In Depth

The 39th Parliament

Stephen Harper's first shuffle

Last Updated Jan. 4, 2007

John Baird, left, is sworn in as minister of the environment by Clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch as Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks on during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

This time there were no surprises, no ministerial rabbits pulled out of the hat in the form of an ex-Liberal crossing the floor or a Quebec businessman appointed directly to cabinet without having to go through anything messy, like a by-election.

Indeed, in his second attempt at crafting a cabinet in 11 months, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did mostly what was expected on Jan. 4, 2007. He nudged aside two ministers whose performances had left the Conservative government vulnerable to attack — Rona Ambrose in environment and Vic Toews, the get-tough-on-crime guy in justice — and replaced them with reliable standbys, John Baird and Rob Nicholson, two Ontarians with previous government experience.

Nicholson, who was a junior minister in the Brian Mulroney era, moves to the justice portfolio from government House leader, so he should be well adept at dealing with opposition mood swings.

He and Baird, who appears to have grown close to Harper in recent months, are probably the two big "winners" from the shuffle.

Peter Van Loan, a lawyer and former head of the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario, is also clearly on the rise. Appointed to cabinet just a few weeks ago to replace Michael Chong in intergovernmental affairs, Van Loan now becomes the government House leader and the point man for parliamentary and election reform.

The key thing about the shuffle is that while seven minister changed portfolios and five new junior ministers were appointed, virtually all the Conservative's big hitters stayed in their positions.

That list includes Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Health Minister Tony Clement, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon and Public Works Minister Michel Fortier.

Even former Liberal David Emerson, who is not expected to run again, stays on in charge of International Trade and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, though he may be getting a new understudy.

One of the few surprises Harper unveiled was the appointment of six new secretaries of state, basically junior ministers who don't sit in cabinet but who would have some policy responsibility as well as more regional heft — not a bad thing with an election in the offing.

The sixth secretary of state is Senator Marjorie LeBreton, a former Mulroney confidante who is also the Conservative leader in the Senate and therefore sits at the cabinet table. She is to take on an added responsibility, for seniors.

The five regional secretaries of state are:
  • Jay Hill, from northern B.C., who also becomes the chief government whip.
  • Jason Kenney from Alberta, the prime minister's former parliamentary secretary, who becomes secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity.
  • Gerry Ritz, a Saskatchewan grain farmer and strong advocate of dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, who becomes secretary of state for small business and tourism.
  • Helene Guergis, from Ontario, who becomes secretary of state for foreign affairs and international trade as well as sport.
  • Christian Paradis, from the Quebec City area, who becomes secretary of state for agriculture.

The surprises in that list are that there is no one from Atlantic Canada and that the prime minister bypassed, for a second time, Diane Ablonczy, a former Reform Party stalwart and long-time Harper loyalist who has the geographic misfortune of coming from minister-rich Alberta.

The new cabinet

Stephen Harper, prime minister
Profile: Stephen Harper and the road to power

Rona Ambrose (CBC)

Rona Ambrose, minister of intergovernmental affairs and Western economic diversification, new portfolios
Edmonton-Spruce Grove, Alta.
A bust as environment minister, where she was contradicted by aides on more than one occasion and was the subject of opposition ridicule, Ambrose is one of the party's younger MPs at only 37. Ambrose worked for the government of Alberta's International And Intergovernmental Relations Department and was a public policy and communications consultant before being elected in 2004.

John Baird (CBC)

John Baird, environment minister, new portfolio
Ottawa West-Nepean, Ont.
Baird, a newcomer to Parliament Hill, was elected to the Ontario legislature in 1995 and re-elected in 1999 and 2003. He was president of the Treasury Board from February 2006 until January 2007. He held a variety of portfolios in the Mike Harris government in Ontario, including minister of community and social service, minister responsible for children, associate minister of francophone affairs, chief government whip, deputy house leader, minister of energy and government house leader. He also served as parliamentary secretary in a number of provincial portfolios. In 1985, he was the youngest delegate at the Tory provincial leadership convention.

cabinetMaxime Bernier(CBC)

Maxime Bernier, industry minister
Beauce, Que.
A newcomer to Parliament Hill, Bernier will have his father�s experience to draw on. Now a senator, Gilles Bernier was elected for three terms in the 1980s and 1990s as both a Tory and an Independent. The younger Bernier is a lawyer and businessman who has worked for financial and banking institutions and was consultant on legislative issues on their behalf. He was also a member of the board of the Montreal Economic Institute. Most recently, he was vice-president for corporate affairs and communications for Standard Life Canada.

