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PM overhauls cabinet with major moves in environment, defence, health portfolios

The Canadian Press
PM overhauls cabinet with major moves in environment, defence, health portfolios

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau is giving his cabinet a major overhaul as he gears up to rapidly deliver on his top priorities for his Liberal minority government during his third term as prime minister.

The cabinet sworn in Tuesday is also a slightly larger lineup that adds nine new faces, drops three and moves most other senior ministers to 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.

Anita Anand, who led the charge to procure vaccines during the pandemic as public services and procurement minister, will take over at National Defence, only the second woman to head that post.

Steven Guilbeault, a prominent environmentalist in Quebec before jumping into politics in 2019, is leaving Canadian Heritage to take over the environment portfolio from Jonathan Wilkinson, who is moving to natural resources.

Jean-Yves Duclos moves from head of the Treasury Board to the health portfolio.

Three ministers have been dropped from cabinet altogether: Marc Garneau, who has been replaced as foreign affairs minister by Melanie Joly; Bardish Chagger, who had been diversity and inclusion minister, and Jim Carr, who had been serving as Trudeau’s special representative for the Prairies after being diagnosed with cancer.

Among the new faces at the cabinet table are former broadcaster and Toronto MP Marci Ien, who becomes gender equality minister; Nova Scotia MP Sean Fraser, who takes on the immigration post; Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault, who joins as tourism and associate finance minister, and newly elected Quebec MP and former union leader Pascale St-Onge, who becomes minister for sport and Quebec economic development.

Mark Holland, who had served as Liberal whip, will join cabinet as the new government House leader. With the Liberals holding only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, Holland’s job will be crucial, ensuring the government has at least one opposition party to support its legislation and to avoid defeat on confidence votes.

The previous House leader, Pablo Rodriguez, who steered the agenda through the Liberals’ last minority government, will head up Canadian Heritage, a post he previously held during Trudeau’s first mandate.

Only 10 ministers in Trudeau’s last cabinet are staying put, including Justice Minister David Lametti, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

Trudeau had announced earlier that Chrystia Freeland would remain in her dual roles as deputy prime minister and finance minister.

The new roster adds up to 39 ministers, including Trudeau – two more than his last cabinet. It maintains Trudeau’s commitment to appoint an equal number of men and women to cabinet.

Trudeau has created a number of new ministries, including carving out housing as a separate portfolio, to be headed by former social development minister Ahmed Hussen.

He’s created a new rural economic development post, to be headed by Newfoundland and Labrador MP Gudie Hutchings, who was promoted from the Liberal backbench.

Emergency preparedness has been carved out as a separate ministry, to be headed by Bill Blair, who also becomes president of the Queen’s Privy Council. Marco Mendicino leaves Immigration to take over Blair’s previous role at Public Safety.

Trudeau has also created a separate ministry of mental health and addictions, to be headed by Carolyn Bennett.

Marc Miller is taking up Bennett’s former post at Crown-Indigenous Relations, while former health minister Patty Hajdu takes over from Miller at Indigenous Services.

Sources said the ministerial lineup is intended to signal the government’s sense of urgency to deliver on a half dozen priority commitments: accelerated climate action, affordable housing, finishing the fight

against COVID-19, rebuilding a greener, more equitable economy, long-term investments in health care and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Senior government sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Trudeau wants to act quickly on those priorities, in the same way the Liberals were able to mobilize the notoriously slow machinery of government to rush billions worth of emergency aid programs out the door during the pandemic.


© 2021 The Canadian Press

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