Meet Your New Cabinet – A Reset for Risk Mitigation, Bolstering Regional Strengths

This morning, the Prime Minister rejigged his federal Cabinet, a move prompted by the surprise resignation of Scott Brison. Today’s shuffle saw three ministers change roles, the creation of a new ‘Rural Economic Development’ ministry and promotions for two Parliamentary Secretaries.

Canada’s Five New Ministers

  • Jane Philpott, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
  • Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services
  • David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
  • Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development

What Does Today’s Shuffle Signal?

With what is presumably his final Cabinet shuffle before election day, Trudeau has signaled that some of the government’s most complex files are going to require his safest hands and strongest performers in the last few months ahead – and he’s taking some valued Ministers out of hot water into positions where they can hopefully play to their strengths.

He’s chosen to stay the course with regard to those portfolios that are proving the most difficult right now, however: Natural Resources, the Environment, Trade Diversification and Citizenship and Immigration. To shuffle the deck this close to campaign would signal that they are vulnerable with some legislation and initiatives still on the table: the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Carbon Emissions Plan and C-69 – the new legislation that seeks to reset the process for greenlighting major resource-based projects (read pipelines and major infrastructure projects). And Trudeau doesn’t want to suggest they have a leadership gap at the head of Citizenship and Immigration, where the issue of irregular migrants continues to fester.

Trudeau is also shoring up the government’s regional strengths and, to a certain extent, setting a pragmatic course for the campaign ground game – the door-to-door fight for every vote that they hope will deliver seats in key and/or swing ridings.

He’s also, with the appointment of a Rural Economic Development Minister, signaling that on key issues like rural broadband, and on regional economic development links with Small Business and Tourism, they’re seeking to address the perception of this government as being too focused on urban issues – and urban ridings.

Five New Ministers – An Inside Look

Hon. David Lametti 

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

  • With David Lametti going to Justice, the Prime Minister’s Office is rewarding a strong performer in the Innovation file with a mandate that, in many respects, has most of the activist components of its mandate accomplished.
  • His job will be to keep a firm hand on the files, play defense rather than offense for the last few months before the campaign. Of particular importance will be his handling of the Huawei file, specifically the extradition of Meng Wanzhou.
  • He is also a strong representative from the Italian-Canadian community, and there have been grumblings in Montreal about adequate representation for this strong Liberal constituency from the beginnings of this government’s mandate.

Biography

Lametti is the Member of Parliament representing LaSalle-Émard-Verdun (QC) and was first elected in October 2015. Prior to his Ministerial appointment, he served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development since January 2017. Prior to that role, he also served as the Parliamentary Secretary to International Trade between December 2015 and January 2017.

Before being elected in the Montreal riding, he was a Professor of Law at McGill University. His law career allowed him to serve as a Member of the Institute of Comparative Law. He was a founding Member of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy (CIPP), serving as its Director from 2009 to 2012.

His substantial educational background includes, a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, Common and Civil law degrees from McGill, LL.M. from Yale Law School and a doctorate from Oxford University.

He is an internationally-recognized expert in property and intellectual property, with numerous publications, and has taught or lectured in many of the world’s most well-known universities in French, English and Italian.

Hon. Bernadette Jordan

Minister of Rural Economic Development 

  • The Atlantic provinces needed a strong performer with strong links to economic development issues.
  • As a first time MP, she distinguished herself by introducing legislation on abandoned and shipwrecked vessels – a Private Members’ bill that was taken up by government and turned into a government bill, Bill C-64.
  • She played a strong role in the rollout of the Oceans Protection Plan as well.
  • Well-liked among Caucus, she will bring a rural lens to the issues at hand, particularly as a part of the ISED team of Ministers.

Biography

Jordan is the Member of Parliament for South Shore-St. Margaret’s (NS) and was elected for the first time in October 2015. Today she becomes the first female federal MP to become a Minister from Nova Scotia, bringing the federal Cabinet back to gender-balance and surprising some observers.

Jordan previously served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould. Prior to being elected, Bernadette was a Development Officer for the Health Services Foundation in Bridgewater Nova Scotia, where she spent eight years as part of a team raising millions of dollars for health care in the region.