Jean-Pierre Blackburn (CBC)

Jean-Pierre Blackburn, minister of labour and minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
Jonqui�re-Alma, Que.
First elected in 1984, Blackburn served two terms as an MP in Brian Mulroney�s government and was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence in 1993. He has served on parliamentary committees on the Constitution, communications and culture and general budgetary estimates. He was also the chair of the standing committee on labour, employment and immigration and co-chair of the public accounts committee. A well-known and involved businessman in his community, Blackburn has taught marketing, computer science and accounting. He is currently the president of Blackburn Communication Inc., which specializes in business development and public relations.

cabinetLawrence Cannon (CBC)

Lawrence Cannon, minister of transport, infrastructure and communities
Pontiac, Que.
He was a provincial minister of communications (1990-1994) and was an adviser to then premier Robert Bourassa in the early 1970s. Cannon has experience in both municipal and provincial politics. Provincially, Cannon was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of commerce and development and the minister of tourism and was the deputy speaker of the National Assembly.

cabinetTony Clement (CBC)

Tony Clement, health minister and minister for the federal economic development initiative for northern Ontario
Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.
A lawyer and entrepreneur, Clement also has provincial cabinet experience where he was minister of transportation, minister of environment, minister of municipal affairs and housing and minister of health and long-term care in Ontario. He has run and lost leadership bids for both the provincial and federal Tory parties.

Stockwell Day (CBC)

Stockwell Day, minister of public safety
Okanagan-Coquihalla, B.C.
Day is the party's foreign affairs critic and has served on the standing committee on foreign affairs and international trade. He easily won the riding where he has served since 2000. He was once the leader of the then fledgling Canadian Alliance party and also represented Red Deer-North as a provincial politician for four terms starting in 1986. Day served as leader of the Opposition in Parliament after winning a byelection in Okanagan-Coquitlam in September 2000. In 2002, he was succeeded by Harper as party leader.

David Emerson (Canadian Press)

David Emerson, minister of international trade and minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics
Vancouver Kingsway, B.C.
Elected as a Liberal in 2004 and 2006, Emerson crossed the floor to join the Tory government in time to find himself in the Conservative cabinet. Emerson was the minister of industry in Paul Martin�s Liberal government. He was also the chair of the cabinet committee on sustainable development. A successful businessman, he has worked as a researcher for the Economic Council of Canada in Ottawa, in provincial politics as B.C.'s deputy minister of finance and as president and CEO of the Western and Pacific Bank of Canada (now the Canadian Western Bank). He also served in B.C. as deputy minister of finance, and was soon named deputy minister to the premier, and then president of the B.C. Trade Development Corp.

cabinetDiane Finley (CBC)

Diane Finley, minister of citizenship and immigration, a new portfolio
Haldimand-Norfolk, Ont.
Finley had been the party's agriculture critic in opposition and was appointed minister of human resources and social development in the first Harper cabinet. First elected in 2004, she is a businesswoman who has worked in senior executive roles with major Canadian private and Crown corporations encompassing health care, transportation, agricultural equipment manufacturing, printing and publishing and aviation.

Jim Flaherty (CBC)

Jim Flaherty, finance minister
Whitby-Oshawa, Ont.
Flaherty has provincial cabinet experience. In the Ontario cabinet, Flaherty was the minister of labour and served as acting solicitor general and minister of correctional service. He was also attorney general, the minister responsible for native affairs, deputy premier, minister of finance and the minister of enterprise, opportunity and innovation. He served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of consumer and commercial relations and to the attorney general. A lawyer since 1975, Flaherty practiced in the private sector and was a deputy judge in small claims court and counsel general of Ghana in Toronto.

cabinetMichael Fortier (CBC)

Michael Fortier, minister of public works and government services
Michael Fortier was the Conservative campaign co-chair for the 2004 and 2006 federal elections and was co-chair of Stephen Harper�s leadership campaign in 2003. A lawyer and financier in Montreal, Fortier was the president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada during the 1990s and lost a bid for the leadership. He also lost when he ran for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2000 election in the riding of Laval West, Que. He is a co-chair of the 2006 national campaign for the Conservative party.

