The Top Line
Today, a few weeks before the fall legislative session, Prime Minister Trudeau made several changes to his Cabinet. The shuffle is highlighted by a significant reorganization of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs portfolio and the appointment of a new Minister of Public Services and Procurement. Four Ministers were assigned new or reorganized portfolios and two MPs were newly-appointed to Cabinet.
The shuffle addressed several critical domestic policy files, including Indigenous Affairs, Health, and Procurement. In particular, the moves are a statement on the need for a renewed focus on and push for deliverables in three key policy areas: Indigenous relations, military procurement, and the Phoenix system for the public service payroll. Notably, however, none of the Cabinet’s key economic portfolios were changed, indicating that the Government is content with its fiscal policy-making and management.
New Ministers and Roles
The following Cabinet changes were announced today:
- Carolyn Bennett has been reassigned as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs;
- Health Minister Jane Philpott becomes Minister of Indigenous Services;
- Kent Hehr moves from Veterans Affairs to Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities;
- Carla Qualtrough moves from Sport and Persons with Disabilities to Public Services and Procurement;
- Ginette Petitpas Taylor is promoted to Cabinet as Minister of Health, having previously served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance; and
- Seamus O’Regan is promoted from the backbench to become Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defense.
The former Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs is now divided between two ministers. Minister Bennett (St. Paul’s, ON) will now oversee only treaty issues on the Indigenous Affairs side, along with Northern Affairs, while Minister Philpott (Markham-Stouffville, ON) will lead Indigenous Services, including Health, Education, and Justice issues related to First Nations. That includes the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Perceived as a high-performing Minister and a good administrator, Minister Philpott is being tasked with delivering more accomplishments on a file that is a priority of the Prime Minister and central to the current Liberal Party brand. As Minister of Health, Philpott negotiated and finalized new Federal-Provincial health funding agreements with every province and oversaw work towards legalization of assisted suicide and cannabis.
Taking over from Minister Philpott at Health is Ginette Petitpas Taylor (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB). She will now be one of the key point persons on the Government’s initiative to legalize cannabis (along with Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice Bill Blair).
Carla Qualtrough (Delta, BC) inherits the challenging Public Services and Procurement portfolio. She now has responsibility for two of the most controversial issues for the Government, namely the ongoing Phoenix pay system issues that have seen many public servants go without pay or with incorrect pay cheques, and government procurement, including several long-gestating military projects.
To replace former Public Works and Procurement Minister Judy Foote as the Cabinet representative for Newfoundland and Labrador, the Prime Minister has promoted former TV news anchor Seamus O’Regan (St. John’s South—Mount Pearl, NL) to Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of Defence.
Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, AB) will remain in Cabinet with his new role as Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. Minister Hehr is critical to the make-up of Cabinet since he represents one of four Alberta ridings in the Liberal Government.
New Brunswick will also have an additional voice at the Cabinet table with new Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor joining Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc as New Brunswick’s representatives.
Today’s Cabinet shuffle, coming close on the heels of one in January 2017, shows that the Prime Minister favours proactively making changes to his leadership group when broader circumstances change or mandate letters remain unfulfilled. In January, the shuffle addressed Canada-U.S. relations and looming NAFTA negotiations, while today the shuffle focused on domestic policy portfolios.
The Government will hope to see more deliverables in the areas of Indigenous Affairs and Procurement stemming from today’s Cabinet shuffle, and will hope that those drafted into Cabinet or shuffled to cover off other areas prove to be steady hands.
As with all Cabinet shuffles, there will be staffing changes in each of the impacted offices. Stakeholders can also expect an update to the ranks of Parliamentary Secretaries before the return of Parliament on September 18.
With newly installed leader Andrew Scheer the Conservatives are also expected to shuffle critic portfolios in the coming weeks. The leadership race in the New Democratic Party will also result in major changes in that party after October 15.
The TSA consulting team is exceptionally well-placed to help stakeholders track this changing landscape and build relationships in all parties leading up to the 2019 election.