Major Moves Shift Team Trudeau into Campaign Mode
- The Top Line
- Cabinet Campaign Recalibration
- Shuffle reveals renewed focus on Liberal value proposition: John Delacourt
- Cabinet Ministers with New Titles
- Key Stories on Cabinet Shuffle
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Rideau Hall to meet the Governor General, Julie Payette, and to unveil a makeover in his now 35-member Cabinet team. This brings to the foreground key Cabinet figures going to into the 2019 election campaign, and reveals Team Trudeau’s strategic priorities. Take a look below at Ensight’s analysis of the repercussions and those who were moved.
The Top Line:
- Strong front bench of the Liberals is maintained, with exception of a few who are playing to new strengths
- This was not a shuffle forced by the retirements of any veteran Ministers
- Cabinet maintains gender balance, if you don’t include the Prime Minister himself
- Cabinet grows by five, but remains smaller than last government’s final composition of Cabinet. New titles of note include Minister of Seniors and Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.
- LeBlanc has the gravitas to cover off newly fractious relations with the provinces, and shows that he remains a key asset for the PM on hot files
- Blair’s new role speaks to voter anxieties and fears on border security and international migration
- Sends a signal to Alberta that they will have a Natural Resources Minister from their own region
- Sends a signal with regard to NAFTA that Canada will focus on “International Trade Diversification” and “Export Promotion”, away from the U.S. market focus. It keeps the U.S. Ministerial team intact.
Cabinet Campaign Recalibration
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc
Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade
LeBlanc’s former roles as House Leader and his “institutional memory” in caucus – he’s been an MP since 2000 – have given him the gravitas and the expertise to manage complex files, while his former role in Fisheries only improved upon his impressive skill set in stakeholder relations across the country. Leblanc is also one of the Ministers who is the closest to the Prime Minister; they grew up in Ottawa together and got to know the political world watching their fathers navigate the challenges of public office. Leblanc has a strong connection to rural and Francophone communities and proved, with his own short run for leadership of the party in 2008, that he connects well on regional economic issues and is an effective communicator. His health challenges are in abeyance, apparently, and he’s ready to step up and play the role of a strong performer in the campaign year.
Hon. James Gordon Carr
Minister of International Trade Diversification
There is, apart from Chrystia Freeland, no first-time MP and Cabinet Minister who has proven his talents more effectively than Carr over the last three years. He has managed the pipeline issue, demonstrated a special talent for engagement with Indigenous communities and has proven himself to be an effective mediator of environmental and industry concerns. A former concert musician and provincial legislator, he is well liked in Manitoba and throughout the western provinces for his no-nonsense approach to public policy and his deep understanding of regional economic issues.
Hon. Mélanie Joly
Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie
Joly’s new role is clearly reflective of the challenges she had in Heritage, negotiating some of the more difficult policy files including Copyright, Telecom and Broadcast reviews. The Creative Canada launch, including the debacle with the Netflix announcement, made her role precarious for months. However, she has proven to be effective in engagement with tourism stakeholders, so the PMO is playing to the strengths she has demonstrated.
Hon. Amarjeet Sohi
Minister of Natural Resources
While the Conservative benches once laughed at him for being proud of his former career as a bus driver, these humble beginnings and local experience leading to his role as a city councillor is uniquely an asset for him in his local communications. He speaks over the political rhetoric and directly to the day-to-day implications for families. Sohi won in a tight, even recounted, electoral bout with former Conservative Minister Tim Uppal. The Liberals won four seats in Alberta in 2015, and since then they have suffered a few embarrassments in the region that have weakened them electorally. Having strong visibility for the MPs there in cabinet is their best chance of holding ground in 2019.
Hon. Carla Qualtrough
Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility
Only recently shuffled into the hot-button portfolio of Public Services and Procurement, Qualtrough entered the role to help handle the shipbuilding challenge, Phoenix pay system, and fighter jets files. She changed the tone on responding to these and they have fallen off the top list for issues that the Opposition raises. She was lauded for her performance as Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, which is why she earned a promotion, and now she is being handed back her old file of Accessibility on top of her existing mandate. Qualtrough remains in a key electoral region of BC for the Liberals.
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Prime Minister Chrétien’s old stomping ground, has been seen as a rising star in cabinet in his portfolio at International Trade. His stakeholder relations, communications, and negotiations on CETA and CPTPP have been lauded widely. Giving him a more domestic portfolio like infrastructure will allow him to exhibit his retail political skills here in Canada. This lateral move for a strong performer puts the pressure on Champagne to show real results on infrastructure development in advance of 2019.
