Trudeau cabinet shuffle rejigs focus on international trade, borders, provincial relations
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet on Wednesday with changes that put the spotlight on trade diversification, border security and interprovincial affairs — issues that will likely be hot topics in the 2019 federal election.
At Rideau Hall on Wednesday morning, Trudeau added five fresh faces to the cabinet and shuffled around the portfolios of six other ministers.
Here is the list of who now holds which portfolio:
- Dominic Leblanc, formerly fisheries minister, becomes Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade.
- Jim Carr, formerly natural resources minister, becomes Minister of International Trade Diversification
- Melanie Joly, formerly heritage minister, becomes Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie
- Amarjeet Sohi, formerly infrastructure minister, becomes Minister of Natural Resources
- Carla Qualtrough, formerly public works and procurement minister, becomes Minister of Public Works and Procurement and Accessibility
- Francois-Philippe Champagne, formerly international trade minister, becomes Minister of Infrastructure and Communications
- Pablo Rodriguez, formerly the Whip, becomes Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
- Bill Blair, formerly parliamentary secretary for justice, becomes Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
- Mary Ng, who was elected last year but was a former senior PMO aide, becomes Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion
- Filomena Tassi, a Hamilton-area MP, becomes Minister for Seniors
- Jonathan Wilkinson, MP for Vancouver North, becomes Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Kirsty Duncan, who retains her two cabinet portfolios of Minister for Science and Sport. She is the only minister to hold two portfolios in the current cabinet.
Bardish Chagger remains Government House Leader.
The shuffle ensures strong performers like Leblanc, Carr and Blair will now have more prominent roles on subjects that will be up for fierce debate over the coming year, particularly when it comes to the matter of how to work with the provinces on irregular border crossers, reducing trade barriers between provinces and seeking trade opportunities elsewhere.
As the United States under the Trump administration becomes increasingly protectionist, the question of how Canada should best diversify its trading partners is set to become more contentious.
Previously, the government has mulled the prospect of pursuing a free trade agreement with China, which is consistently ranked by international groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty has having an atrocious human rights record.
Also, the inclusion of Blair as Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction could put him into conflict with new Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
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Ford and his ministers have been vocal in opposing what they say is a strain on resources posed by asylum seekers coming into the province.
Earlier this month, Trudeau said he had to brief Ford on how the asylum system works and the matter sparked testy exchanges between federal and provincial counterparts last week during a meeting about immigration.
Gun violence is also a rising concern, particularly in Toronto but also in other cities including Ottawa.
Blair is the former chief of the Toronto Police Service and has been an advocate of early intervention as a crucial means of preventing youth from entering gangs.
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Trudeau also stressed on Tuesday the need for Canadian provinces to work to eliminate trade barriers between themselves given the challenges posed by increasing American isolationism and protectionism.
“If we want to continue to demonstrate that free trade is good for consumers,” he said, “then we need to do a better job of demonstrating that here in Canada.”
Ng, as well, could prove an interesting addition on those notes with her portfolio’s focus on export promotion.
A former director of appointments in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ng’s nomination and victory last year for the Markham-Thornhill seat formerly held by John McCallum – now Canadian Ambassador to China – sparked accusations of favouritism by her opponents.
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The addition of Tassi to cabinet is also intriguing.
Tassi represents the riding of Hamilton West and stood alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland when the government officially implemented its retaliatory tariffs against the United States over its tariffs last month.
Tassi, a former Catholic school board trustee, has said in the past that she is “pro-life.”
However, all Liberal MPs who ran under the party banner in the last election were told they must be willing to vote pro-choice in the event any legislation on the matter of abortion comes before the House of Commons.
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