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Trust in experience: A snapshot of Prime Minister Trudeau’s mini Cabinet shuffle

François-Philippe Champagne

Photo Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Photo Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Mere days into a year 2021 that is heavily rumoured to host a federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officialized earlier this morning a Cabinet shuffle signalling the departure of one of his dearest friends.

Navdeep Bains, a core member of Trudeau’s inner circle (he was the national co-chair for organization on Trudeau’s leadership campaign) announced his decision not to seek reelection, ending in the process his near 5-year term as Innovation Minister, a top-3 Cabinet portfolio. A competent and respected senior voice within team Trudeau, Bains steered Canada’s innovation mandate, notably by developing our country’s first superclusters as well as its first Intellectual Property Strategy, and with his impact on the telecommunication file. He will likely be remembered for his command of files, his hands-on approach to stakeholder relations, and his cool demeanour.

In his place, Trudeau once again turned to frontbench stalwart François-Philippe Champagne to step up and assume the vacant position. This nomination is yet another indication of Champagne’s influence within Cabinet, and reputation as a steady hand who gets things done. He was until recently heading Canada’s diplomatic delegation as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

  • In the process, the MP from Mauricie (Quebec) is rewarded with his fourth economy-centric portfolio, having been Parliamentary Secretary to former Finance Minister Bill Morneau (2015-2017), Minister of International Trade (2017-2018), and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities (2018-2019), where he was in charge of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
  • His international experience in the private financial sector, coupled with his rural roots, make him a perfect fit to pursue an ambitious agenda that bridges the rural and urban divide.
  • He is well liked across Quebec and holds one of Canada’s largest private sector network.

This vacancy at Global Affairs Canada will be filled by yet another reliable hand, fellow Cabinet veteran Marc Garneau, who had until then been Transport Minister. Known for his ability to work across party lines, the famed former astronaut will use these skills to steer Canada’s diplomacy, at a time when one of its closest allies, the U.S., is eager to renew with a more multilateral approach to international issues.

Minister Garneau lived in the U.S. for many years, and formerly chaired Cabinet’s Canada-U.S. relations committee. His first job will undoubtedly be the Trudeau Government’s recalibration of the Canada-U.S. relationship with the incoming Biden Administration.

Omar Alghabra, a long-time loyalist to the Prime Minister, was promoted to Cabinet and will serve as Canada’s new Minister of Transport. This three-term MP has been steadily climbing up the ranks of the Trudeau administration since 2015, having been both Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Consular Affairs) as well as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Public Service Renewal).

Finally, and of note: Winnipeg’s Jim Carr will be re-elevated in his Cabinet role as Special Representative for the Prairies. Mr. Carr has faced some significant health challenges in recent years. He is widely respected within the caucus and across the proverbial aisle for his competence and steady leadership.

With this minor shift, Justin Trudeau is likely trying to ensure stability in the stewardship of the country, at a time when Canadians are still wrestling with a global pandemic. With an entire country longing for a return to normal, and provinces pushing for a faster rollout of vaccines, continuity at the top sends a reassuring message.

Rumours have now been swirling for a while on the prospect of a 2021 federal election. Regardless of timing, the first post-pandemic electoral exercise will be a major event, one that could see competing visions for the future of this country.

NATIONAL experts in Public Affairs and Government Relations will continue to closely monitor developments on Parliament Hill and analyze how these dynamics shape up what is primed to be an eventful political year.

——— Tiéoulé Traoré is a former Director, Government Relations at NATIONAL Public Relations


Written by Tanya Kavelaars-DiPenta | Braedon Clark

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