Massive Cabinet Shuffle Signals Trudeau Running Again

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government approach the second anniversary of their 2021 election victory, Trudeau made the most significant recasting of his government yet – a strong signal that the Prime Minister is likely to lead the Liberals into the next election.

A Trudeau coasting toward stepping down in the next year would have promoted close friends and allies like newly elected Montreal MP Anna Gainey. Instead, several loyalists left the front bench in what is being seen as a house cleaning.

Cabinet Features New Blood

The Prime Minister is bringing in new blood and rewarding loyal backbenchers with the opportunity to lead. He is also putting strong performers into tough portfolios to fix problematic files. In addition, the PM has a half dozen safe seats confirmed to be open with which to recruit star candidates for the next election.

Election Timing

As for when that election is, there are three likely election triggers remaining:

  1. the Spring 2024 budget
  2. the Spring 2025 budget
  3. the fixed election day in October 2025

However, conditions could change, with questions about the longevity of the Supply and Confidence Agreement with the NDP getting louder as the government approaches key timelines to deliver progress.

In addition, the government faces serious challenges on the economic front including inflation, interest rates, and cost of living. There is major pressure around housing, exacerbated by the decision to increase immigration levels to 500,000 a year. Finally, the CPC opposition is more united under a new Conservative Party Leader who isn’t afraid of a fight.

Expect Short-term Delays

An already sleepy summertime Ottawa will become harder to navigate for the next six weeks as new Ministers are briefed up and political staff eye severance packages. Changes to the senior ranks of the civil service are likely to follow, particularly the appointment of a new Deputy Minister of Finance. Changes of this scale present challenges and opportunities as mandates shift and new priorities emerge.

So, who’s in and out?  Who’s got a new job?

IN – New Cabinet Ministers

  • Ya’ara Saks (York Centre, ON) – Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health. She worked previously in the Office of the Mayor of Jerusalem and was a founder and director of Trauma Practice for Healthy Communities, a Toronto-based mental health charity.
  • Jenna Sudds (Kanata-Carleton, ON) – Families, Children and Social Development – Sudds is a former city councilor, and deputy mayor of Ottawa. She is a former executive director of the Kanata North Business Association and of the CIO Strategy Council, a national technology council.
  • Rechie Valdez (Mississauga-Streetsville, ON) Small Business – Valdez is the first Filipino woman to be elected to the House of Commons. She was a corporate banker for fifteen years, created a line of pastries sold in Mississauga, and organized basketball tournaments at Nathan Phillips Square.
  • Terry Beech (Burnaby North-Seymour, BC) Citizens’ Services – Beech was elected at 18 to Nanaimo City Council. He has a degree in economics from Simon Fraser, and an MBA from Oxford. He was an entrepreneur, founding an educational non-profit and a tech company before running for federal office.
  • Arif Virani (Parkdale-High Park, ON) – Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Virani was an analyst with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, an investigator at la Commission des droits de la personne in Montréal, and as an Assistant Trial Attorney prosecuting genocide at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
  • Soraya Martinez Ferrada (Hochelaga, QC) – Minister of Tourism and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. She is a former city councilor for Montréal and served as Chief of Staff to the minister of Canadian heritage from 2015-2018. Her professional background is in sustainable development.
  • Gary Anandasangaree (Scarborough-Rouge Park, ON) – Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations – Anandasangaree is the MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park (ON). He is a human rights lawyer.

OUT – Ministers “Retiring or Not Running Again”

  • Carolyn Bennett (Mental Health and Addictions, Toronto-St. Paul’s, ON)
  • Omar Alghabra (Transport, Mississauga Centre, ON)
  • Helena Jaczek (Public Services and Procurement, Markham-Stouffville, ON)
  • David Lametti (Attorney General and Justice, LaSalle-Emard, QC)
  • Marco Mendicino (Public Safety, Eglinton-Lawrence, ON)
  • Mona Fortier (Treasury Board, Ottawa-Vanier, ON)
  • Joyce Murray (Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Vancouver Quadra, BC)

