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 (they hope) the government’s return to form a new cabinet in November of 2019, barring any unforeseen events.
Who Moved Where?
• Hon. Jane Philpott moves from Minister of Indigenous Services to President of the Treasury
Board and Minister of Digital Government
• Hon. Seamus O’Regan moves from Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of
National Defense to Minister of Indigenous Services
• Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould moves from Minister of Justice and Attorney General to Minister of
• Hon. David Lametti, formerly Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation, Science and Economic
Development, moves to Minister of Justice and Attorney General
• Hon. Bernadette Jordan, formerly Parliamentary Secretary for Democratic Institutions, is now
Minister for the newly created portfolio of Rural Economic Development
Why They Moved?
Jane Philpott steps into Treasury Board Secretariat:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped rockstar first term Minister Jane Philpott to serve as President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government. After demonstrating a strong resolve at Health Canada, and then Indigenous Services, Philpott takes control of overseeing government spending and the implementation of the government’s digital strategy. Philpott was the vice-chair of the Treasury Board Cabinet Committee.
Jody Wilson-Raybould moved to Veterans Affairs:
Jody Wilson-Raybould was shuffled to Veterans Affairs after serving as justice minister since the initial November 2015 cabinet. Wilson-Raybould’s high-profile role as justice minister has recently begun to wane in the eyes of insiders and stakeholders, and today’s move is being largely viewed as a demotion. She will now be responsible for Veterans Affairs, another vulnerable flank for the Liberals in the lead up the 2019 Elections. She will need to repair relations with the military community, which have chilled in recent years. As veterans minister, Wilson-Raybould will serve as associate defence minister as well.
Seamus O’Regan becomes Minister of Indigenous Services:
Former Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan moves into a portfolio of high-importance to the Trudeau government, and follows behind a minister who performed very well in the position. In the run-up to the 2019 election, Minister O’Regan will have a big job to continue to deliver on fulfilling important campaign promises like reducing boil water advisories, building new housing on reserves, increasing education funding and more.
David Lametti promoted to Justice Minister:
After a strong performance as parliamentary secretary to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, David Lametti was promoted to cabinet to fill the role of justice minister. Prior to being elected, Lametti was a Professor of Law at McGill University, a member of the Institute of Comparative Law and a founding member of the Centre of Intellectual Property Policy. Promoting Lametti to cabinet also adds another voice from Quebec, specifically from Montreal.
Bernadette Jordan named first Rural Economic Development Minister:
In response to the growing concerns the Liberals have that they may lose some of their seats in Atlantic Canada and rural regions in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed former chair of the Atlantic Caucus, Bernadette Jordan, to serve as the first minister of rural economic development. She will be responsible for rural broadband and rural economic development strategy. This includes overseeing rural infrastructure projects across the country.
Who Stayed Put?
Trudeau’s most high-profile ministers – Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor – all remain in place. As it relates to Canada-US relations, many of these ministers have strong relationships with their American counterparts, critical in this uncertain time.
Also remaining in place are all Cabinet Minister who were elevated during the July 2018 shuffle, including Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic Leblanc, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne, International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr and Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez.
No further retirements have been announced, and likely none will follow. In particular, Crown and Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay will be staying in their posts, having announced intentions to run again in 2019.
Any Electoral Signals?
With the heavy lifting done in July 2018, this shuffle does not change the fundamental platform or political orientation embarked on in the summer. However, the creation of a new cabinet portfolio does show that greater concern is enveloping the Liberal campaign about prospects outside urban and suburban strongholds.
Creating a new platform for the government to speak and strategize on Rural Economic Development, the Government is signaling the likely inclusion in the 2019 platform initiatives around rural broadband development and economic development actions in rural communities.
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Biographies of the new and shuffled ministers
Hon. Jane Philpott
President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government
Jane Philpott brings extensive experience to her new position having served as vice-chair of the cabinet committee on the Treasury Board. She was previously the Minister of Indigenous Services. Dr. Jane Philpott defeated high-profile Conservative MP Paul Calandra to win in the new riding of Markham-Stouffville. Dr. Philpott is a family doctor and head of Family Medicine at the Markham Stouffville General Hospital. Teaching has been an integral part of her medical practice. She is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and was the family medicine lead with the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration. For almost a decade she worked in the West African country of Niger, training health care workers and providing medical services.
Hon. Seamus O’Regan
Minister of Indigenous Services
Seamus O'Regan, like Elizabeth May, got his first taste of Parliament Hill as a policy advisor to an environment minister — in his case, Tory Jean Charest. He also spent time as a speechwriter for Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Brian Tobin before making the jump to broadcasting. He was host of the morning news program Canada AM for nearly a decade. He left television work in 2011, moving into academia, public speaking and corporate communications. In late August, 2017, O'Regan was appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, replacing Kent Hehr.
Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybou
Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
Jody Wilson-Raybould is a former crown prosecutor, treaty commissioner and regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. She is also the first MP for the new riding of Vancouver Granville. Her previous work experience has been focussed on capacity building, both as an expert and advocate on First Nations governance, education and administration issues, as well as in her role as regional chief. Wilson-Raybould is one of several new MPs with experience as a witness to a parliamentary committee. As minister of justice, Wilson-Raybould introduced bills to modernize the criminal code, including by explicitly stating in law that unconscious people cannot consent to sex (Bill C-51), repealed a discriminatory law that made anal intercourse illegal for those under 18 (Bill C-32), and removed so called "zombie laws" (Bill C-39).
Hon. David Lametti
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
Trilingual in French, English and Italian, David Lametti made the switch from professor to legislator when he won the riding of Lasalle-Emard-Verdun by defeating incumbent NDP MP Hélène LeBlanc in the 2015 election. His 20-year career as a law professor at McGill University—specializing in property, intellectual property and private and comparative law—has seen him fill the shoes of associate dean (academic) and co-found the McGill Centre for Intellectual Property Policy. His résumé boasts degrees from University of Toronto, McGill University, Yale University and Oxford University. Prior to undertaking doctoral studies in law, Lametti was a law clerk to Justice Peter Cory of the Supreme Court of Canada. Prior to this role, Lametti served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of innovation, science and economic development and well-regarded by industry stakeholders.
Hon. Bernadette Jordan
Minister of Rural Economic Development
Bernadette Jordan is a self-declared lifelong Liberal and was formerly the parliamentary secretary to the minister of democratic institutions. She has participated in community-level politics for over 30 years. Jordan was selected as chair of the Atlantic Liberal Caucus after spending years raising millions through the Health Services Foundation in her private career as a fundraiser. She tabled a motion calling on the government to tackle the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels (M-40), which was agreed to in October, 2016.