Trying to figure out who is rising and who is descending in politics in Ottawa is a bit like being a Kremlinologist in the old Soviet Union or a political pundit in Beijing.
In Moscow and Beijing, observers watch how the chairs of the major and minor pooh bahs on stage are aligned by proximity to the front row leaders — moving from last year’s back row to this year’s middle row signals an increase in position.
In Stephen Harper’s Ottawa, the signals are a bit more subtle but still discernable.
Which of the Conservative backbenchers are trusted enough to be allowed by the party to go on television political panels or be interviewed as representatives of the government?
Those that are trusted to be the public face of the Conservatives are on the rise or at least in a job interview for a promotion.
So Calgary’s Michelle Rempel, Manitoba’s Shelley Glover and Candice Bergen and Ottawa’s Pierre Poilievre were young MPs in Parliament given a lot of television and House of Commons exposure during the past few years.
In the summer cabinet shuffle, all were elevated.
At least for the next two years until the 2015 election and barring scandal, there are no more cabinet elevations to offer.
Still, there are young MPs who can be groomed with increased responsibility where they can show their mettle and the first training ground is how they handle themselves in the glare of media lights.
Another training-wheels position is to be a House of Commons committee chair, sometimes a training ground for future ministers. It is an important role with a significant cash bonus, carefully watched by the party and often a place to reward MPs or to test them.
Which brings us to the open position as chair of the House of Commons agriculture committee.
Merv Tweed from Manitoba has left to run a railway so there is a Conservative position open to fill when Parliament resumes in October.
Don’t count out Alberta MP Blake Richards, a two term Wild Rose MP with a reputation on the committee as one of the Conservative partisan pit bulls but also an MP who competently chaired a special committee on cooperatives that produced a report leading to government policy changes.
Richards, 38, has been a go-to guy for television political panels this summer, making it seem that he either is trusted or is being tested.
When the House of Commons agriculture committee meets in October to “elect” a new chair proposed by the government, Richards may well be the choice.
At least the Conservatives seem to be giving him a chance this summer to prove his ability to finesse the party position on contentious issues.
Has this been Richards’ job interview for a promotion?