Harper moves 10 in cabinet shakeup

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shuffled 10 cabinet positions, tapping Stockwell Day to lead the Treasury Board and demoting Lisa Raitt from Natural Resources to Labour.

Ignatieff dismisses changes as 'shuffling of the same deck of cards'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands with some of his newly appointed cabinet ministers at Rideau Hall in Ottawa Tuesday. Looking on from left to right are new Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, National Revenue Minister Keith Ashfield, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Treasury Board President Stockwell Day and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shuffled 10 cabinet spots, tapping Stockwell Day to lead the Treasury Board and demoting Lisa Raitt from Natural Resources to Labour.

The changes were unveiled in a ceremony Tuesday morning at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

The Prime Minister's Office described the shuffle as a "fine-tuning," and none of the major ministers — including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon — was shifted in the changes.

The shuffle also comes as Parliament remains prorogued until March 3.

Raitt, who was dogged by controversy at Natural Resources, heads to the Department of Labour, while her replacement, Christian Paradis, moves from Public Works.

New cabinet jobs

Treasury Board: Stockwell Day

Public Works: Rona Ambrose

International Trade: Peter Van Loan

Public Safety: Vic Toews

Labour: Lisa Raitt

Natural Resources: Christian Paradis

Veterans Affairs: Jean-Pierre Blackburn

National Revenue: Keith Ashfield

Minister of State-Seniors: Diane Ablonczy

Minister of State-Small Business and Tourism: Rob Moore

Rona Ambrose, who faltered in her previous post as environment minister, is getting another chance at a big department, moving from Labour to Public Works.

Vic Toews, who was Treasury Board president, moves to Public Safety, replacing Peter Van Loan.

Van Loan moves to International Trade, replacing Day, who moves to fill the Treasury Board post. Day also takes on the role of minister for the Asia Pacific Gateway.

Harper stressed Day's role as the government shifts from economic stimulus back toward tighter budgets.

"As we look ahead to the end of our time limit in the stimulus programs, and for the need of deficit reduction once the economy has recovered, it will be essential for government to constrain the growth of spending," Harper said after the swearing-in ceremony.

"The president of the Treasury Board plays a critical role in overseeing government expenditures. I’m assigning this task to one of the most senior members of the cabinet, a former provincial treasurer who has distinguished himself in every portfolio he has held and I refer, of course, to the honourable Stockwell Day."

At Veterans Affairs, Jean-Pierre Blackburn takes over from Greg Thompson, who resigned from cabinet on Saturday.

A cabinet newcomer, New Brunswick MP Keith Ashfield has replaced Blackburn as minister of National Revenue. Ashfield also took on the role of minister for the Atlantic Canada Gateway from Peter MacKay, and retained his role as minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency.

A second New Brunswick MP, Rob Moore, is making his cabinet debut as minister of state for small business and tourism.

Alberta MP Diane Ablonczy was named minister of state for seniors.

Controversies dogged Raitt

Raitt jumped into a cabinet position after her first election win in 2008, but she has been dogged by controversies at Natural Resources.

Lisa Raitt is sworn in as minister of labour as Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks on at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))
She took heat for her handling of the government's message on Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, particularly after an audio recording was made public in which she called the medical isotopes crisis a "sexy" problem and expressed doubts about Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq's handling of "hot" issues.

Raitt also came under scrutiny in the fall after a fundraiser organized on her behalf allegedly made use of the resources of the Toronto Port Authority, a federal agency.

Harper said Raitt "has a great future, and I think this move will give her a little more varied experience in government."

The prime minister praised Raitt's replacement, Quebec MP Paradis.

"Christian has demonstrated sound management of complicated issues and files and is deserving of more varied and challenging experience," Harper said.

Ignatieff says Raitt demotion 'overdue'

Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff said the changes in the cabinet represent a "shuffling of the same deck of cards."

"It doesn't seem to be changed," he said. "It's a government unusually dominated by one figure, the prime minister."

But he did call the apparent demotion of Raitt "overdue."

"I wish the government had admitted it nine months earlier that she wasn't up to the job," he said. "I think it's Stephen Harper admitting nine months late that they mishandled the isotopes file, and they are still mishandling it."

NDP Leader Jack Layton also panned the move of Raitt.

"Demoting Lisa Raitt to the minister of labour, that's as though they indicate that labour and work is not a very important thing," Layton said. "It's the penalty box, as far as Mr. Harper is concerned."

There are 38 ministers in the Harper cabinet.

Asked Tuesday why he didn't cut the size of cabinet as the government heads into leaner budget years, Harper said his ministers "are working very hard, and this is no time to bring in demotions."

"We have kept budgets for their offices very reasonable compared to the past, particularly for ministers of state, and that is a very small percentage for the government, and I think that the government needs these ministers in place to promote its policies and help the people of Canada," the prime minister said.