Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a massive overhaul to his cabinet two years into his latest mandate, with about three-quarters of cabinet portfolios switching hands.
His Liberal government is selling the new team as one that will take a fresh approach to housing, affordability and security leading into the next federal election.
During a press conference with reporters after a swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers Wednesday morning, Trudeau noted his government has had to navigate difficult global events.
The war in Ukraine led to a rise in fuel and food prices, while Canada has also had to respond to the backsliding of democracy abroad and foreign interference attempts at home.
Canada’s inflation rate fell to 2.8 per cent in June, and as Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has boasted, that’s the lowest inflation rate in the G7. But Trudeau said there’s still potential for a global economic slowdown, as inflation remains high and interest rates rise around the world.
“The fact that Canada is better off than many countries in the world doesn’t make it any less difficult for the millions of Canadians who are struggling,” Trudeau said.
He said his cabinet is full of “fresh energy” and will bring new voices, skills and experiences to the table.
Some ministers’ portfolios are getting heftier. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is now the energy minister, too.
Wilkinson said that underlines the importance of the conversation around climate change and building a strong economy through energy production, whether that’s offshore wind in Nova Scotia, battery production in Ontario or carbon capture and hydrogen production in Alberta.
Experts also lauded the appointment of former immigration minister Sean Fraser to a new portfolio that combines housing with infrastructure, as housing affordability concerns continue to plague the government. Fraser is widely seen as a good communicator.
But if the Liberals are trying to signal that they deserve to stay in government to tackle the country’s most pressing issues, opposition parties are not buying it.
As Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre focuses on public safety and housing in a bid to appeal to more Canadians, he has blamed Canada’s problems — including rising inflation, crime rates and a lack of affordable housing — squarely on Trudeau.
“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,” Poilievre said Wednesday.
The New Democrats, have also been critical of the government’s track record as the cost of living, from food prices to housing, rises across the country.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he will propose new housing policy to the Liberals in the fall through the parties’ confidence-and-supply deal, under which New Democrats agreed to support the minority government until 2025.
An election must happen by that October. But it could be called sooner if the deal falls apart.
Singh noted the announcement of a new cabinet can’t erase the Liberals’ past failures. The Green Party echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement that the shuffle has more to do with cosmetics than solving problems.
And Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said in his own statement that Trudeau’s shuffle shows the government knows several of its departments are dysfunctional.
Many observers have said it’s time for the nearly eight-year-old government to renew its vision, with polls indicating a Conservative lead in seats across the country.
It’s not unusual for a government that is halfway through its mandate to have a cabinet overhaul, said Jonathan Malloy, a political science professor at Carlton University.
But he noted that this is “an aging government that’s shaking in the polls.”
While Trudeau didn’t shy away from removing or demoting ministers from high-profile portfolios, he wouldn’t offer much detail Wednesday on the reasons for removing several of them from cabinet.
Four of the ministers he dropped said before Wednesday that they were not planning to run for re-election.
And Marco Mendicino, the outgoing public safety minister, had been mired in controversy over his handling of the prison transfer of serial killer Paul Bernardo, challenges bringing in new gun-control legislation and making progress on the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission’s report, which called for an overhaul of the RCMP. The Conservatives had called for him to be fired.
But Trudeau would not comment on Mendicino’s performance, nor would he explain why ex-justice minister David Lametti and ex-Treasury Board president Mona Fortier are also now absent from cabinet.
Lametti said in a statement on Twitter that the job had been “the privilege of my life” and listed off some of his accomplishments, but did not offer clues about why he was leaving cabinet.
Replacing Lametti is Arif Virani, a new face on the Liberals’ front bench.
And Dominic LeBlanc is adding public safety to his intergovernmental affairs portfolio. He is also still tasked with negotiating the terms of a possible public inquiry into foreign interference.
Anita Anand, who has led Canada’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is leaving the defence portfolio to become president of the Treasury Board. And Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who was most recently in charge of emergency services, is taking over her former job.
The high-profile changes indicate the shuffle is as much about national security as it is about the economy, Malloy said.
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau will announce the membership of a new National Security Council in the coming weeks. It is described as “a new forum for ministers to deliberate on and address issues of pressing concern to Canada’s domestic and international security.”
Marc Miller, who was the minister for Crown-Indigenous relations, is taking on immigration, while Gary Anandasangaree is replacing him.
Mark Holland, who was the government House leader, is taking on the health portfolio, and former health minister Jean-Yves Duclos moves to public services and procurement. Karina Gould, the former families minister, will be the new House leader, and cabinet rookie Jenna Sudds is taking her place.
The appointment of seven new ministers along with the ouster of seven others leaves the Liberal cabinet sitting at 38 people, including Trudeau. Half of them are women.
Complete list of cabinet ministers and their titles:
— Anita Anand: president of the Treasury Board
— Gary Anandasangaree: minister of Crown-Indigenous relations
— Terry Beech: minister of citizens’ services
— François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry
— Marie-Claude Bibeau: minister of national revenue
— Bill Blair: minister of national defence
— Randy Boissonnault: minister of employment, workforce development and official languages
— Jean-Yves Duclos: minister of public services and procurement
— Soraya Martinez Ferrada: minister of tourism and minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
— Sean Fraser: minister of housing, infrastructure and communities
— Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and minister of finance
— Karina Gould: government House leader
— Steven Guilbeault: minister of environment and climate change
— Patty Hajdu: minister of Indigenous services and minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario
— Mark Holland: minister of health
— Ahmed Hussen: minister of international development
— Gudie Hutchings: minister of rural economic development and minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
— Marci Ien: minister for women and gender equality and youth
— Mélanie Joly: minister of foreign affairs
— Kamal Khera: minister of diversity, inclusion and persons with disabilities
— Dominic LeBlanc: minister of public safety, democratic institutions and intergovernmental affairs
— Diane Lebouthillier: minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
— Lawrence MacAulay: minister of agriculture and agri-food
— Marc Miller: minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship
— Mary Ng: minister of export promotion, international trade and economic development
— Seamus O’Regan Jr.: minister of labour and seniors
— Ginette Petitpas Taylor: minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence
— Carla Qualtrough: minister of sport and physical activity
— Pablo Rodriguez: minister of transport and Quebec lieutenant
— Harjit Sajjan: president of the King’s Privy Council for Canada, minister of emergency preparedness and minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada
— Ya’ara Saks: minister of mental health and addictions and associate minister of health
— Jenna Sudds: minister of families, children and social development
— Pascale St-Onge: minister of Canadian heritage
— Filomena Tassi: minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
— Rechie Valdez: minister of small business
— Dan Vandal: minister of northern affairs, minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
— Arif Virani: minister of justice and Attorney General of Canada
— Jonathan Wilkinson: minister of energy and natural resources