Federal Cabinet Shuffle

The Top Line

Today, the Federal Liberal Government conducted a Cabinet shuffle, with six members of the Government assuming new roles.  The shuffle was a strategic decision, serving to alter the makeup of Cabinet and its Committees specifically with an eye to optimizing Canada’s relationship with the United States (U.S.).  In that light, the most notable appointment was that of the Honourable Chrystia Freeland as Minister of Foreign Affairs, with retained responsibility for Canada-U.S. trade relations.

The January 20th Inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the U.S. is quickly approaching.  Given some of President-elect Trump’s ideological positions and his record of making unanticipated policy pronouncements, Canada can no longer take the status quo of its relationship with the U.S. for granted.

To date, Prime Minister Trudeau has conducted himself very much as a globalist leader, and has made a point of personally working to attract overseas foreign direct investment to Canada.  But the appointment of Minister Freeland to the Foreign Affairs file looks very much like a move to reinforce Canada’s relationship with the country’s closest neighbour and biggest trade partner.  Minister Freeland’s background as a fiscal policy journalist in the U.S. enables her to draw on a large network of connections in American finance and politics, and Prime Minister Trudeau will lean on her to maintain Canada’s ‘special relationship’ with the U.S.

In a related move, Transport Minister Marc Garneau has been appointed as Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Canada-U.S. Relations, replacing Minister Freeland (who remains a member of the Committee).  Minister Garneau’s background as a naval officer and astronaut, as well as his stint as President of the Canadian Space Agency, may appeal to the high number of ex-military officials in President-elect Trump’s Cabinet.

The Cabinet shuffle was also used as an opportunity to reward some high-performing Caucus members and remove Minister Maryam Monsef from the troubled Democratic Institutions file.  The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne was chosen to replace Minister Freeland as Minister of International Trade and the Honourable Patricia Hajdu was moved to the Employment, Workforce Development and Labour portfolio – which has been a shrunken role since Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos assumed some of the responsibilities that are usually associated with the Employment Minister in August 2016.

New Ministers and New Roles

The full list of new roles is as follows:

  • The Honourable Chrystia Freeland is the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing the Honourable Stéphane Dion;
  • The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne is the new Minister of International Trade, moving into the role previously occupied by Minister Freeland;
  • The Honourable Ahmed Hussen is the new Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, replacing the Honourable John McCallum;
  • The Honourable Patricia Hajdu is the new Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, replacing the Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, who will no longer hold a Cabinet post;
  • The Honourable Maryam Monsef is the new Minister of Status of Women, moving into the role previously occupied by Minister Hajdu; and
  • The Honourable Karina Gould is the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, moving into the role previously occupied by Minister Monsef.

Outgoing Immigration Minister John McCallum will resign as an MP and assume the position of Ambassador to China.  The appointment of an experienced, senior Government official to that post signals the Trudeau Administration’s continued prioritization of growing trade with China as an important source of economic growth for Canada.  The new jobs given to the Honourable Mr. Champagne (a former trade lawyer) and the Honourable Mr. McCallum signal that the China trade file will be one to watch in the coming year.

Finally, outgoing Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has announced his intent to leave politics, and is reportedly weighing Ambassadorial positions.

Regional Representation

The departure of the Honourable Maryann Mihychuk (MP for Kildonan-St. Paul in Manitoba) from Cabinet and the appointments of Ministers Gould (MP for Burlington), Hussen (MP for York-South – Weston in Toronto), and Champagne (MP for Saint-Maurice – Champlain) will bolster the calls of some stakeholders who had already argued that Cabinet is regionally imbalanced.

Experience vs. New Blood

With the departures of the Honourable Mr. McCallum and the Honourable Mr. Dion from Cabinet, the Trudeau Administration has further distanced itself from past Liberal Governments.  There are now 21 Ministers who are also first-term MPs, while only four Ministers remain from previous Liberal Cabinets.

Gender Parity and Composition

The shuffle maintains the 50/50 gender split in Cabinet that Trudeau pledged his Government to in 2015, with a membership of 15 female and 14 male Ministers.  The shuffle also sees the appointment of Canada’s first Somali-Canadian Minister.

The Cabinet Committees

The membership of Cabinet Committees was also tweaked today.  Cabinet Committees are small teams of Ministers that drive Government planning and priorities in specific policy areas. New policy and legislative proposals are fed through the Committees, making the Chair of each Committee a particularly powerful member of the Government.  As noted above, Minister Garneau will be the new Chair of the Committee on Canada-U.S. Relations.  Minister Freeland will maintain membership on that Committee, while all three new Ministers (Champagne, Gould, and Hussen) will join the Committee – reflecting a significant shakeup of the brain-trust assigned to manage Canada’s relationship with the country’s closest neighbour and largest trade partner.

What This Means to You

Today’s shuffle was a specific measure targeted at putting new faces on Canada’s relationship with the U.S., while also serving as a chance to reassign responsibility for two portfolios that had drawn criticism in recent months.  A more wide-ranging shuffle can be expected this summer.

A Cabinet shuffle means that relationships must be built and strengthened with new Ministers and their staff (as there will be some staffing changes associated with the moves).  In the short term, Chiefs of Staff will remain in their current roles – providing stakeholders with a degree of continuity and acting as a resource for incoming Ministers.

The eventual departures of the Honourable Mr. McCallum and the Honourable Mr. Dion from politics will mean that by-elections will occur in the ridings of Markham-Thornhill and Saint-Laurent.  Both ridings have a history of leaning Liberal, but the Opposition Parties will be on alert for opportunities to take support from the governing party.

Finally, it is expected that a shuffle of the Parliamentary Secretaries will soon occur, largely independent of today’s changes to Cabinet.  The current Parliamentary Secretary terms are set to expire on January 27, 2017.

Those who find themselves in new roles will have until the return of Parliament on January 30th to learn their portfolios.  Deputy Ministers have already met with the new Ministers.

With TSA’s in-depth understanding of the Federal Government and its decision makers, we are your ideal government relations service provider for the dynamic political environment.  Please contact us if you have any questions about how today’s Cabinet shuffle or other Government issues impact you and your business.

Share on Social Media