Breaking Down The Liberal’s Federal Cabinet Shuffle – January 2017

FEDERAL CABINET SHUFFLE 2017

With its first major cabinet shuffle today, the Trudeau government moved to reposition itself to face the new international implications of a Trump presidency as well as a re-tool during a year of major decisions on the home front.

The most significant move of the shuffle, which promotes former International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to a new position as Canada’s foreign minister, is as much about rewarding her perceived strong performance as it is about limiting risk. President-elect Donald Trump reached the White House on a tide of populism, anti-elite and anti-intellectual sentiment, and the Trudeau government had an interest in removing Stéphane Dion – a career politician and academic – from a spotlight role managing Canada’s relationship with the Trump team.

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CHRYSTIA FREELAND – MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

A former journalist, Freeland has experience in front of television cameras and has demonstrated an ability to manage high pressure negotiations, notably in the role she played to salvage crumbling negotiations around Canada’s free trade pact with the European Union last year. She will be called upon to personally manage Canada’s most important diplomatic and trade relationship by dealing directly with members of Trump’s inner circle. Around the world, Freeland will also be charged with reinforcing Canada’s leadership position as a bastion of liberal values.  Freeland has performed well with her staff at International Trade, led by chief of staff Brian Clow, and she is expected to bring most of her personnel to her new portfolio.

FRANCOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE – MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Francois-Philippe Champagne, a rookie Quebec MP who had been serving as Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s Parliamentary Secretary, will replace Freeland as International Trade Minister. Champagne has extensive private sector experience and is considered an expert in international trade matters. During the budget rollout and pre-budget consultation processes he was lauded by caucus, the PMO and the Finance department for his ease in briefings, and his ability to deliver messaging to news media and stakeholders. He worked with Freeland to help sell the budget on the government’s behalf, and the pair showed a strong ability to work together, which they will be called to do in their new duties. His experience working on energy industry matters could prove instrumental in helping Canada forge more robust energy framework agreements with the United States.

STÉPHANE DION – POSSIBLE DIPLOMATIC POSTING

Ending a lengthy career in politics that began under former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Dion may take on a diplomatic role with the government. Possible positions include Canada’s ambassador to Germany or our ambassador to the European Union. Both posts will be critical in the post-Brexit era as Canada’s free trade deal with the EU is implemented; Dion may take some of his expertise in working within a multilateral context and apply it well in a new, critical role outside of caucus and Cabinet.

JOHN MCCALLUM – AMBASSADOR TO CHINA

Further bolstering the Trudeau government’s diplomatic roster is John McCallum’s move to the ambassadorship of China. McCallum, who managed Canada’s Syrian refugee efforts as Minister of Immigration, will be the point man for the government’s efforts to negotiate a free trade deal with the economic superpower. His work in China and Asia will allow Freeland to focus more squarely on matters in the United States and Europe. McCallum’s Toronto-area riding is home to significant Chinese-Canadian population, and he will use his background as RBC’s chief economist to advance the Trudeau government’s efforts of bolstering economic development through immigration strategies.

The departure of Dion and McCallum and from cabinet represents another generational and demographic shift toward younger, newer politicians and more diversity as a number of rookie ministers gain experience. Both Dion and McCallum were veteran ministers and were considered a stabilizing influence when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his original cabinet.

AHMED HUSSEN – MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES AND CITIZENSHIP

A young immigration lawyer who came to Canada as a Somali refugee, Ahmed Hussen is a newcomer to cabinet who will help the Trudeau government build on its efforts of bolstering economic development through immigration. A former senior staff member in the Liberal Ontario government of Dalton McGuinty, Hussen was a colleague of the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Gerald Butts. He has a strong network within multicultural communities across the country through his past experience as the president of the Canadian Somali Congress. Hussen has a strong grasp of issues facing refugees, and he understands the challenges facing high-density, low-income communities in which the government is aiming to create economic progress.

KARINA GOULD – MINISTER OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS

Gould is emblematic of the Trudeau government’s continued generational shift as a 29-year-old minister. She has proven to be one of the strongest Parliamentary Secretaries for the government and a standout MP in her riding work. Her communications abilities will serve her well in a complex and controversial portfolio as the government stickhandles through the implementation of its electoral promises.

PATTY HAJDU – MINISTER OF LABOUR

Patty Hajdu moves from her position as Minister of the Status of Women, a role in which she performed well by most accounts, and takes on her new job as Minister of Labour. Hajdu is a social activist from the left wing of the Liberal party, which should prove beneficial in dealing with labour organizations.  Prior to joining politics, Hajdu was an effective advocate on homelessness issues, and in government she is noted for moving the Women’s Issues portfolio toward a position of advocacy and activism within cabinet.

MARYAM MONSEF – MINISTER OF THE STATUS OF WOMEN

Monsef has faced controversy as the government’s minister responsible for electoral reform, both for her management of the issue, an outburst in the House of Commons, and a complex scandal regarding her birth and background in Iran and Afghanistan. The move is considered a demotion, however Monsef inherits a portfolio that has been free of controversy and she can count on her solid skills in stakeholder relations honed over the course of her cross country consultations on democratic reform to improve her performance with this mandate.

Former Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuck has been shuffled out of cabinet, and there has been no information released on future roles beyond her role as a Winnipeg MP. She tweeted a brief message to say she had returned to Winnipeg, to wish Hajdu well in her new role, and said it was an honour to serve Canadians in the Trudeau government.