NEW JOBS – Ministers with New Portfolios

  • Anita Anand, from National Defence to Treasury Board
  • Pablo Rodriguez, from Canadian Heritage to Transport
  • Pascale St-Onge, from Sport and CEDQ to Canadian Heritage
  • Mark Holland, from House Leader to Health
  • Bill Blair, from Emergency Preparedness to National Defence
  • Karina Gould, from Families, Children and Social Development to House Leader
  • Diane Lebouthillier, from National Revenue to Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
  • Gudie Hutchings, adds the portfolio of the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency to her role as Minister of Rural Economic Development
  • Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, from ACOA and Official Languages to Veterans Affairs Canada and Associate Minister of National Defence
  • Marie-Claude Bibeau, from Agriculture and Agri-Food to National Revenue
  • Ahmed Hussen, from Housing and Diversity and Inclusion to International Development
  • Sean Fraser, from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to Housing, Infrastructure and Communities
  • Marc Miller, from Crown-Indigenous Relations to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • Seamus O’Regan adds Seniors to his portfolio, in addition to Labour
  • Randy Boissonnault, from Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance to Minister of Employment and Social Development and Official Languages
  • Jean-Yves Duclos, from Health to PSPC
  • Carla Qualtrough, from Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to Sports and Physical Activity
  • Dominic Leblanc, from Infrastructure to Public Safety and Democratic Institutions, keeping his responsibility for Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Jonathan Wilkinson adds Energy to his portfolio alongside Natural Resources Canada
  • Lawrence Macaulay, from Veterans Affairs Canada to Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Kamal Khera, from Seniors to Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities
  • Mary Ng, maintains her role as Minister of Export Promotion and International Trade and Economic Development, losing her portfolio of Small Business.
  • Harjit Sajjan, from International Development to President of the Privy Council, Minister of Emergency Preparedness, and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency

How We Got Here

Recent polling has the Liberals trailing the Conservatives and Trudeau’s approval rating sliding. In addition, donations to the Liberal Party were less than half of what the Conservatives raised in the early part of the year.

The Liberals need to reset the policy agenda, public outreach, and fundraising position in advance of an election. The Liberals will hope that today’s Cabinet shuffle marks the beginning of this process.

No Shortage of Issues

The Liberal government faced notable crises stretching the limits of Cabinet ministers. On justice and public safety, the government has been contending with accusations around foreign electoral interference, the “broken telephone” around the prison transfer of Paul Bernardo, and missteps around proposed firearms regulations that alienated First Nations, the NDP and some of the Liberal caucus.

On economic development and innovation, the government is in the middle of an ongoing fight over attempts to impose new rules around tech giants like Google and Meta, as well as challenges around billions of dollars in economic subsidies for companies like Volkswagen and Stellantis.

Some Bright Spots

Trudeau and the Liberals have had wins in recent months that the new Cabinet will be looking to build on. A major new healthcare deal and signed childcare deals with the provinces and territories, the launch of the Housing Accelerator Fund, reductions in wait times for passports, and strong multi-partisan support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s illegal invasion have translated well with the public.

Justin Trudeau has found electoral peace in unlikely alliances with Premiers like Ontario’s Doug Ford and Quebec’s Francois Legault (with Trudeau and the PMO dealing with some major irritants in vote-rich Quebec like closing the Roxham Road illegal border crossing).

While the relationship with newly re-elected Conservative Danielle Smith in Alberta will never be warm and fuzzy, both Ottawa and Alberta have found points to agree on in recent weeks, although challenging policy and regulatory issues around energy and the environmental remain outstanding.

The Liberals remain tantalizingly close to a majority, needing just a dozen seats, while the NDP provides them some buffer if they again fall short. There is also a strong consensus within the party that Justin Trudeau remains their strongest electioneering asset, a campaigner with no equal in the wings. While beset like any eight-year-old government, the Liberals remain highly competitive. What remains to be seen is if they can address their shortcomings in the time remaining.

What are the Conservatives Up To?

Since winning the leadership, Poilievre has united the caucus behind him and spent time ensuring Conservative Members of Parliament are being heard behind closed doors, rather than out in the open. He is also working to rebuild antiquated party and electoral infrastructure, which takes time and money.

Poilievre has spent a lot of time trying to bring back right-of-centre voters that may have stayed home or voted for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada (PPC) in 2021. This spring’s by-election in Manitoba saw Bernier and the PPC lose ground, and in Monday’s Calgary by-election, the PPC garnered a dismal 2.7%.

Now that the Tories believe they have dealt with the PPC, expect to see Poilievre spend the rest of the summer of 2023 on the BBQ circuit in key vote-rich parts of the country courting dissatisfied Liberal/NDP voters – like his current tour of Northern Ontario and his recent tour of Atlantic Canada.

Implications for the Liberal-NDP Agreement

The Liberal-NDP Supply and Confidence Agreement remains intact, despite many nay-sayers and near-constant speculation of its collapse since the agreement’s invocation. While strides have been made in implementing dental care, the NDP has voiced its displeasure at the lack of movement on their most critical demand: universal pharmacare.

Of note, the agreement states that the Liberals have until the end of 2023 to deliver on some of these promises. So, it’s unlikely that we would have an election before the spring budget season in 2024 due to removal of NDP support. But do expect an NDP push this fall on what they need to see happen into 2024 to ensure they remain onside.

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