After being elected, Bernadette was selected by her fellow Atlantic MPs to serve as Chair of the Atlantic Liberal Caucus. The issue of abandoned and derelict vessels has been a major issue and concern in coastal communities, and Bernadette quickly brought forward her private members’ motion, M-40, calling on the Government to take steps to address the issue of abandoned vessels across the country, and it was passed by the House of Commons unanimously in October 2016.

Hon. Seamus O’Regan

Minister of  Indigenous Services

  • O’Regan has had real challenges in the Veteran’s file, most recently comparing his own difficulties with substance abuse in his broadcast journalism career to those faced by those returning from combat.
  • A close friend and colleague of the Prime Minister who was a groomsmen in the Prime Minister’s wedding party, this portfolio represents a strong second chance to prove he’s up to a Cabinet role.
  • Trudeau will be hoping that his high EQ and his vaunted communications skills can finally shine in a portfolio that requires strong mediation and stakeholder relations abilities.

Biography

O’Regan is the Member of Parliament for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl (NFLD) and was elected for the first time in October 2015. He has previously served as the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. Apart from these mandates, O’Regan is widely acknowledged as part of Prime Minister Trudeau’s inner-circle.

He studied politics at St. Francis Xavier University, University College Dublin and obtained a Master’s of Philosophy degree from the University of Cambridge.

Prior to his political career, O’Regan worked as an assistant to the Minister of Justice, and as the Senior Policy Advisor to Premier Brian Tobin in Newfoundland. He then co-hosted CTV’s Canada AM for 10 years.

Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould

Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

  • With Wilson-Raybould going to Veterans’ Affairs, she is a strong defensive choice, a Minister who’s demonstrated singular abilities in message discipline, in setting the right tone on serious files.
  • This new role has to be seen as a demotion, however, there will be talk that it is reflective of her inability to “play well with others” in Cabinet.
  • However, she can be proud of what she has achieved in the Justice portfolio going into this new role, as she shepherded difficult legislation through the House – for cannabis and Medical Assistance in Dying most notably.

Biography

Wilson-Raybould was first elected as Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville (BC) in October 2015.

She has had a number of leadership roles in community work prior to her political career. She served as a Director for Capilano College, the Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women, the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre, and the National Centre for First Nations Governance.

Her passion for Indigenous activism led her to serve as the also a director on the First Nations Lands Advisory Board and Chair of the First Nations Finance Authority. Wilson-Raybould is a prominent part of this government’s Indigenous caucus as she is a proud member of the We Wai Kai Nation.

Prior to her political career, she was a crown prosecutor, treaty commissioner and BCAFN regional chief, working on complex treaty negotiations between First Nations and the Crown.

Hon. Jane Philpott

President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government

  • With Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott moving over to Treasury Board, Trudeau has selected a newcomer to politics who, in just three short years, quickly established herself as a solid performer. She earned the respect and admiration of the Public Service – a core requirement for the President’s job.
  • Her first challenge where she demonstrated her skillset was the Medical Assistance in Dying Legislation – where the government had to steer a safe course through a narrow channel with faith and advocacy groups on opposite sides of a challenging debate.
  • She then proved herself to be a quick study who worked well with others – including some large personalities – when she worked on the consultations for cannabis legislation with former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Bill Blair, in his former Parliamentary Secretary role.
  • In the House and outside in the scrums, Philpott emerged as a Minister who reassured Canadians there was an adult in the room. She understood the gravity of their concerns and how fractious these policy debates could become especially in her role with Indigenous services. Here was a policy wonk who did her homework and made the case, time and again, for evidence-based policy decisions being foundational for the government’s mandate.

Biography

Philpott was first elected as Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville (ON) in October 2015. Previously, she served as Minister of Health between 2015 and 2017, and was appointed Minister of Indigenous Services in August 2017.

Prior to her political career, she worked as a physician for more than 30 years. This work led her to work abroad, including in the developing regions of West and East Africa. She helped launch Ethiopia’s first training program in Family Medicine through the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration.

She was also Chief of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital and Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. Jane led the opening of the Health for All Family Health Team and the Markham Family Medicine Teaching Unit.