Three months since winning the Conservative Party of Canada leadership, Andrew Scheer has announced his new Shadow Cabinet, those MPs who will serve as critics to their Liberal counterparts. Scheer faces a tough balancing act heading into the fall session, rewarding those who had supported him in his campaign, while showcasing the key strengths of his leadership opponents in a unified caucus.
Today’s shuffle is significant. This is Scheer’s attempt to put his own stamp on the party and Shadow Cabinet, continuing the rebranding efforts aimed at softening the party’s image while aligning high-performing MPs as critics to Liberal ministers. To do so, Scheer has shuffled many key portfolios, including Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Health – portfolios the Prime Minister has also shuffled recently.
Notably, Scheer chose to appoint a number of his leadership rivals to high-profile positions, likely in a deliberate attempt to communicate to the public that the Conservative Party has moved on from the perceived divisions of its leadership campaign. In that regard, Ontario MP Erin O’Toole, who finished third in the race, will take on Foreign Affairs opposite Minister Chrystia Freeland (Trudeau’s lead on NAFTA).
Interestingly, his strongest challenger, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, has been denied the role of Finance critic, for which he had campaigned publicly. Bernier was named critic for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, opposite Minister Navdeep Bains. Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre was given the finance critic role; Poilievre has long been vocal on tax issues and will now take on Minister Morneau’s proposed tax changes.
Unsurprisingly, the new Conservative Shadow Cabinet also features a number of caucus members who supported Scheer during his leadership campaign, including Alberta MP Shannon Stubbs (Natural Resources).
Earlier this summer, Scheer also announced changes to the party’s leadership ranks, rewarding some of the MPs who had supported him in his campaign, Alberta MP Chris Warkentin (Deputy House Leader) and British Columbia MP Mark Strahl (Chief Opposition Whip). He also appointed Ontario MP Lisa Raitt, a former leadership opponent, as his Deputy Leader, in a nod to party unity, and mirroring the Trudeau government’s commitment to gender diversity.
Since his victory in May, Scheer has been focused on developing his political ground game and has spent a large portion of the summer travelling across the country attending many campaign-style events. With the Conservatives still trailing the Liberals in the polls, the party appears focused on familiarizing Canadians with the new Conservative leader, presenting him as a moderate, youthful, and family-focused choice for Canadian voters.
Despite Scheer’s low profile to date, the Conservatives have nonetheless been successful in their fundraising efforts, attracting a substantial amount of new first-time donors over the last quarter.
As the House of Commons returns on September 18, the Conservative Party’s focus will inevitably shift from grassroots politics to the air war typically found in Ottawa following an extended break. The Conservatives have been clear on their intended priorities for the fall session – and the key areas of focus for the new Shadow Cabinet will be on economic issues such as the proposed liberal tax changes.[ultimatetables 10 /]
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