|The Top Line: Cabinet Reboot
Earlier today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled the Federal Cabinet. The shuffle signals a significant adjustment by the Trudeau team to a changing Federal-Provincial dynamic and a response to headwinds that the Government is facing on some key files, notably trade, the environment and infrastructure. The shuffle was also conducted with an eye on Election 2019, with five new Ministers drawn from B.C., Quebec, and the GTA – three regions that will be crucial battlegrounds.
After taking power in 2015, the Liberals enjoyed close relationships with then-President Barack Obama and with the Liberal governments that were then in place in almost every province. Now, President Trump has upended Canada’s trade agenda and the Trudeau Government faces oppositional governments in B.C. (NDP) and Ontario (Progressive Conservative), with the strong possibility that Alberta and Quebec will follow.
In that light, the following appointments from today’s shuffle are the most important changes to the Government’s front bench:
Notably, and in keeping with a Government that is looking to have strong voices on contentious issues, neither of the Ministers most responsible for the NAFTA file were shuffled – Bill Morneau will continue as Minister of Finance and Chrystia Freeland will stay on as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
|New Roles and Faces
In addition to the aforementioned changes, several incumbent Ministers were given new roles or saw their responsibilities tweaked. The full list of those changes is:
Notably, Minister Carr will take over the significantly renamed International Trade Diversification file, where he will lead the effort to build Canada’s global trade relationships in a world where the U.S. is an increasingly unreliable partner.
In addition to Bill Blair, there are four other new Cabinet Ministers. By appointing fresh faces from several British Columbia, Quebec, and GTA ridings, the Liberals will hope to leverage the higher profiles of the following individuals in Election 2019:
Please see the Appendix for profiles of those new Ministers.
What Comes Next
Given the summer timing of the shuffle and the fact that several Ministers are currently on cross-Canada or international trips, the new Cabinet will not meet immediately. Additionally, mandate letters for the new Ministers will not be published until late summer. The planned Cabinet retreat in Saskatoon in late-August will be the first full gathering of the new front bench team.
Ministers have the summer to become familiar with their new files, meet with public service officials, receive briefings, and reach out to stakeholders. With an election season and a key session of Parliament looming, it is likely that existing Ministerial staff teams will remain relatively unchanged. However, the new Ministers will have to staff up their offices.
The Cabinet shuffle necessitates a Parliamentary Secretary shuffle and the appointment of a new Government Whip and Deputy Whip. Changes will also have to be made to the membership of Cabinet Committees and eventually to the House of Commons Committees. Stakeholders can expect those changes to be carried out before the return of Parliament in mid-September.
In the longer term, the new 35-member Cabinet is the team that the Liberals will lean on to lead the Party to a repeat majority government next year. Stakeholders can expect these Ministers to be called upon to make key policy announcements in the coming year and, eventually, to campaign with candidates in closely-contested ridings in 2019.
Appendix – Profiles of New Ministers
Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
Elected as MP for Scarborough Southwest in 2015, many people expected Blair to be in Cabinet from the start of the Trudeau mandate. Instead, he was tasked with leading the cannabis legalization file as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. Now, the former Toronto Chief of Police will be the Federal Government’s voice on two high-profile political issues in the GTA – organized crime violence and migration from the U.S.
Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Heritage and Multiculturalism
Elected as MP for Honoré-Mercier in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2015, Rodriguez has been the Government Whip since 2017 and previously served as the Liberal Quebec Caucus Chair for several years. Installing Rodriguez as Minister of Heritage reflects the special importance of that file in Quebec and gives Cabinet an experienced Quebecois voice ahead of an election in which making gains in Quebec could be the key to another majority mandate for the Liberals.
|Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors
Elected in 2015 as MP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, Tassi is promoted from her former role as Deputy Government Whip. Her Cabinet seat gives the Liberals a Minister from Hamilton, a city that has a history of producing influential Ministers and that will be a battleground in 2019. Seniors are a key voting block and the Seniors Ministerial post has long existed in past Cabinets, though it was absent in Trudeau’s first front bench team.
|Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard
Elected as MP for North Vancouver in 2015, Wilkinson’s appointment as Fisheries Minister will see the responsibility for that file switch from the East to the West Coast. His appointment gives Cabinet another voice from metro Vancouver, where many incumbent Liberal MPs will face challenging Election 2019 races.