Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a significant reset to his cabinet, with two-thirds of portfolios switching hands, seven rookie ministers coming in and seven others leaving the front bench.
It’s a reset that the Liberal government is selling as a renewed focus on the economy and affordability, with Trudeau saying this is the right team to build a strong future.
Anita Anand, who has led Canada’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is leaving the defence portfolio to become president of the Treasury Board, while Bill Blair is replacing her.
Dominic LeBlanc is adding public safety to his portfolio, former immigration minister Sean Fraser is becoming housing minister and Marc Miller is taking on immigration.
Cabinet newcomer Arif Virani is taking on justice, replacing outgoing minister David Lametti.
Mark Holland, who was the government House leader, is taking on the health portfolio, while former health minister Jean-Yves Duclos is the new public services and procurement minister.
The other new ministers are Gary Anandasangaree, who takes over Crown-Indigenous Relations; Terry Beech, who is in a new portfolio called Citizens’ Services; Tourism Minister Soraya Martinez Ferrada; Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks; Families Minister Jenna Sudds and Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez.
Only seven ministers are keeping their portfolios: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly.
Prior to the announcement, Jeni Armstrong, a political instructor at Carleton University, says the shakeup would likely focus on critical issues including housing and the rising cost of living.
She says Trudeau will be looking for good communicators who can resonate with Canadians on those files.
Four ministers have announced they won’t be seeking re-election, including Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who is stepping down from cabinet. The others are Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, Public Services and Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek and Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett.
Murray’s announcement is a reversal from last month, when she told reporters that she would be the Liberal candidate for Vancouver Quadra in the next federal election.
The departures left at least three cabinet positions open from the Greater Toronto Area, along with one from British Columbia.
Outgoing Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino also confirmed his ouster from cabinet with a statement posted on Twitter Wednesday morning.
Mendicino said he is proud of the work he accomplished while serving in Trudeau’s cabinet for the past four years, first on the immigration file and then on public safety.
Mendicino recently faced harsh criticism for his office’s handling of the recent prison transfer of serial killer Paul Bernardo.
He said in the statement that he has every intention to run as a Liberal candidate in the next federal election.
Trudeau spent Monday and Tuesday in private meetings in the capital, while several other ministers cancelled appearances at public events.
A source with knowledge of the shuffle said all ministers who can make it to Ottawa will be at Rideau Hall, including those who are not getting new roles.
The source, who could not speak publicly about the expected events, said the new slate of ministers would gather for a cabinet meeting after the announcement.
Priot to the shuffle, the government was made up of 38 cabinet ministers and the prime minister. It was already one-third bigger than it was in 2015, which doesn’t leave a lot of room to add more people, Armstrong said.
Many observers were expecting a significant change from the Liberal government, which is nearly eight years into its mandate and looking to renew its vision heading into the next election.
Both the Conservatives and New Democrats say a shuffle isn’t enough to erase the government’s track record, especially on housing and affordability.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has said Trudeau should be shuffled out instead.
The next federal election must take place by October 2025, but it could be called well before then.
The minority government is currently being propped up by the New Democrats through a confidence-and-supply agreement. The NDP agreed to support the minority Liberals on key House of Commons votes through 2025 in exchange for movement on shared priorities.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday the cabinet shuffle will not have an impact on the deal.