Hon. Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
Rodriguez, elected first from 2004 until 2011, was a friend and Montreal-area mentor for Trudeau when he entered as MP for Papineau in 2008. Rodriguez acted as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure of Communities before moving to Chief Government Whip. He has had to manage Caucus challenges and has been measured in his approach. Rodriguez has been a de facto Quebec chieftain considering his past role as Quebec Caucus Chair, Quebec lieutenant, and President of the Liberal Party in Quebec. The Heritage portfolio has been front and centre between Canada 150 activities to the problematic Creative Canada launch that put former Minister Joly on the ropes in her home province. Rodriguez will maintain the Quebec presence in the role while putting a trusted ally for the PM in the spot.
Hon. Bill Blair
Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
Blair’s role plays to the strengths he has demonstrated over the last three years as he carefully shepherded the cannabis legislation through challenging conversations with provincial and territorial governments – in virtually every area of regulatory concern. Blair’s former role as the Chief of the Toronto Police Services was one where he clearly honed his mediating skills. He is no slouch on public policy or legislative procedure either; he earned the respect of his caucus colleagues as a quick study in the House.
Hon. Mary Ng
Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion
While a new MP, Ng has been a confidant of the PMO inner circle and a former Director of Appointments there. She has helped the Liberals with their outreach in Chinese communities, which are valuable electoral ties for them in key ridings. Ng replaced Minister John McCallum after his diplomatic appointment, and the role of Small Business and Export Promotion will allow her to grow into the cabinet team.
Hon. Filomena Tassi
Minister of Seniors
Hamilton MP Filomena Tassi has quickly established herself as an effective communicator, strong mediator within caucus and an impressive negotiator with difficult policy files as a member of the steel caucus. Her background as a community activist and school board trustee and her strong connection with working class Hamiltonians has given her a demonstrated ability to connect with Canadians on sensitive files intersecting strongly with Labour and Families, Children and Social Development portfolios.
Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
There is probably no parliamentary secretary who had a more expansive mandate or who effectively managed complex files than Wilkinson. He has a strong reputation with his caucus colleagues for his understanding of policy and his working rapport with environmental stakeholders – as well as the burgeoning entrepreneurial community in clean tech. His skills in stakeholder engagement and acumen on environmental files will be put to good use with his role at fisheries.
Shuffle reveals renewed focus on Liberal value proposition
The pre-election Cabinet Shuffle is a long established component of the art of governing here in Ottawa. It is done to reward, demote and make way for new talent – all with an eye to the time frame necessary for these Ministers to be the key figures that Canadians look to on challenging files going into an election campaign.
This is a strategic shoring up of strengths, responding to an emerging challenge of serious import: Doug Ford’s majority Progressive Conservative win in Ontario, strong election momentum for the Coalition Avenir Quebec and what looks to be a sure victory for Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party in Alberta in May of 2019. These are significant beachheads for a revived Conservative movement, primed – and well timed – for the federal campaign in 2019.
The new roles within Cabinet – for Seniors, for Border Security and Organized Crime – speak to some of the fears and anxieties of the Canadian voter beyond the international trade file and our looming trade war with the US. For those Canadians taking a closer look at the Conservative opposition again, these new portfolios send a message that this government is listening, and hopefully delivering in the final year of its mandate.
Another key consideration for this Cabinet arrangement was the maintenance of gender balance. The new composition of Cabinet also favourably positions MPs and Parliamentary Secretaries who won by thin margins in the 2015 election.
It puts a strategic lens on the team of star candidates entering the fray in 2019. It sends signals about platform direction. It guides the legislative priorities from now until the House rises in June of 2019.
This rejig was a deft move for keeping the Liberal caucus happy as it rewards truly strong performers – like LeBlanc, Blair and Wilkinson – and promotes those who shine in community engagement.
This Cabinet shuffle will likely be Trudeau’s last trip to Rideau Hall beyond doing one-off replacements for any pre-election retirees who are still needed – MacAulay, for example – for at least another year.
This new Cabinet makeup keeps Trudeau’s friends and those who have performed in caucus and Cabinet close by. This ‘recalibration’ will be essential for the 2019 value proposition that “Liberals can do more and need more time to deliver on a ‘change’ agenda.”
By: John Delacourt, Vice President, Ensight
Cabinet Ministers with New Titles
Today’s cabinet shuffle also saw a few tweaks to the titles of existing Ministers:
- Carolyn Bennett – Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations: The ‘northern affairs’ portion of her portfolio now goes to Dominc LeBlanc
- Scott Brison – President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government: Digital Government is the new addition which is consistent with the direction Treasury Board was already moving in as it works to transform the governments digital services
- Marie-Claude Bibeau – Minister of International Development: ‘La Francophonie’ portion of her portfolio goes to Mélanie Joly
- Kristy Duncan – Minister of Science and Sport: The ‘accessibility’ portion of her portfolio goes to Carla Qualtrough
- Bardish Chagger – Leader of the Government in the House of Commons: Previously Chagger was playing a dual role with Small Business and Tourism, which has now been divided between Mélanie Joly and newcomer Mary Ng
Key Stories on Cabinet Shuffle
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