Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced some noteworthy changes to his Cabinet lineup. Whether it is beefed up regional representation or renewed focus on policy files important to Liberal re-election prospects, the new Cabinet has been constructed with election 2019 in mind.
On the regional front British Columbia (Jonathan Wilkinson), Quebec (Pablo Rodriguez) and the Greater Toronto Area (Bill Blair and Mary Ng) have added new ministers thus signalling the importance the Liberals attach to these three, seat-rich parts of the country.
In Wilkinson and Rodriguez, the Prime Minister adds two able communicators to his executive team. As for Bill Blair, his appointment rewards him for a difficult job well done on the cannabis file. It also portends a high-profile battle between the newly minted Ontario Premier, Doug Ford and the man who, as Toronto’s police chief, had a difficult relationship with the Ford brothers when they were at the centre of municipal politics in Toronto. Taken in combination with the sometimes scrappy public style of the new Intergovernmental Affairs and Internal Trade Minister, Dominic LeBlanc, federal provincial relations with Ontario can be expected to generate plenty of heat in this crucial electoral battleground. Minister LeBlanc’s appointment suggests that the government is anticipating issues management challenges in addition to Ontario, in places like BC, Quebec and Alberta where battles loom on climate change, equalization and interprovincial trade issues.
The addition of Pablo Rodriguez to Heritage and the reassignment of Francois-Philippe Champagne to the Infrastructure post reinforce the Quebec complement of ministers with two articulate communicators. It also hands them responsibility for the culture and jobs portfolios that, historically, have been regarded as particularly relevant in Quebec. The Liberals are keen to add to their current complement of 40 seats in Quebec, so we can reasonably expect a more robust communications effort to promote federal infrastructure announcements between now and the next election.
On the west coast, Minister Wilkinson, who had been serving as Parliamentary Secretary to the Environment Minister, will have his work cut out for him as the Liberals gear up to fight Kinder Morgan pipeline opponents in the lower mainland of British Columbia.
Speaking of pipelines, Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi takes on the Natural Resources portfolio which is sure to raise his profile in his home province. Sohi won his seat by a mere 96 votes in the last election and, if nothing else, his carriage of the energy ministry will keep his name above the fold in the headlines.
It bears mentioning that the Prime Minister has left most of his senior ministers in their current jobs. Bill Morneau at Finance, Chrystia Freeland at Global Affairs, Navdeep Bains at Industry, Catherine McKenna at Environment, Scott Brison at Treasury Board and Ralph Goodale at Public Safety all remain at their posts.
While it is steady as she goes in core departments, the changes announced today seem to have been designed to sharpen the government’s political messaging in anticipation of an election campaign scheduled for next year. The Liberals have spent considerable political capital on important files such tax reform, pipelines, and climate change policy. And according to the polls they have taken on a measure of unwanted political ballast with some small “p” political missteps. With a second term at stake in the coming election, the Prime Minister and his team of advisors have refurbished the cabinet to gear up for what is threatening to be a competitive electoral fight.
The New or Changed Portfolios in the Federal Cabinet
Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Northern Affairs, and Internal Trade
Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification
Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion
Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources
Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Melanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie
Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors
Carla Qualthrough, Minister of Public Services, Procurement, and Accessibility
Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation
Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development
Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health
Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services
Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women
Kristy Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport
Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions