Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his front benches Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election. Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers of the shuffle, and areas where the jury is still out:
Pablo Rodriguez — The four-term MP from Quebec and current chief government whip takes over as heritage minister from Melanie Joly. Now the first-time minister just needs to find a way to appease Quebecers angry at the government’s deal with Netflix. The agreement exempts the online streaming giant from having to pay tax, which has sparked fears it will push out Quebec companies that do have to charge tax. Netflix has agreed to invest $500 million into Canadian programming over the next five years, but critics say it has not explicitly promised to create French-language content. The issue is seen as one of the Liberals’ biggest Achilles heels in the province heading into the 2019 federal election.
Mary Ng and Bill Blair — Ng’s star is rising, as the Toronto MP becomes minister of small business just over a year after being elected to Parliament in a byelection. Former Toronto police chief Blair is being rewarded with the new post of minister of border security and organized crime reduction for helping the Liberals stickhandle the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Ontario and the GTA — The Liberal cabinet got more Ontario-centric with the addition of Ng, Blair and Hamilton MP Filomena Tassi as minister for seniors. The province now accounts for 15 of 35 seats at the cabinet table, of which nine are filled by MPs from the Greater Toronto Area.
Dominic LeBlanc — As fisheries minister, LeBlanc oversaw a department with a large budget and hundreds of employees. He loses all that as minister for intergovernmental and northern affairs as well as internal trade. But the New Brunswick MP and long-time Trudeau friend, who has never shied away from a fight, is now responsible for dealing with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his ideological soulmates in other provinces that could threaten the Trudeau government’s agenda.
Jim Carr — The Manitoba MP’s move from natural resources to international trade comes at a time when Canada desperately needs to find new trading partners given the uncertainty around NAFTA and as the Canada-EU trade deal faces increasing resistance across the Atlantic.
Bill Morneau, Harjit Sajjan, Lawrence MacAulay, Carolyn Bennett, Marc Garneau, Ahmed Hussen — There was speculation heading into the shuffle that one or more would be demoted due to controversy, poor communication skills or their length of tooth. In the end, all emerged largely unscathed.
Melanie Joly — Her rocky tenure as heritage minister came to an abrupt and inglorious end upon being shuffled into the more junior ministerial position overseeing tourism, official languages and la Francophonie. The writing had been on the wall for a while as the first-term Montreal MP drew poor reviews for failing to sell her home province on the Netflix deal.
Northern Canada — It has been more than two years since Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo resigned as fisheries minister to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. Since then, Trudeau’s cabinet has been bereft of northern representation despite the fact the Liberals swept the territories in 2015.
Alberta — Some might say the province came out ahead as Edmonton MP Amarjeet Sohi was moved from infrastructure to natural resources, meaning an Albertan is directly responsible for the Trans Mountain pipeline. But Trudeau did not promote anyone from the province to replace Kent Hehr, leaving Alberta with one seat at the cabinet table.
Jury’s Still Out
Federal-Provincial Relations — The battlelines are already being drawn between the Trudeau government and Doug Ford as the Ontario premier makes clear his intention to fight the feds on a number of fronts. Provincial elections are also looming in Alberta and Quebec that could result in governments opposed to Trudeau’s agenda, even as the Liberals continue to face resistance from B.C. over the Trans Mountain pipeline. It’s unclear whether the shuffle will improve things.
Francois-Philippe Champagne — There were big expectations the Quebec MP was in line for a promotion from international trade given his communication skills and energy. His appointment as infrastructure minister is instead being viewed as a lateral move at best given that Sohi had already done much of the heavy lifting on the file.
The Canadian Press