The government minister was in a confident mood that night and let others around the dinner table into a secret. \n"I'm expecting a big promotion -- I've been there for Paul from the start and the time has come to get my reward," was the confident prediction. \nPaul is Paul Martin, leader of Canada's ruling Liberal Party, who takes over as prime minister on Dec. 12 from Jean Chretien after a 15-year struggle for the top job. \nNow Martin must assemble a Cabinet where the number of spots available -- 38 at last count -- is vastly overshadowed by those who assume their support for him deserves ministerial office. As a result, Ottawa is a frenzy of speculation about winners and losers. \n"Paul's going to have a lot of enemies on Dec. 13," said one aspiring legislator. \nMartin's dilemma is all too familiar to Chretien, who announced last week he would retire and make way for Martin, who was recently chosen party leader. "When you make the list of a Cabinet, for any leader, it is the toughest job because you know you will disappoint a lot of people," the prime minister said. \nMartin aides say there will be a major clearout, which probably means farewell to Transport Minister David Collenette, Industry Minister Allan Rock, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief and Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal. \nThe only sure winners are Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale and Health Minister Anne McLellan, who have both been linked to the jobs of finance minister and deputy prime minister. \nThe futures of Foreign Minister Bill Graham, who has known Martin for 35 years, and Defense Minister John McCallum are uncertain. \n"It's depressing to go into the kitchen and realize the fruit flies there have a longer life expectancy than I do," said an aide to one minister tipped to lose out. \nThe real question mark is over Finance Minister John Manley, who ran for the leadership and infuriated Martin by suggesting he had used underhand methods. Manley says he has no idea what will happen to him. \n"It is time for me to reflect on things ... I have choices and we will see what Mr Martin may want me to do or not," he said. \nThe Martin team's anger with Manley, who is also deputy prime minister, is tempered by the fact he is widely seen as one of the most competent Cabinet members. \nAnd it is competence that will be at a premium, since Martin's task would be easier if he were simply able to choose the best team available. Unfortunately, the peculiarities of the Canadian political system make this impossible. \nTradition dictates that ministers must come from as many of the 10 provinces as possible. Put bluntly, this means that even if the only legislator elected from a certain province is an incompetent, he or she is likely to be in Cabinet. \n"People complain about the American system but at least it gives the president the chance to nominate professionals. In Canada, the man who was in control of law enforcement used to be a potato farmer. That's ridiculous," said one diplomat. \nFormer Solicitor-General Lawrence MacAulay was indeed a potato farmer. Wayne Easter, his successor, is also a farmer and has a diploma from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. \nMartin must ensure there is proper representation from the ranks of visible minorities, those who speak French (one of Canada's two official languages) and from immigrant communities. \n"There are 14 Liberals of Italian descent who are sure they're going to be in Cabinet. At most, two of them will make it. Paul's hardest job is going to be to call the unlucky 12," said one confidant. \nMartin is keen to bring in talented outsiders such as former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna but will only do so after a federal election likely to be held in May. This means some ministers such as Manley might be asked to stay on for a few more months before losing their jobs. \nOne obvious but unwieldy way to relieve the pressure would be to expand Cabinet by appointing more junior ministers. \nMartin also says there will be a greater role for parliamentary under-secretaries, whose main responsibilities are to answer questions in parliament when ministers are absent. \nHe is also rumored to be putting together a super industry ministry that would incorporate foreign trade and research portfolios. \nThe speculation only adds to the tension of Martin backers who have waited years to get into Cabinet. Among the favorites is Stan Keyes, who chairs the Liberal caucus in parliament. \n"I don't feel that Paul Martin for one moment has to feel beholden to Stan Keyes ... I was just doing my job," Keyes said. Then he added with a faint smile: "There are advantages to having worked very hard for Paul over those who have not said anything about Paul Martin."
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