Federal Cabinet Shuffle

The Top Line

As the federal government nears the two-year anniversary of its minority government, Prime Minister Trudeau made the largest and most significant mid mandate changes to his Cabinet since the 2015 election. These changes reflect the Prime Minister’s desire for a younger, more energetic Cabinet to lead the government into the next election.  That election – whenever it comes – may be the Prime Minister’s toughest challenge to date as he faces a reinvigorated Conservative Party under the leadership of Pierre Poilievre that, in polling released today, leads the Liberals by ten points nationally.

Today’s shuffle is intended to focus the Cabinet on responding to significant affordability issues as well as continuing to prioritize climate change and environment-focused files that it sees as a critical differentiator with the Conservatives and the correct response to a rapidly growing green economy.

The Prime Minister has also placed Cabinet troubleshooters in portfolios that have been vulnerabilities in the past Parliamentary session, specifically Public Safety, Housing and Transport.  Dominic Leblanc in Public Safety, Sean Fraser in Housing and Pablo Rodriguez in Transport will all be asked to drive results and counter opposition attacks in the upcoming Parliamentary session.

A shuffle of this size is rare and critics will allege it is an admission by the Prime Minister that his Cabinet has stumbled since the 2021 election.  The next 6-12 months will be critical in terms of whether the retool has had its desired effect.  Internally, many caucus members first elected in 2015 will be disappointed seeing some of their colleagues from the class of 2019 and 2021 promoted ahead of themselves.  Management of this caucus dynamic will be an important consideration for the Prime Minister as he enters the latter half of his mandate.

What Didn’t Change

While the number of changes is significant, the Prime Minister has retained many of the core group of ministers in their current portfolios: Chrystia Freeland as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; Mélanie Joly at Foreign Affairs; François-Philippe Champagne at Innovation, Science and Industry; Steven Guilbeault at Environment and Climate Change; Jonathan Wilkinson in a renamed Energy and Natural Resources portfolio; and Mary Ng at Export Promotion, International Trade and Economic Development (though with Small Business moved to a new minister).

Providing stability in these key portfolios signals a consistent approach for the government on the economy, foreign affairs and the climate-focused agenda.  On the latter, the government will look to contrast its approach to climate and the green economy with that of the Conservatives.

Other ministers remaining in their portfolios are Patty Hajdu at Indigenous Services; Dan Vandal at Northern Affairs and Prairie Economic Development; Marci Ien at Women and Gender Equality and Youth; Filomena Tassi at the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario; and Gudie Hutchings at Rural Economic Development.

Key Moves

The Prime Minister has put what he sees as his strongest ministers in critical portfolios.  These include Sean Fraser at Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, managing two critical issues for the government; Anita Anand at Treasury Board; Dominic LeBlanc at Public Safety (while retaining the important roles of Democratic Reform and Intergovernmental Affairs); Mark Holland at Health; and Karina Gould as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, there are seven new MPs entering Cabinet, presenting a new face for the government.  The goal is to present a team that is youthful, speaks with clarity and conviction, and will withstand aggressive attacks from the Conservatives, as countering those with strong, forceful messaging is critical to the Liberal re-election strategy.  These new Cabinet members have built strong reputations for speaking on behalf of the government in media and in Parliament and have clearly impressed the Prime Minister and his office. 

This newly appointed group is being challenged to address some major issues across the country, including the roles of Justice, Crown-Indigenous Relations, Mental Health and Addiction, Tourism, Small Business, and Families, Children and Social Development.

Other Significant Changes

Other important changes include Lawrence MacAulay returning to Agriculture and Agri-Food, a portfolio he previously held from 2015.  Pablo Rodriguez moves from Heritage to Transport, where he will work to solve lingering issues with transportation delays.  He is replaced at Heritage by Pascal St-Onge.  Also, Jean-Yves Duclos moves from Health to Public Works and Procurement as the government seeks to address issues related to contract outsourcing.

Marie-Claude Bibeau moves from Agriculture to Revenue, while Ahmed Hussen shifts from Housing and Diversity and Inclusion to International Development.  Big names in new roles also include Bill Blair moving to National Defence and Anita Anand moving from the latter to Treasury Board.  Marc Miller becomes Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, while Harjit Sajjan is the new Minister of Emergency Preparedness.   

Meanwhile, a new portfolio was created: BC MP Terry Beech becomes Minister of Citizens’ Services.  However, the position of Associate Minister of Finance has been eliminated, with Randy Boissonnault becoming Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages.  

Finally, three high-profile ministers were removed from cabinet; Justice Minister David Lametti, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, while four other ministers announced in the days prior to the shuffle they would not be seeking re-election and hence would be leaving Cabinet, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Joyce Murray, and Minister of Public Services and Procurement Helena Jaczek.  

New Faces

  • Gary Anandasangaree – Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
    • MP for Scarborough—Rouge Park.
    • Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
    • Former lawyer and law professor.
  • Terry Beech – Minister of Citizens’ Services
    • Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.
    • Professional background as a professor and business consultant.
  • Arif Virani – Minister of Justice and Attorney General
    • Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business, Export and International Trade.
    • Professional background as a constitutional lawyer.
  • Ya’ara Saks – Minister of Mental Health and Addiction
    • Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
    • Previously a small business owner and political staff member in the Government of Israel.
  • Jenna Sudds – Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
    • Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Women, Gender Equality and Youth.
    • Previously Ottawa Deputy Mayor and City Councillor from Kanata.
  • Soraya Martinez Ferrada – Minister of Tourism and Minister Responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
    • Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion.
    • Previously a Montreal City Councillor and Parliament Hill staffer.
  • Rechie Valdez – Minister of Small Business
    • Professional background in corporate banking and small business.

What This Means to You

With the new Cabinet now announced, we should expect new Parliamentary Secretaries to be named given that many from these ranks were appointed to Cabinet.  Also, the Opposition parties may now consider changes to their critics to align with the new ministers and portfolios.  This will also have a big impact on House Committees as members appointed to Cabinet will need to be replaced.

We should also watch for any indication that the Prime Minister will issue new mandate letters to Ministers or if the mandate letters issued after the 2021 election will continue to be the primary outline of each Minister’s priorities.  Along with considering mandate letters, the Prime Minister must appoint a new Deputy Minister at Finance – an especially important position as the government begins its budget process this fall.

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