IS Such a Thing as a Liberal With Integrity ...

... and his name is Joe Comuzzi, the now former Minister of State for Economic Development for Northern Ontario.

The junior minister, who had been responsible for federal economic development in northern Ontario since 2003, informed Prime Minister Paul Martin of his decision in what was described as an amicable conversation Tuesday morning.

Martin has said the vote on same-sex would be a free vote for backbench Liberals, but cabinet ministers are under orders to vote in favour of the bill.

Comuzzi, who represents the Ontario riding of Thunder Bay-Superior North, had abstained from voting on the bill at the second reading stage.

Another Liberal cabinet minister who has said he is opposed to same-sex marriage, Natural Resources Minister John Efford from Newfoundland, was absent for the second reading vote.

Note that Comuzzi has resigned from the cabinet and not the Liberal Party, so this has no effect on the House numbers. However, since this is a pretty junior ministry, Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell will fill in for Comuzzi -- at least until it's time to promote a new backbencher.

Best guess is that Raymond Bonin of the Nickel Belt may be in for a promotion. Of the five MPs representing Northern Ontario ridings, Bonin's got electoral experience (he came in with the first Chr├ętien government in 1993) and he's chaired the House Standing Committee on Northern Development, twice.

An alternative would be Brent St. Denis, the MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing. He came in at the same time as Bonin, and has sat on the northern development committee.

Outside shots include Roger Valley, from Kenora, who's a current member of the committee but only got elected in 2004.

There is of course the remote possibility that the Liberals could try to persuade Charlie Angus, the New Democrat MP for Timmons-James Bay, to join up with the Grits and take the position. But we all know that the Liberals would never! ever! promote an outsider to a ministry, even a junior one, just to secure their numbers. Especially an MP who was only elected a year ago. Right?