Column: There’s something interesting in every Cabinet

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, recently announced his new cabinet, giving portfolios of all sorts Cabinet
to 38 people. The cabinet includes Bev Oda, Minister of International Co-operation (formerly known as the Minister of Peace and Goodwill), Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labor
(formerly the Minister of Labor and Childbirth), and Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment (formerly the Minister of Ice and Snow).

Stockwell Day is the Minister of International Trade, which explains
why there’s a sign inside the Canadian Superstore that says: “Thanks to Stockwell Day,
it’s a well-stocked day.”

Also in the new cabinet are Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety (it’s important to keep the public safe) and Christian Paradis, Minister of Public Works (it’s important to keep the public working). Van Loan, as you can guess from his name, was also under serious consideration for the position of Minister of Vehicle Rentals.

The cabinet has four ministers in charge of “affairs”: Gregory Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, Josee Verner, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs (yes, Indians have affairs too). Cannon’s appointment is a significant one, because it’s been more than 50 years since Canada used a Cannon to handle Foreign Affairs.

Also appointed to the cabinet are Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources, Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Helena Guergis, Minister of Backyard Pools. Actually, Guergis is Minister of State, Status of Women, a promotion from her previous position: Minister of State, Status of Babes and Honeys.

Cabinet positions vary considerably from one country to the next, as you can imagine. In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet includes Lalu Prasad, Minister of Railways (also known as the Minister of Train Delays), Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, Minister of Information and Broadcasting (also known as the Minister of Censorship), and Sis Ram Ola, Minister of Mines (also known as the Minister of Yours).

The cabinet has seven ministers in charge of “affairs,” including Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of External Affairs, Shivraj V. Patil, Minister of Home Affairs, P.R. Kyndiah, Minister of Tribal Affairs, and Prem Chand Gupta, Minister of Company Affairs (the most common type of affair).

The minister with the most power is, of course, Sushilkumar Shinde, Minister of Power. But I wouldn’t want to mess with Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers. Nor would I want to tangle with Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs. I have nothing but awe for a man who oversees Indians overseas.

I also have to tip my hat to Syed Khursheed Shah of Pakistan, who serves as Minister for Labor, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis. It may seem like an odd combination, but it makes sense: if you don’t keep Pakistanis employed and happy, they soon become overseas Pakistanis.

Perhaps the most cutting-edge portfolio belongs to Australia’s Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. I’m not sure what it involves, but it sure sounds impressive, especially the “Digital Economy” part. It would be more impressive, of course, if he were Minister for Broadband, Communications, the Digital Economy and Overseas Australian Affairs with Indians and Pakistanis.

Growing up in Zambia, I was envious of one minister in particular, the Minister of Sports. I wanted that job. Nothing would have been sweeter than attending all the football games, tennis tournaments and, if I could take a pillow along, chess matches.

These days, I’m envious of General Ulises Rosales del Toro of Cuba. He truly has a sweet job: Minister of Sugar.

Come to think of it, India does not have a Minister of Sugar. You’d think the country would at least have a Minister of Sweets. If anyone from the government is reading this, I’d like to offer my services for a much-needed position: Minister of Sweets for Overseas Indians.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Ha Ha Ha.. The best among your blogs of late!!

  2. Gauresh Mehra says:

    Nice…But you stand corrected. I am sorry to be too meticulously meticulous.
    But We do have “Minister of Sugar” in India too or rather we many have Ministers of Sugar. Sugar in India is a State Subject. And Many Large States with Powerful Sugar Cane Co-operative Societies do have SUGAR Ministers. Namely in the State Cabinets of Karnataka, Mahrashtra, AP.
    Sweet!!! Isn’t it ??? 🙂

  3. Mohamed Ismail says:

    Ha Ha Ha
    Good one
    Thou Dennis Lewewe would beat to the position in Zambia – with his high speed mouth
    i am from Ndola now living in Vancouver Canada
    Mohamed, ex-Ndola

  4. Hi Melvin,
    I too grew up in Ndola and now live in Kelowna B.C.Your humour is unique and must surely have been cultivated from all of those years living in Zambia.E-mail me at
    would like to chat.All the best Tom Harrison

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