Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shuffled his cabinet, moving ministers around in three prominent files that will play key roles in addressing tensions with China, Huawei and the airline industry.
The move comes as new polling exclusively for Global News suggests the Liberals are now approaching the level of support needed to have a shot at forming a majority government if an election is called.
Navdeep Bains, who has served as MP for Mississauga-Malton since 2008 and as innovation minister for the last five years, said in a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning that he plans to spend more time with his family and has decided not to run in the next election.
“As many of you know, family is the most important thing in my life. They have sacrificed so much over the last 17 years and this last year has been hard on families,” he said, adding his young daughters have needed him “more than ever” over the past year.
“It’s time for me to put my family first, and I couldn’t be happier about it.”
Bains will continue to serve as MP for his riding until the next election.
The decision not to run again prompted Trudeau to shuffle Bains out of the innovation portfolio, replacing him with Francois-Philippe Champagne, who takes over the quickly evolving file responsible for reviewing foreign investments such as Huawei and predatory takeover attempts amid the pandemic.
Champagne, who most recently served as foreign affairs minister, will be replaced by former astronaut and transport minister Marc Garneau.
Garneau’s new role will see him take over responsibility for handling Canada’s tense relations with China, and that will include working with the incoming Biden administration in the U.S. on key files, including the push to secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, arbitrarily detained by China for more than two years.
Rookie cabinet minister Omar Alghabra will take over the transport post.
Alghabra was previously the parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade diversification and will now be in charge of managing the transport file at a time when authorities are working to return the Boeing 737 Max jets to service after they were grounded following two deadly crashes.
He will also be dealing directly with the domestic airline industry as it continues to push for government aid amid the coronavirus pandemic, and as Canadians continue to demand refunds on cancelled flights.
As well, Jim Carr is returning to cabinet in his previous post as special representative for the Prairies.
Carr had stepped back earlier in the year to receive stem cell treatments following a cancer diagnosis.
The Winnipeg MP was one of only a handful of Liberals re-elected in the Prairies during the last campaign, which saw tensions escalate in Western Canada over economic challenges to the natural resource sector and the continued low price of oil.
Liberals flirt with majority territory as spring election rumours swirl
The shuffle also comes amid questions over the possibility of a spring election.
Trudeau’s Liberals were reduced from majority to minority government in the 2019 election and since then, speculation has ebbed and flowed over how long the current government can hold on.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s pledge to present a full budget this spring has given rise to questions over whether the government intends to craft it as a basis for a possible campaign platform.
As it stands now, they need the support of one other federal party to remain in power.
According to new polling done by Ipsos exclusively for Global News, the Liberal handling of the pandemic so far has them flirting with — but not yet firmly within — possible majority territory.
That comes as Conservative support drops, particularly in the key electoral background of Ontario.
The Ipsos numbers have the Liberals at 36 per cent support among decided voters nationally — up from 35 per cent in December — and the Conservatives dropping to 29 per cent support.
That’s a drop of three per cent for the official Opposition since last month.
Much of the drop in support comes from declining prospects in Ontario and British Columbia.
The Tories are down five points in both provinces, sitting at 29 per cent versus the Liberals’ 42 per cent in Ontario, while the NDP are at 21 per cent and the Greens at six per cent in the battleground province.
Nationally, the NDP are at 19 per cent of decided voter support and the Greens are at eight per cent.
Ontario’s significant number of federal ridings make it the key decider of which party will form power in federal elections, with the majority of those located in the Greater Toronto Area.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole represents the GTA riding of Durham and has billed himself as a strong contender in being able to help the party retake ridings in the region that it would need to unseat the Liberals and form a government of their own.
The latest numbers suggest the party remains far from that goal, however.
While the Conservatives continue to hold a commanding lead in Alberta over all other parties, their lead over the Liberals has narrowed in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The Conservatives currently hold 40 per cent of decided voter support in those provinces, compared to the Liberals at 34 per cent.
That’s a drop from the 54 per cent support the Conservatives held there just last month — numbers that had the Liberals trailing far behind at 26 per cent of decided support.
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between January 5 and 6, 2021, with a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled.