Trudeau overhauls his cabinet, drops 7 ministers and shuffles most portfolios
Cabinet shakeup introduces new faces to Trudeau's front bench
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today dropped seven ministers and changed nearly three-quarters of his cabinet, overhauling his team at a time of heightened tensions overseas and scandals at home.
Trudeau unveiled a new cabinet team meant to have a renewed focus on economic priorities, such as housing, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall Wednesday morning. The shuffle promotes seven new faces and tasks more than a dozen ministers with new roles, including a new minister of defence and public safety.
Reporters asked the prime minister repeatedly whether the shakeup amounts to an admission that his nearly eight-year-old government is slumping.
"On the contrary," he responded.
Recent polling indicates the Liberals are trailing the Conservatives. Opposition parties have criticized how the government has addressed the cost of living crisis.
WATCH | Trudeau says his new cabinet will 'step up' on critical issues
"This is a difficult time right now for millions of people in Canada and around the world, and making sure that we have the best possible team aligned to respond to Canadians' challenges with the supports necessary, but also show that optimism, that ambition for getting us through these consequential times and building a brighter future for everyone —that's what we're focused on," Trudeau said.
Amid those global challenges, Toronto-area MP Bill Blair takes over the defence portfolio from Anita Anand, who becomes president of the Treasury Board.
Blair, a former police chief who was most recently the minister of emergency preparedness, becomes the country's point person at NATO and will be responsible for Canada's response to the war in Ukraine.
The Canadian Armed Forces is also reeling from a sexual misconduct scandal; Blair is now responsible for overseeing the military's attempt to change its culture.
New Brunswick's Dominic LeBlanc will now lead public safety, an often-challenging portfolio that includes the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP. He also takes on the democratic institutions file and will continue to serve as intergovernmental affairs minister.
LeBlanc, who represents Beauséjour, will play a key role in determining how the government responds to allegations that China interfered in the past two federal elections, and to the damning report on the Mounties' handling of the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia. He'll also have to stickhandle negotiations with the provinces about the future of RCMP contract policing.
His predecessor, Marco Mendicino, was dropped from cabinet. His demotion ends a tenure at the cabinet table plagued by multiple controversies, including the government's poorly received gun control legislation and lingering questions on the foreign interference file.
More recently, Mendicino was under intense pressure due to the controversy over the transfer of serial killer Paul Bernardo to a medium-security prison.
Along with the new names heading up security and intelligence-related portfolios, the Prime Minister's Office announced Wednesday it will follow the example of its Five Eye allies and set up a cabinet committee on national security and intelligence. The lack of one has been cited by the national security community as an oversight in light of recent controversies.
A PMO spokesperson called the new National Security Council a "forum for ministers to deliberate on and address issues of pressing concern to Canada's domestic and international security."
7 fresh faces called up
Seven new MPs received a promotion to cabinet:
- Toronto MP Arif Virani, who represents Parkdale—High Park, becomes minister of justice and attorney general of Canada
- Quebec MP Soraya Martinez Ferrada, who represents the riding of Hochelaga, becomes the minister of tourism and minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec Regions.
- Gary Anandasangaree, who represents Scarborough—Rouge Park, becomes minister of Crown-Indigenous relations
- B.C. MP Terry Beech of Burnaby North—Seymour becomes minister of citizens' services
- Toronto-area MP Ya'ara Saks, who represents York Centre, becomes minister of mental health and addictions and associate minister of health
- Ottawa-area MP Jenna Sudds, who represents, Kanata—Carleton, becomes minister of families, children and social development
- Mississauga—Streetsville MP Rechie Valdez becomes minister of small business
Multiple ministers changing responsibilities
Wednesday's shuffle also saw several current ministers change positions or add to their portfolios:
- Pablo Rodriguez becomes transport minister
- Pascale St-Onge becomes minister of Canadian heritage
- Mark Holland becomes minister of health
- Sean Fraser becomes minister of housing, infrastructure and communities
- Lawrence MacAulay becomes minister of agriculture
- Jean-Yves Duclos becomes minister of public services and procurement
- Marie-Claude Bibeau becomes minister of national revenue
- Gudie Hutchings remains minister of rural economic development but now takes on responsibility for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
- Diane Lebouthillier becomes minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
- Harjit Sajjan becomes president of the King's Privy Council and minister of emergency preparedness, and keeps his role as minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada
- Carla Qualtrough becomes minister of sport and physical activity
- Karina Gould becomes government House leader
- Ahmed Hussen becomes minister of international development
- Seamus O'Regan stays on as minister of labour and adds the seniors portfolio
- Ginette Petitpas Taylor becomes minister of veterans affairs
- Mary Ng remains minister of export promotion, international trade and economic development but drops small business from her files
- Jonathan Wilkinson stays put but his portfolio is being renamed "energy and natural resources"
- Marc Miller becomes minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship
- Randy Boissonnault becomes minister of employment workforce development and official languages
- Kamal Khera becomes minister of diversity, inclusion and persons with disabilities.
Freeland, Joly staying put
Just eight ministers kept their portfolios:
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly
Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault
Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne
Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, also minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario
Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario Filomena Tassi
Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, also minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien
Gould recently announced she is expecting her second child in the new year. Trudeau announced Wednesday that Government Whip Steve MacKinnon will serve as House leader in her absence and Ruby Sahota will fill in as whip.
The cabinet is now made up of 19 women and 20 men, including the prime minister himself.
Four of the seven ministers who were dropped announced earlier this week that they would not be running again:
- Former public services and procurement minister Helena Jaczek
- Former transport minister Omar Alghabra
- Former mental health and addictions minister Carolyn Bennett
- Former fisheries minister Joyce Murray
Trudeau did not answer when reporters asked why Mendicino, former justice minister David Lametti and former president of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier were axed.
The prime minister said he was putting forward "the strongest possible team with fresh energy and a range of skills."
"I want to thank everyone who has served this country and this cabinet so well over the past number of years," he said.
Lametti released a statement Wednesday congratulating his former parliamentary secretary Virani and saying he was proud of what he accomplished in the role.
"Confidence in our justice system is central to the rule of law. One way of building that confidence is by reaching out to communities who feel alienated from our justice system: Indigenous people, black and racialized communities," he wrote.
"This was an important priority for me."
In his own media statement, Mendicino said it was an honour to serve as public safety minister and thanked members of the national security and law enforcement communities.
"Thank you for putting yourselves in harm's way to protect Canadians every single day. We do not say this nearly enough," he wrote.
"To my cabinet and caucus colleagues, it remains a privilege to work with you. The seating arrangements may move around in the House or Commons from time to time, but we are family and committed to the same cause."
Fortier tweeted that it was a privilege to serve in cabinet.
WATCH | Poilievre says cabinet shuffle amounts to PM admitting 'he broke the economy'
The cabinet reset did little to impress Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.
"After eight years of Trudeau, everything costs more," he told a news conference in Timmins, Ont.
"His government is a failure. It's funny, though — the one minister responsible for those failures didn't get moved. And that minister is Justin Trudeau."
Singh still plans on backing Liberals
This new cabinet is believed to be the team Trudeau will take into the next election.
The Liberal minority government is being propped up by the NDP through a confidence-and-supply agreement that's set to last until 2025, but either party could trigger an election earlier.
As part of that deal, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has agreed to support the government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the government championing some of his priorities, like dental care.
Following Wednesday's shuffle, Singh called the government a failure on key files like housing affordability but didn't suggest he was willing to pull his support.
"Our priority isn't triggering an election. It's forcing the government to work for people," said Singh.
"We are focused on getting results for people, not focused on forcing an election."