OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept his core economic team intact while bringing some fresh blood to the cabinet table Monday as he gave his inner circle its biggest shakeup since coming to office in 2006.
The key economic portfolios stayed in old hands as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and International Trade Minister Ed Fast stayed put. That team is expected to lead the governing Conservatives into the next federal election campaign in two years’ time.
“These changes to the ministry feature both younger members of Parliament ready for new opportunities, and steady hands that will continue to deliver strong leadership in key portfolios,” Harper said in a statement.
But on other files, the prime minister brought in some new faces, including four “strong and capable” women – backbench standouts Shelly Glover, Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen and Kellie Leitch.
Manitoba MPs Glover and Bergen became heritage minister and minister of state for social development, respectively. Leitch was named labour minister, while Rempel becomes minister of state for western economic diversification.
The Harper government has been under fire over the Senate spending scandal and is looking for a reboot ahead of the 2015 vote.
The emphasis on a mix of younger MPs and experienced veterans could be an attempt to fend off the challenges the Conservatives face from a youthful Liberal leader and a sizable group of young New Democrats, most of them from Quebec.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the cabinet shuffle doesn’t change who really runs the government.
“Today’s cabinet shuffle will not provide Canadians with the real change they want to see. It is clear that the only minister who has any power in this government is the prime minister,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“Today’s shuffle does not change that.”
Harper also promoted relative youngsters Pierre Poilievre, Rob Moore and Chris Alexander to cabinet posts. Poilievre, the Tory go-to guy to fend off opposition attacks, becomes minister of state for democratic reform. The 39-year-old Moore is now the minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
But Alexander scored a big promotion with his move to citizenship and immigration. The former diplomat takes over from the long-serving Jason Kenney, who moved to the rebranded employment and social development portfolio.
Indeed, Harper did not shy away from moving some of his senior ministers.
Veteran ministers Peter MacKay and Rob Nicholson swapped jobs. MacKay is now the justice minister and Nicholson becomes defence minister.
Rona Ambrose, previously minister of public works, was appointed minister of health. Her predecessor, Leona Aglukkaq, moved on to become minister of environment, CanNor and the Arctic Council.
Christian Paradis, whose Quebec riding was the site of the tragic train explosion in Lac-Megantic that killed an estimated 50 people, was moved to international development and minister for La Francophonie. He was previously industry minister, a post now occupied by former heritage minister James Moore.
Lisa Raitt was named the new transport minister.
Others kept their portfolios. Bernard Valcourt was re-appointed as aboriginal affairs minister and Alice Wong stayed in her post as minister of state for seniors.
The new appointments trickled out in 140-character snippets over Harper’s official Twitter account.
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