Loyola Hearn (CBC)

Loyola Hearn, minister of fisheries and oceans
St. John's South-Mount Pearl, N.L.
He has a lot of experience governing, after 11 years in provincial government, including a four-year stint as minister of education. He retired from provincial politics in 1993 before being elected at the federal level for the first time in a May 2000 byelection. He is a former critic for Canadian heritage, public works and government services and fisheries and oceans and was the Conservative House leader. Hearn is a former member of the committees on natural resources and government operations, public accounts, Canadian heritage, fisheries and oceans; subcommittees on international financial reporting guidelines and standards for the public sector of public accounts, sports and children and youth at risk, and a special committee on the modernization and improvement of the procedures of the House of Commons.

Marjory LeBreton (CBC)

Marjory LeBreton: Leader of the government in the Senate and secretary of state for seniors, the last a new portfolio
Appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1993, LeBreton has served as chief Opposition whip and has been a member of committees that include: human rights; social affairs; science and technology; forestry and agriculture; internal economy; banking; the Library of Parliament, and rules, procedures and the rights of Parliament. She is also the co-chair of the health committee. Before becoming a senator, LeBreton worked for the Progressive Conservative party for more than 31 years, serving former leaders Mulroney, Joe Clark, Robert Stanfield and John Diefenbaker.

cabinetGary Lunn (CBC)

Gary Lunn, minister of natural resources
Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.
A four-time MP, Lunn has been a Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative member. He is the former critic for social development, fisheries and oceans, national revenue, international trade and the environment. The former vice-chair of the fisheries and oceans committee, he has also served committees that include: public accounts, environment and sustainable development, foreign affairs and international trade, child custody and access, scrutiny of regulations, human resources, skills development, social development and the status of persons with disabilities. A lawyer, he was a paramedic with the B.C. Ambulance Service, a mining construction superintendent, a safety and training co-ordinator and industrial relations officer with Crestbrook Forest Industries.

cabinetPeter MacKay (CBC)

Peter MacKay, minister of foreign affairs and minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Central Nova, N.S.
MacKay is the former leader of the Progressive Conservative party. An MP since 1997, he is also the deputy leader of Harper�s Conservatives. Federally, he has been involved in a number of committees and subcommittees, including: justice and human rights, corrections and conditional release act of justice and human rights, organized crime of justice and human rights, national security of justice and human rights, the study of sport in Canada, the modernization and improvement of the procedures of the House of Commons, justice and human rights, public safety and emergency preparedness. He was also a critic for: solicitor general, justice, public security, prime minister, public safety and emergency preparedness and deputy PM. Before entering politics he served as the crown attorney for the N.S. Public Prosecution Service and prosecuted criminal matters at the youth, provincial and Supreme Court levels.

Rob Nicholson (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Rob Nicholson, justice minister and attorney general, new portfolios
Niagara Falls, Ont.
House leader in the first year of Harper's government, Nicholson was elected to Parliament as a Progressive Conservative in 1984 and 1988, then elected as a Conservative in 2004. While he has been in federal cabinet before, Nicholson is not considered to be an inner-circle type in a Harper government. Among other roles, he has served as minister for science and minister responsible for small business, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and attorney general and was a member of the cabinet committee on economic and environmental policy. A lawyer for more than 20 years, he was appointed a Queen's counsel in 1992.

Gordon O'Connor (CBC)

Gordon O'Connor, defence minister
Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Ont.
O�Connor was first elected as an MP in 2004. He has since acted as the critic for national defence. O�Connor was also a member of the national defence and veterans affairs committee and the subcommittee on veterans affairs. A former member of the Canadian Forces, he retired with the rank of brigadier-general. His military appointments included responsibility for planning the future force structure of the Canadian Forces and co-ordinating resources related to about 300 Canadian Forces equipment and infrastructure projects. He has since worked as a consultant and in a variety of business operations.

Bev Oda (CBC)

Bev Oda, minister of Canadian heritage and status of women
Durham, Ont.
A teacher and former CRTC commissioner, Oda has also held management and production positions with broadcasting companies. She was a member of the national advisory committee to the president of the Treasury Board on employment equity in the federal public service and Crown corporations and has also served as adviser to three secretaries of state.

cabinetJim Prentice (CBC)

Jim Prentice, minister of Indian affairs and northern development and federal interlocutor for Metis and non-status Indians
Calgary Centre-North, Alta.
First elected in 2004, he has been a member of the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee and served as the critic for Indian affairs and northern development. A lawyer who has practised for more than 20 years, Prentice specializes in property rights. He has also served as a commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission of Canada, owned and operated weekly newspapers, been part owner of a retail business and been involved in real estate.

