Harper shuffles cabinet to create 'right team for these times'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper expanded his cabinet Thursday, adding more female ministers and keeping veteran members in key portfolios as the government faces uncertain global economic times.
Governor General Michaelle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper pose with members of the new cabinet following a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Thursday. ((Adrian Wylde/Canadian Press))
Prime Minister Stephen Harper expanded his cabinet Thursday, adding more female ministers and keeping veteran members in key portfolios as the government faces uncertain global economic times.

New cabinet lineup

 Justice Rob Nicholson
 National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)* Jean-Pierre Blackburn
 Veterans Affairs Greg Thompson
Government Leader in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors) Marjory LeBreton
 Indian Affairs and Northern Development Chuck Strahl
 Defence Peter MacKay
 International Trade* Stockwell Day
 Treasury Board Vic Toews
 Labour* Rona Ambrose
 Human Resources and Skills Development* Diane Finley
 International Co-operation Bev Oda
 Environment* Jim Prentice
 Transport, Infrastructure and Communities* John Baird
 Foreign Affairs* Lawrence Cannon
 Industry* Tony Clement
 Finance Jim Flaherty
 Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie* Josée Verner
 Government Leader in the House of Commons* Jay Hill
 Public Safety* Peter Van Loan

 Agriculture and Agri-Food, Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

 Gerry Ritz
 Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism* Jason Kenney
 Public Works and Government Services Christian Paradis
 Canadian Heritage and Official Languages* James Moore
 Health* Leona Aglukkaq
 Natural Resources* Lisa Raitt
 Fisheries and Oceans* Gail Shea
 Sport* Gary Lunn
 Chief Government Whip* Gordon O'Connor
 Status of Women* Helena Guergis
 Small Business and Tourism Diane Ablonczy
 Transport* Rob Merrifield
 Western Economic Diversification* Lynne Yelich
 Democratic Reform* Steven Fletcher
 Science and Technology* Gary Goodyear
 Economy Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec* Denis Lebel
 Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency* Keith Ashfield
 Foreign Affairs (Americas)* Peter Kent

*Changes in positions are marked with an asterisk.

Harper increased his cabinet to 38 members from 31, and now has 11 women in cabinet, up from seven previously.

Former environment minister John Baird took over Transport, a post previously held by Quebec MP Lawrence Cannon, who moved to Foreign Affairs.

Tony Clement, who had been the health minister, replaced Jim Prentice in Industry, and will quickly have to deal with a manufacturing sector crisis that has hobbled the auto industry in his home province. Prentice took over Environment.

But Jim Flaherty and Peter MacKay remained in two of the major cabinet positions, Finance and Defence, respectively.

"The new cabinet introduced today is composed of an experienced team that's prepared to work on behalf of all Canadians," Harper said, at a news conference following a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

He also said, "This is the right team for these times. We will build a foundation of strength that will protect the earnings, savings and financial security of Canadians and ensure that Canada emerges from this time of global turmoil stronger than ever before."

But Liberal deputy leader Michael Ignatieff told CBC News, "Mr. Harper used the word team. The question is, is it a team or a one-man band as before?"

Ignatieff also criticized Harper's decision to keep Flaherty as finance minister.

"Keeping Mr. Flaherty says our economic policy so far has been good for Canadians. We in the Liberal opposition think it's been bad for Canada, because he made some tax cuts that left us no room to help Canadians in tough times." 

Speaking Thursday after the cabinet announcement, Cannon defended Flaherty's efforts to protect the Canadian economy.

"My colleague, Jim Flaherty, is doing a lot of work and Canada is showing a lot of leadership in this area and I think that that is something that we all should be proud of as Canadians," Cannon said during an interview on CBC's Politics.

The newly appointed Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged much of his future efforts will be spent on issues of cooperation between Canada and the U.S. as the two countries struggle to stave off more economic fallout.

"The issue that confronts Canada as well as the United States and the rest of the world, of course, is the instability, the volatility in the marketplace," Cannon said.

More women in cabinet 

Rookie female MPs were also given prominent cabinet positions, including Leona Aglukkaq, Nunavut's former health minister, who takes over the federal Health Ministry, and Toronto-area MP Lisa Raitt, the former chief executive officer of the Toronto Port Authority, who becomes the natural resources minister.

Gail Shea, a longtime provincial minister who won the P.E.I. riding of Egmont, has been given the Fisheries Ministry.

Other significant shuffles include:

  • Stockwell Day, who will move to International Trade from Public Safety, a post now held by Peter Van Loan.
  • Jason Kenney, who takes over Citizenship and Immigration.
  • James Moore, the current secretary of state for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, who takes over Heritage.

Cabinet ministers remaining in their posts include:

  • Christian Paradis, minister of Public Works.
  • Robert Nicholson, minister of Justice.
  • Chuck Strahl,  minister of Indian Affairs.
  • Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board.
  • Beverley J. Oda, minister of International Co-operation.
  • Gregory Thompson, minister of Veterans Affairs.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who sparked controversy over jokes he made during the listeriosis outbreak, also remains in his post.

Some newly elected MPs were given junior cabinet roles, including Toronto-area MP Peter Kent, a former broadcaster, who has been named minister of state (Foreign Affairs, Americas); and Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield, minister of state (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency).

Rona Ambrose, who had been the minister of Intergovernmental Affairs following what was viewed as a demotion from Environment, has been moved to Labour.

Josée Verner, the previous minister of Culture, takes over Intergovernmental Affairs, in a move that is seen by some as a demotion following controversial cuts to arts just before the election campaign.

The cuts may have scuttled Tory electoral fortunes in Quebec and deprived the party of a majority.

The shuffle follows the Oct. 14 election in which the Conservatives won 143 of the 308 House of Commons seats. 

The government will kick off the new session of Parliament with a throne speech on Nov. 19.

With files from the Canadian Press