Consider the seven Cabinet shuffles CanWest News Service examined:
• A major Mulroney shuffle in January, 1989, had no impact on PC party standings, which remained at 43-44% in the three months before and after, according to Ipsos Reid polling data. Gallup recorded an even worse result - a drop of five percentage points in the month following the shuffle.
• Another Mulroney shuffle in April, 1991, was accompanied by a drop in support from 20 to 17%, according to Ipsos Reid.
• A final Tory shuffle in January, 1993, shortly before Mr. Mulroney announced his retirement, made no difference to the government's dismal standings of 17-18%.
• Mr. Chretien's major Cabinet shuffles also did little to help his political fortunes. After a shuffle in January, 2002, his government dropped from 49 to 45% in the polls.
• Another Chretien shuffle in May, 2002, was accompanied by a drop in Liberal support from 47 to 43%, despite the strong support the former prime minister received for firing scandal-plagued defence minister Art Eggleton.
• In June, 2002, when Mr. Chretien removed Paul Martin as finance minister - an unpopular move among many Canadians - support for the Chretien Liberals fell from 43 to 41% as expected, but was back up to 44% four months later, according to Ipsos Reid.
• In January this year, Mr. Harper made his first Cabinet shuffle, partly in response to growing public concerns about climate change. He appointed John Baird as the new environment minister. Months later, however, the Conservatives were still stuck at 32% in popular support, the same level as before the shuffle.
The problem with a cabinet shuffle, the newness factor is counter-acted by the perception that something is wrong. In some respects, you show weakness in admitting that change is required. The last shuffle surrounded the criticism that Ambrose was incapable of handling her department. This shuffle seems to key in on O'Connor, for the very same reasons. You ponder moves, because the people you have are demonstrating some incompetence, hurting the government.
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