Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed that he intends to lead the Liberals into the next federal election, with a single word: “yes.”
The Liberal leader’s announcement was met with cheers from several ministers standing behind him during a press conference on Tuesday, shortly after he unveiled his new federal cabinet.
Trudeau’s leadership has come into question in recent weeks, after he failed to win a majority in last month’s election. The Liberals came out of the September election with 159 seats, less than a dozen shy of the 170 seat-threshold needed to secure a majority government.
Canadians also elected a minority government in the 2019 election, making this year the second time Trudeau failed to win a majority for the Liberals.
“There will be, of course, plenty more announcements that we’ll be making over the coming weeks and months about other things we’ll be doing, about other ways we’ll be tackling big challenges,” he said. “But today, this cabinet is the news of the day.”
Trudeau gave his cabinet a major shakeup on Tuesday, dropping three ministers, while adding nine new faces to the lineup and shuffling a number of others who were in key positions into new posts.
In one of the biggest moves, Harjit Sajjan, heavily criticized for his handling of sexual misconduct allegations in Canada’s military, is leaving the defence portfolio to take up a new post in international development.
Asked why the minister was shuffled into a new role while others such as Marc Garneau, who served as foreign affairs minister, and now-former diversity and inclusion minister Bardish Chagger were dropped from cabinet, Trudeau defended Sajjan’s record as defence minister. He said Sajjan has “fought all his life for Canadian values, for Canadian opportunities and for fairness and equity.”
“As someone who rose through the ranks of a challenging culture in our military, has consistently pushed back against the ‘Old Boys Network,’ I don’t think anyone can be surprised at the kind of pushback he saw as he was trying to bring about changes over the past number of years,” Trudeau said.
He is replaced by Anita Anand, who spearheaded Canada’s vaccine and personal protective equipment acquisitions during the COVID-19 pandemic as procurement minister.
Other notable shifts included former economic development minister Melanie Joly, who was named foreign affairs minister, and the addition of Toronto MP Marci Ien, who was appointed to the role of gender equality minister.
Steven Guilbeault, who served as Canada’s heritage minister was named environment and climate change minister. Meanwhile, Jonathan Wilkinson, who spent two decades in the green tech sector and then served as predecessor to Guilbeault for two years, took over as minister of natural resources.
Trudeau said he hoped that his “refreshed and reinvigorated” new team would help him as he prepares to deliver on his key campaign promises.
“Cabinet-making requires difficult choices, bringing forward people who have served, giving new challenges to folks who haven’t and are looking at the right balance of regional diversity of experiences to deliver,” he said, adding that his top priorities for his third term as prime minister “are no small tasks.”
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly, the Canadian Press and Reuters