Hill Update: Cabinet Shuffle

Trudeau shuffles cabinet – looking to bolster team in time for Trump while cleaning up messes at home

January 10, 2017

Prime Minister Trudeau made his first major shuffle to the ranks of his Cabinet today, re-tooling his cabinet to put an emphasis on cross-border relations before the inauguration of President Donald Trump while also shuffling some Ministers seen as handling problem files. The shuffle also marks a continuation of Trudeau putting his personal stamp on the Liberal Party caucus ranks, with two experienced former Ministers leaving, and three rookie MPs getting promoted to cabinet.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

SHUFFLED IN

SHUFFLED OUT

SHUFFLED AROUND

LOOKING AHEAD

SHUFFLED IN

François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade

This rookie MP from Jean Chretien’s former riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain had been identified as a rising star, being given the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance after being elected. Having served as an executive for several major international companies, and being named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Mr. Champagne brings valuable private sector experience to a portfolio that will look to continue to promote Canada as an international destination for trade. Trudeau will be banking on his business experience coming in handy when negotiating with a capital-driven Trump cabinet heavy on businessmen.

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Hussen is another rookie MP, elected in 2015 to represent the north Toronto riding of York South-Weston. Hussen continues to make history as the first Somali-Canadian Member of Cabinet after becoming the first Member of Parliament from that community. He will bring first-hand and institutional knowledge to the portfolio, as he arrived in Canada as a refugee himself, and rising up to become Special Assistant to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, as well the President of the Canadian Somali Congress. Given Trump’s campaign rhetoric, the appointment of a Muslim who arrived in Canada as a refugee to the post of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is perhaps a not-so-subtle sign that the Trudeau government does not intent to fold on issues related to those files.

Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions

One of the youngest Members of the Liberal caucus at age 29, the Member for Burlington and Parliamentary Secretary for International Development takes over the Democratic Institutions file which has caused many self-inflicted wounds for the Government. Her professional background as a trade and investment specialist and Master’s Degree in International Relations gave her some practical experience in her Parliamentary Secretary role, while it looks like she may need to learn on the fly (or be strongly managed by PMO) in the Democratic Institutions file. Time will tell if her appointment signals a reset of on the electoral reform front with the introduction of actual legislation, or if the government will continue to rag the puck and risk breaking an election promise to end the first-past-the-post system for federal elections.

SHUFFLED OUT

John McCallum, rumoured Ambassador to China

One of the more experienced Ministers in the Trudeau government, McCallum has been an MP since 2000, and previously served as Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Trudeau appointed this steady set of hands to serve as Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Refugees in large part to help manage the intake of Syrian refugees in 2015-2016. With this hill being climbed, it is rumoured that McCallum will be soon resigning his Markham-Thornhill seat to become Canada’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. While stepping away from elected politics, this new role would certainly keep McCallum busy and plugged in as the new US administration may go on the offensive against Chinese trade and currency practices, with impacts on Canada’s relationship with the Middle Kingdom. McCallum has strong ties to the Chinese community in Canada, with his longtime riding having one of the largest Chinese-Canadian populations in the country.

Stephane Dion, rumoured Ambassador to the EU and Germany 

The former Liberal Party leader and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Environment, rumours had been circulating that his academic background and persona as Minister of Foreign Affairs would clash with the style and substance of the Trump administration. Given his tenure as a former Leader, cabinet Minister, and longest serving Liberal MP from Quebec, sources are saying that Dion will get a soft landing as Ambassador to the European Union and Germany. However, as of time of publishing it is understood that Dion had not formally accepted the appointment. Germany is the strongest economy in Europe, and having an experienced and politically well connected Ambassador to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the defacto political leader of the EU who is facing challenges of her own on the economy and immigration will be crucial, if Dion accepts the rumoured appointment.

MaryAnn Mihychuk, out as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour

A former Manitonba NDP cabinet minister under Gary Doer, Mihychuk was thought to be able to bring valuable government experience to a cabinet heavy on rookies. However, reports and rumours have been circulating that the Winnipeg area MP was a source of friction at the cabinet table and had gone through many staff changes. With a lack of real public or opposition heat on her file, this seems like a clash of personalities gone wrong for the now demoted Member.

SHUFFLED AROUND

Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Freeland won much praise for successfully managing the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Trudeau sees this, her cross-border professional experience and high profile in US media as a strong play to maintain good relations with a Trump White House and protect Canada’s economy from the incoming President’s protectionist instincts. It has been a meteoric rise for Freeland, an economic journalist and editor, who only entered Parliament in a 2013 by-election after being identified as a potential star candidate. Her appointment to Minister of Foreign Affairs coming from International Trade marks a strong pivot towards this file becoming even more economically and trade oriented.

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Labour

Hajdu moves from Status of Women to the larger Labour portfolio, widely seen as a reward for her not always high-profile but effective work in her former portfolio. With a strong background in front line social and community work as the head of the drug awareness committee of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and the head of the city’s largest homeless shelter, Hajdu’s strong managerial experience could help smooth disputes in the Labour sector and also around the cabinet table.

Maryam Monsef, Minister for Status of Women

Monsef remains in Cabinet after a rocky ride at Democratic Institutions, where she was blasted for criticizing the work of the all-party Committee on Electoral Reform, and accused of stalling on Liberal promises to introduce electoral reform legislation. Her retention in cabinet could be a sign that the Prime Minister’s Office still has faith in her to deliver in a lower-profile portfolio, or that dumping her completely would be too embarrassing a climb-down and admission that she was hung out to dry by a government that itself seems unsure of next steps on the electoral reform file.

LOOKING AHEAD 

The focus of this shuffle is a pivot toward managing trade and economic relations, particularly with the incoming United States administration. As well, while the Trudeau government remains broadly popular with the Canadian electorate, this shuffle demonstrates a desire as well as looking to tidy up some files that are causing headaches on the domestic front such as electoral reform. Another apparent theme is the continued generational shift within Trudeau’s Liberal Party, as the departure of Dion (61) and McCallum (66) leaves only Scott Brison, Carolyn Bennett, Lawrence MacAulay, and Ralph Goodale as Ministers who served in the Chretien and/or Paul Martin cabinets, while the appointment of Champagne (46), Hussen (41), and Gould (29), all elected in 2015 shows the next generation of the Liberal bench is stepping up to the plate.

Beyond the shuffle of cabinet itself, Parliamentary Secretaries will also need to be re-jigged, with Champagne and Gould needing replacements at Finance and International Development, with further shifts possible to ensure regional/linguistic balance. Ahmed Hussen will need to be replaced as a Liberal member of the Justice Committee, and Cabinet Committees will need to be adjusted with the shuffle and departure of several members.

Finally, with McCallum and Dion both rumoured to be taking diplomatic posts, by-elections will need to be held in the ridings of Markham-Thornhill and Saint Laurent. Both are considered reasonably safe Liberal seats, and don’t expect them to be called at the same time as the looming votes in the vacant seats of Ottawa-Vanier, Calgary Heritage, and Calgary Midnapore, which are likely to be called in late January-early February.

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