Carol Skelton (CBC)

Carol Skelton, minister of national revenue
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Sask.
An MP since 2000, Skelton was the opposition critic for social economy, western economic diversification, and public health and social development. She lost her responsibility for Western economic diversification in this latest shuffle. Before her election in 2000, Skelton was a farm partner and district co-ordinator for Canadian Blood Services. She and her husband have farmed in Harris, Sask., for 35 years.

cabinetMonte Solberg (CBC)

Monte Solberg, minister of human resources and social development, a new portfolio
Medicine Hat, Alta.
One of the better-known faces of the Conservative party. Solberg was the finance critic from 2003 to 2005, and was generally viewed to be good at it despite the fact that he doesn�t have an economics background. He became minister of citizenship and immigration in 2006. He has been in the House since 1993, first as a Reform member, then an Alliance member and now as a Conservative. He is the former vice-chair of the finance committee, foreign affairs and international trade committee and the human resources development and the status of persons with disabilities committee. He was also a member of the Canadian Heritage committee. He has also served as critic for: finance, foreign affairs, revenue Canada and human resources development. Before entering politics, Solberg worked as a broadcaster for 17 years.

Chuck Strahl (CBC)

Chuck Strahl, agriculture and agri-food minister and minister for the Canadian Wheat Board
Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, B.C.
Previously the deputy Speaker, Strahl is well known for his efforts to oust Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day in 2001. He and several Alliance colleagues left the party to sit as the democratic representative caucus. Day was eventually forced out. Strahl has also been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. An MP since 1993, he was most recently the critic for democratic reform and northern economic development and acted as the deputy House leader of the official Opposition. Strahl is also the former deputy caucus co-ordinator, chief whip and former critic for public service, natural resources, heritage (culture/economics) and industry. He is a former member of numerous committees including: procedure and House affairs, fisheries and oceans, foreign affairs and international trade, natural resources, Canadian heritage, aboriginal affairs, natural resources, and industry, science and technology.

cabinetGreg Thompson (CBC)

Greg Thompson, minister of veterans affairs
New Brunswick Southwest, N.B.
A five-time MP, Thompson was most recently the critic for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. He has also served as a critic for: health, human resources development, Treasury Board and regional development. Thompson has served on numerous committees and subcommittees, including health, human resources development and the status of persons with disabilities, public accounts, children and youth at risk and combating corruption of public accounts as well as the special committee on non-medical use of drugs and the joint committee on scrutiny of regulations. A former teacher, Thompson was most recently the operator of a bed and breakfast and a furniture store.

Vic Toews (CBC)

Vic Toews, president of the treasury board, a new portfolio
Provencher, Man.
He served as justice critic both as a member of the Canadian Alliance and as a Tory MP, and also served as critic of the attorney general. But his perhaps too ambitious crime bills ended his tenure as justice minister after just one year. An MP since 2000, Toews is one of the most experienced, having served at the provincial level as minister of labour, minister of justice and attorney general, as well as the minister responsible for constitutional affairs. He has also been a member of various federal committees and subcommittees, including justice and human rights, national security of justice and human rights, and public safety and emergency preparedness. In his career as a lawyer, he has served as Crown counsel to the department of the attorney general, as well as counsel to the department of labour and employment services and the Manitoba Labour Board, and was the director of Workplace Safety and Health and the director of Child Welfare.

cabinetPeter Van Loan (CBC)

Peter Van Loan, leader of the government in the House of Commons and minister for democratic reform, new positions
York-Simcoe, Ont.
Van Loan has been a long-time insider in the Progressive Conservative party, a former head of the party in Ontario and nationally, and a man who tried unsuccessfully to get former N.B. premier Bernard Lord to contest the Conservative leadership that Stephen Harper eventually won. Appointed intergovernmental affairs minister in November 2006, when Michael Chong quit on a point of principle, Van Loan was bumped up to House leader when Harper needed a place for Ambrose that was more in line with her past experience.

cabinetJosée Verner (CBC)

Jos�e Verner, minister of international co-operation and minister for la Francophonie and official languages
Louis St-Laurent, Que.
Verner lost to the BQ candidate in 2004 by just over seven per cent of the vote. Though she was not an MP, Harper appointed her as critic for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, and critic for the minister responsible for la Francophonie. A communications professional, Verner also worked for former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa.

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