Prime Minister Trudeau Shuffles Cabinet

Is This a Prelude to a Spring Election?

Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his Cabinet, with the announcement that Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains would not be running in the next election, stating that he intends to spend more time with his family and school-age children.  As such, Bains’ departure from Cabinet required the Prime Minister to make a few key changes.

What Does It Mean?

While this Cabinet shuffle may be small in size, it is substantive in nature.  The departure of a key Cabinet Minister ultimately results in the need to ensure continuity in key portfolios such as Foreign Affairs, Industry, and Transport.  In addition, today’s shuffle will only ramp up the Ottawa rumour that the Liberals are be planning for a spring election, using the upcoming Budget as the basis for an electoral platform.

Who’s Who in the Shuffle

Outgoing Minister Bains is a stalwart of “Team Trudeau” that came to power in 2015. Bains was one of the few Ministers to serve his entire time in the Trudeau Cabinet in one portfolio. He was also a trusted political lieutenant in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and his presence will be missed by the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party as they seek to retain seats in this key area. However, Bains is not the only Minister who has chosen to pick the timeline for leaving public life, rather than letting the electorate decide for him.

Canada’s new Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is a long-time Liberal MP, elected in 2008 in a fairly safe Liberal seat in Montreal.  Garneau also served as the Liberal foreign affairs critic from 2013-15. Like Bains, Garneau has only served in one portfolio, Transport, since 2015. He leaves his successor, Omar Alghabra, the unfinished work of providing sectoral support to compensate for the devasting effects on the industry of COVID-19.

Incoming Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is also a long-time MP, first elected in 2006 as an opposition MP.  He, too, has been a trusted political hand in the GTA for Prime Minister Trudeau over the last several years, although not to the same degree as Bains in delivering fundraising dollars and seats for the Liberals.  Previously Minister Alghabra was the Parliamentary Secretary for Consular Affairs, a highly-challenging post requiring sensitivity and tact.  This is his first full Ministerial portfolio.

Returning Minister Jim Carr takes the position of “Minister without portfolio” with special responsibility for the Prairies.  The 2019 election resulted in Liberals losing a number of seats in the three prairie provinces (currently, Liberals hold 4 of 62 seats in the Prairies, all in Manitoba).  Formerly the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of International Trade from 2015-19, Carr was diagnosed with multiple myeloma on election night 2019 and stepped back from Cabinet duties to focus on his health.  Carr is a trusted hand in the government and will be a key point person for any Trudeau initiatives in the Prairies.