Just six months after conducting a significant summer cabinet shake-up intended to position Team Trudeau for the October 21, 2019 election, the prime minister was forced to make some necessary adjustments in response to the sudden and unexpected retirement of Treasury Board President Scott Brison. Occasionally, shuffles by way of replacement can be very low-key affairs, with a simple recruitment from the backbenches filling a single void, or a seasoned hand given a second portfolio. Or, beyond the easy arithmetic of a simple swap, cabinet-making can get exponential quickly once multiple ministers are in play with their differing talents and representative functions.
On this day, the loss of Brison, one of the few veterans in cabinet and a powerful Atlantic Canada voice, gave the prime minister a third avenue: Fill the void and use the ensuing cover to make some changes where things aren’t working well. This mini-shuffle has four key political dimensions:
• Promoting well regarded members of the backbench improves pre-election caucus relations by keeping alive hope for ambitious MPs of a shot at cabinet.
• He maintains gender and regional balance mandates, central to Trudeau’s brand.
• Creating a new rural economic development minister to reconnect with rural and small-town voters who helped catapult them into government in 2015.
• Seizing the opportunity to tweak the summer roster, by moving ministers who were not
preforming well to new posts, under cover of the necessity opened by a departure.
With less than eight months until the writs are drawn up, and the informal campaign already underway, this is likely to be the last changes to the ministry until (t