OTTAWA – With an extensive cabinet shuffle, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is putting his government on election footing. The expanded cabinet keeps its core intact while putting seasoned campaigners in roles that will take on greater visibility in the lead-up to the campaign.
The promotion of new faces has rewarded performance from the back benches and parliamentary secretaries, while ensuring that key battlegrounds in British Columbia, Quebec and the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area gain a louder voice at the cabinet table.
The cabinet composition has shifted to reflect the political priority of trade diversification, both internationally and within Canada, in the face of protectionist measures south of the border that threaten the Canadian economy. The Prime Minister has also put a strong law and order voice in charge of border security to counter the opposition’s growing focus on irregular border crossings.
The new positions are:
- Dominic LeBlanc – Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade
- Jim Carr – International Trade Diversification
- Bill Blair – Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
- Amarjeet Sohi – Natural Resources
- Jonathan Wilkinson – Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
- Mary Ng – Small Business and Export Promotion
- Pablo Rodriguez – Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
- Mélanie Joly – Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie
- François-Philippe Champagne – Infrastructure and Communities
- Carla Qualtrough – Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility
- Filomena Tassi – Seniors
Bill Blair moves into a new public safety role, drawing from his extensive experience as Toronto’s former police chief and most recently, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for cannabis legalization. His new role will focus on border security and organized crime, yielding to political pressures resulting from the recent influx of undocumented migrants coming in from the United States.
The move of Dominic LeBlanc to Intergovernmental Affairs signals the growing importance of relationships with the provinces for the government’s agenda. Negotiations on pharmacare and the fight with Ontario, Saskatchewan, and PEI (and potentially Alberta if Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives seize power) over the carbon backstop will dominate the news agenda. A seasoned political operator, Leblanc will defend the government’s position on these issues, drawing contrast where necessary while staying on track in the lead up to the election. He will also lead the charge on reducing interprovincial trade barriers.
Respected Winnipeg MP Jim Carr shifts to International Trade Diversification, where he will work to grow Canada’s trade relationships, including rebooting trade talks with China and implementing new trade agreements with the European Union and Trans Pacific Partnership.
Mary Ng is one of the newest MPs in cabinet, with close ties to Trudeau’s inner circle as a former Hill staffer. She will bring a voice for the important Chinese Canadian community into cabinet. In her new role as Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, she will engage the business community to ensure that they take advantage of the opportunities presented by Canada’s expanded access to international markets.
Edmonton MP Amarjeet Sohi moves into the Natural Resources file, where he will sell the government’s track record on the Trans Mountain Pipeline to Alberta voters. He will also need to stickhandle the government’s controversial reforms to environmental impact assessment for major projects and work to promote Canada’s transition to clean electricity and energy efficiency as the carbon tax is implemented.
Jonathan Wilkinson’s appointment to cabinet will be a welcome development for British Columbians. Before entering politics, Wilkinson was a Rhodes Scholar and green technology entrepreneur with extensive dealings in Asia. As a Vancouver MP, he will focus on implementing the Oceans Protection Plan, a key plank in the government’s approval of the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline, with the goal of ensuring that the transport of Canadian oil to new foreign markets does not impact BC’s pristine coastal waters.
An energetic communicator, François-Philippe Champagne’s move to Infrastructure and Communities will help to ensure the government gets full credit for its significant investments in Canada’s transit, social housing and green infrastructure.
Pablo Rodriguez takes on the tricky Canadian Heritage file. The veteran Montreal MP is an adept communicator and skilled backroom politician. The Prime Minister will be looking to him to smooth over some of the controversies on the cultural file in Quebec as the media landscape continues to change.
Filomena Tassi brings a voice from Hamilton to the cabinet table at a time when the city’s steel industry is under siege from US tariffs. A lawyer by trade, many will be looking to her as a rising star, particularly if the Liberals get re-elected in 2019. She takes on the new Seniors file, where she will focus on the priorities of this powerful voting demographic.
Overall, the shuffle reflects a cabinet adapted to the practical and political circumstances that have unfolded in the 42nd Parliament. When Trudeau was elected in October of 2015, he could not have anticipated that he would be dealing with the combination of a trade war with the United States, the threat of uncontrolled migration from the south, and a PC government in Ontario, led by Doug Ford. He will rely on this team to shore up the government’s message in the coming months and to project the Liberal Party’s platform in the next election.
For more information, please contact:
Sheamus Murphy, VP, Federal Advocacy