Prime Minister Trudeau shuffled his cabinet today, marking the first major changes to his front bench since January 2017. Today’s shuffle is a reflection of the realities that Prime Minister Trudeau and his government are facing with just over a year to go until the next general election, including turbulence on the international scene, vulnerabilities in Ontario (which just voted for Doug Ford) and opportunities in Quebec.
Several of today’s appointments give an indication of issues that the Prime Minister sees as vulnerabilities or opportunities. He added new posts responsible for dealing with increasingly hostile Premiers, addressing border security, and tackling organized crime – all areas in which his government faces opposition attack. He appointed an Albertan to Natural Resources, an attempt to head off criticism that he is hostile to that province’s oil industry. He appointed a strong performer to Infrastructure, to ensure that MPs can make popular funding announcements before the next election. Finally, he signaled that he is serious about protecting the economy from U.S. protectionism by re-orienting the trade portfolio to focus on diversifying Canada’s exports to be less reliant on the United States.
Several senior ministers who are playing key roles kept their portfolios, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, and Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale. This is a reflection of their performance and their value to Prime Minister Trudeau and his team. This is especially true of Minister Freeland who has been at the forefront of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation, and who oversaw the finalization of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. Minister Freeland has thus far made her presence in the foreign affairs scene a practical necessity in the age of President Trump.
Several ministers found themselves reassigned to new roles. Among these reassignments were Minister Jim Carr who will now be the Minister of International Trade Diversification, Minister François-Philippe Champagne who is the new Minister of Infrastructure, Minister Amarjeet Sohi will now be the Minister of Natural Resources, and Minister Mélanie Joly who is now Minister of Tourism, Official Languages, and La Francophonie. One particularly interesting move is that of Minister Dominic Leblanc, a close friend of the Prime Minister, to take responsibility for the growing challenge of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Among today’s promotions are several backbench MPs who have distinguished themselves for their work or maintain close connections to Prime Minister Trudeau and his team. Among those promoted are MP Mary Ng (ON) who is the new Minister of Small Business, MP Filomena Tassi (ON) who will be the Minister of Seniors and MP Jonathan Wilkinson who is the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and of the Coast Guard. Also promoted is Minister Bill Blair who will be taking on the new role of Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.
This new team of ministers will now be tasked with moving the government’s agenda forward and fending off opposition attacks, positioning the government, they hope, for re-election.
Promotions and Major Reassignments
The Hon. François-Philippe Champagne
New position: Minister of Infrastructure
Former position: Minister of International Trade
Minister Champagne got his start in government as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance after his election victory in 2015. Minister Champagne is a very strong performer in the House of Commons and has taken on the role of aggressive defender of the government when needed. His skill in the House of Commons has thus far been matched in his role as Minister of International Trade where he has overseen the closing of trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership.
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
New Position: Minister of Tourism, Official Languages, and La Francophonie
Former Position: Minister of Canadian Heritage
Mélanie Joly was first elected to Parliament in 2015 and has served as Minister of Canadian Heritage since then. Joly had previously founded Le Vrai Changement pour Montréal party, and ran for mayor of Montreal in 2013, finishing as runner up. Prior to politics she enjoyed a successful career in both law and communications. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Law from Université de Montréal and a Magister Juris in European and Comparative law from the University of Oxford.
The Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson
New position: Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Former position: Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Riding: Vancouver North
Jonathan Wilkinson was first elected in 2015 and appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Since his appointment, Minister Wilkinson has been viewed as a strong performer by both government insiders and stakeholders.
The Hon. Amarjeet Sohi
New position: Minister of Natural Resources
Former position:Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Riding: Edmonton—Mill Woods
Minister Sohi was first elected in 2015, winning the riding of Edmonton—Mill Woods by a very small margin. A former bus driver and city councillor, Minister Sohi was appointed to his role in December 2015 and has spent his time delivering on Prime Minister Trudeau’s infrastructure promises. Seen as a strong cabinet performer, Minister Sohi will be facing a tough re-election bid in 2019.
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough
New position: Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility
Former position: Minister of Public Services and Procurement
Minister Qualtrough was first elected in 2015 to the British Columbia riding of Delta and was immediately appointed to cabinet as the Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities. Generally seen as a very strong cabinet performer, Minister Qualtrough was promoted to Minister of Public Services and Procurement after the previous minister retired for family reasons.
The Hon. Filomena Tassi
New position: Minister for Seniors
Former position: Deputy Government Whip
Riding: Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas
Minister Tassi was first elected to her Hamilton-area riding in 2015 after a career spent as a lawyer, educator, and spiritual counsellor. She has held a variety of backbench roles in the government and was promoted to be the Deputy Government Whip in 2017. In her capacity as Deputy Government Whip, Minister Tassi was responsible for leading investigations into accusations of misconduct by Members of Parliament and Cabinet ministers.
The Hon. Pablo Rodríguez
New Position: Minister of Canadian Heritage
Former Position: Chief Government Whip
Born in Argentina, Mr. Rodríguez was first elected in 2004, and subsequently reelected in 2006, 2008 and 2015, with a brief interlude from 2011-2015. During his first stint in Parliament, he held a number of positions, including critic for Culture, Official Languages, Economic Development, Public Works and Government Services, La Francophonie and as Quebec Caucus Chair. Upon his election in 2015, Mr. Rodríguez was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and in 2017 named Chief Government Whip. He has stated that his priorities as an elected official are the fight against climate change, the protection and promotion of culture, and the promotion of official languages and minority rights.
The Hon. Bill Blair
New Position: Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
Former Position: Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health
First elected to Parliament in 2015, Mr. Blair has led the cannabis file for the government, culminating in the passage of the legislation earlier this year. Before entering politics, he served 39 years on the Toronto Police Service, with ten years as the Chief of Police. During this time, he served as President of both the Ontario and Canadian Associations of Chiefs of Police, receiving the distinction of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.
The Hon. Mary Ng
New position: Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion
Former position: Backbench
First elected as a Member of Parliament in a by-election in April 2017, Ng has made an impression in the short time she has claimed her seat. Before her election, Ng worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as Director of Appointments and is therefore seen as close to the Prime Minister and his top advisers. In her short time as an M.P., she has served as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.
The Hon. Dominic LeBlanc
New position: Minister of Intergovernmental Relations, Northern Affairs, and Internal Trade
Former position: Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Dominic LeBlanc is a long time fixture in the Liberal Party caucus, having first been elected to office in 2000. However, his connection to the Prime Minister goes back much further, as they have known each other since they were children. Minister LeBlanc is seen as a trusted advisor to Prime Minister Trudeau and an effective minister within the government. He was first appointed to the role of Government Leader in the House of Commons in 2015, and was subsequently made the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in 2016.
The Hon. Jim Carr
New position: Minister of International Trade Diversification
Former position:Minister of Natural Resources
Riding: Winnipeg South Centre
Minister Jim Carr was first elected to his Winnipeg-area riding in 2015 and held the role of Minister of Natural Resources since then. Minister Carr is seen as a gifted communicator and has assertively led the government’s energy agenda through key issues such as pipeline construction and the development of a new impact assessment process. He has also been closely involved in key issues such as carbon pricing and the oceans protection plan.
——— Written by Andrew Richardson, Manager, Political Insights and Strategy, Dan Mader, former Senior Vice-President, and Karine Fortin, former Director, Strategic Communications and Community Relations, NATIONAL Public Relations