Justin Trudeau could shuffle cabinet as agenda lags, rivals regroup

Click to play video: 'PM Trudeau commits to answering ethics commissioner’s questions regarding Aga Khan trip' PM Trudeau commits to answering ethics commissioner’s questions regarding Aga Khan trip
PM Trudeau commits to answering ethics commissioner’s questions regarding Aga Khan trip – Apr 12, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks set to shuffle his cabinet and trigger a new session of Parliament to help refocus a flagging agenda in the run-up to an election in late 2019, say political insiders.

Trudeau’s Liberals took power in November 2015 with ambitious plans but have abandoned some high-profile electoral commitments and are struggling to push others through Parliament.

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One option is prorogation – ending the Parliamentary session and starting a new one, which allows Trudeau to formally unveil a new agenda and inject a sense of purpose in the run-up to the election.

“Prorogation is most likely going to happen. The only question is whether it’s in the next few months or early 2018,” said another veteran Liberal.

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Trudeau’s challenges started in January amid questions about a New Year’s vacation he took at a private island. He now faces an ethics probe.

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In February, he had to scrap plans to overhaul the electoral system. He has also abandoned a vow to run small budget deficits, citing the need to stimulate the economy, and critics say Ottawa botched the creation of a national infrastructure bank, another major electoral promise.

Officials fret that time is running out to meet priorities such as drafting legislation to legalize marijuana and creating a new system to assess major natural resource projects.

Signs of urgency are visible. Unusually, the government is extending the sitting hours of Parliament to midnight until the legislature rises for the summer in late June.

Another way to inject life into government is to shuffle the cabinet. Trudeau wants to promote newcomers such as Mary Ng, a former aide who was elected to Parliament last month, said two people familiar with the matter.

Potential candidates to be moved include Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who has been under constant opposition attack after admitting he exaggerated his role in a major offensive in Afghanistan.

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Several cabinet members are in their late sixties or older, including Farm Minister Lawrence MacAulay, who turns 71 in September.

Trudeau’s office declined to comment.

Although polls show the Liberals well ahead of their rivals, strategists say that is in part because neither of the two main opposition parties have permanent leaders.

The Conservatives, who will elect a new chief on Saturday, have raised C$5.3 million so far this year compared to C$2.8 million for the Liberals.

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