BLUESKY BRIEF - Do The (Virtual) Shuffle

Today Trudeau revealed his “election-ready Cabinet.” Prompted by the announcement that Navdeep Bains, formerly Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, will not run in the next election – this shuffle fills his shoes with some of the Liberal government's trusted high performers. Trudeau’s Cabinet is now spring budget (and potentially spring election) ready.

PMO Press Release - Prime Minister announces changes to Ministry

CPAC Video: Swearing in of Cabinet Ceremony

CPAC Video: Ministers Speak with Reporters Following Cabinet Shuffle

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

If the speculation is correct that this is a pre-cursor to a spring election, then expect little movement in the files associated with the portfolios that saw their ministers shuffled this morning. The affected portfolios have wide-ranging responsibilities. The average time to get up to speed in a new portfolio is three-to-four months, which means very little of consequence will likely be done that is not already on track to be announced before the next federal budget. If the Prime Minister’s Office allows these new ministers to take on new work here is what we can expect.

Marc Garneau leaves the Transport portfolio having accomplished little of note to become Minister of Foreign Affairs, where the Trudeau government has a lacklustre record. That should fit M. Garneau well. It will allow him to spend time on and around the island of Montréal shoring up support for the Liberal Party in the 514/438 area codes.

François-Philippe Champagne moves from the foreign affairs portfolio to Innovation, Science, and Industry. He leaves the weight of the diplomacy surrounding the Meng Wanzhou extradition hearing and becomes the face of the government’s decision on Huawei’s participation in Canada’s 5G network. Champagne will also have announcements of new and refreshed funding programs associated with the economic recovery that the Liberal government needs if it is going to the polls, free money is always a vote-getter.

Mr. Alghabra’s appointment as Minister of Transport is being touted as a long-awaited promotion. Congratulations to him. As a pre-election shuffle, this will allow him to travel throughout the GTA making announcements and campaigning in the critical 905/289/365 area codes. Expect some public transit announcements for the region in the coming months to highlight the government’s environmental bona fides and shore up support in this battleground region.

All the best to Mr. Bains in his future endeavours. He will now have enough free time to campaign for Mr. Trudeau’s job.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

As cabinet shuffles go, this was low key and lacking the controversy that we have seen for other recent shuffles. It involved no scandals, no ethics investigations and none of the other hallmarks of the majority of this government’s previous mid-term shuffles. It was all triggered by Minister Bains’ decision to not run again, as has long been rumoured around Ottawa. Bains had been one of the steadiest and longest-serving ministers in this government. As the recovery from COVID-19 becomes a bigger focus, filling his shoes with a strong performer was a must. Appointing Minister Champagne to that role fits that bill.

Minister Garneau moving to the senior portfolio at Global Affairs Canada will be an interesting fit. He served as the Liberal foreign affairs critic in the 41st Parliament, so he does have some background. But given the tense situations he comes into with allies and adversaries alike in this portfolio, Garneau will have to be on his game going forward.

For Minister Alghabra, this is an appointment that will not shock many. His was always a name that many thought would be in Cabinet. If anything, he has been a victim of regional balance and with Bains retirement, it made sense to replace one Mississauga member with another. The re-appointment of Jim Carr as the new minister without a portfolio as a special representative for the Prairies will bring more western representation. It also marks a good sight, seeing him return from blood cancer treatments.

The most noteworthy thing about this shuffle is the fact that it is happening because of the next election. This marks the first action that takes the rumours about a possible spring election and makes it more real. That is likely to rachet up the tensions in Parliament and given how things are going with COVID-19, that does not seem like the best thing for Canadians right now.

From the desk of Raphael Brass, Senior Consultant

While today’s focus is on the new Cabinet ministers, if you listen closely you can start to hear the writs being drawn up.

Over the last number of weeks, Prime Minister Trudeau reached out to each minister to ensure that they will be running in the upcoming election. Disappointed to lose a close friend and confidante in Navdeep Bains, there was a slim chance that Trudeau would leave Mississauga, one of Canada’s largest cities, without a minister. Alghabra has been quietly rising through the ranks of the Liberal Party and has become a trusted voice to Prime Minister Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister /Finance Minister Freeland. Garneau’s large international profile will help Canada explore new possibilities as we enter the post-Trump era. Champagne, already extremely popular in the Liberal caucus, has quickly become a second jack of all trades for the government and will undoubtedly leave his mark on ISI. Liberals are also elated to see Jim Carr return to Cabinet as it is a sign that his health has improved and that he will be running in the next election.

This is arguably the strongest Cabinet Trudeau had fielded and it is solidly positioned to address the COVID-19 crisis and launch Canada’s economic recovery.

Buoyed by their rising poll numbers attributed to their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rudderless opposition leaders, the Liberals are keen to hold an election and return to Ottawa with a majority of seats in the House of Commons. While parties that force an early election are often punished, the Liberals feel that they are in a strong enough position to take that slight hit and still win the majority. A lot will depend on vaccine roll-out, but I would advise fellow Liberals to get a comfy pair of walking shoes and start knocking on doors from coast to coast to coast.

The good news for the industry is elections are nearly always preceded by a large amount of spending. Now is the time to get a final ask into government and start thinking of what you would like to see in the Liberal election platform.

Because NOTHING surprises us any more, this ceremony went virtual on Zoom. No reporters mingling outside Rideau Hall, no guests and couriers sending the new Ministers the papers to sign,

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