2019 Federal Cabinet Shuffle

The Top Line

Earlier this morning, Prime Minister Trudeau shuffled his Cabinet for the third time since appointing his first team of Ministers in November 2015. The shuffle was required after Scott Brison resigned from his post as President of the Treasury Board and indicated that he will not run in Election 2019.

As a result, the following appointments – very likely to be the last changes to Cabinet before Election 2019 – were made by the Prime Minister and his senior political staff:

  • Jane Philpott (M.P. for Markham-Stouffville, Ontario), was appointed as President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, moving from her former post as Minister of Indigenous Services.
  • David Lametti (M.P. for LaSalle – Émard – Verdun, Quebec) was appointed as the new Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
  • Seamus O’Regan (M.P. for St. John’s South – Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador) was moved into the Indigenous Services post, a stark change from his current role as Minister of Veterans Affairs.
  • Bernadette Jordan (M.P. for South Shore – St. Margaret’s, Nova Scotia) was appointed to the newly-created role of Minister of Rural Economic Development.
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould (M.P. for Vancouver Granville, British Columbia) became Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, leaving the position of Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

Further Analysis

Mr. Brison, a powerful member of the Liberal caucus from the riding of Kings – Hants, Nova Scotia, brought a wealth of experience to a Cabinet that features many Ministers who are also first-time Members of Parliament. Moreover, his background as a former member of the Progressive Conservative Party made him one of the few centre-right Liberals in a Cabinet that is dominated by Ministers who are more at home in the currently progressive-leaning Liberal Party.

The shuffle sees Minister Philpott, long viewed both inside and outside the Trudeau administration as one of Cabinet’s highest performers, move to a role in which she will be responsible for overseeing government spending and implementing key government initiatives, like the coming Budget 2019. Along with Chrystia Freeland, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Philpott is increasingly seen as one of Trudeau’s ‘fixers’ – a steady hand that can ably fill challenging Cabinet posts.

With Minister Philpott in place at the Treasury Board, the majority of the economic portfolios in Cabinet are occupied by Ministers from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – a geographic concentration of power that is notable both because the GTA will be a key battleground in Election 2019 and because the Liberals are often painted as the party of big cities.

Mr. Lametti, who was a highly-regarded legal scholar prior to his political career, is deeply knowledgeable of the subject matter of his new post at Justice. Lametti has long been viewed as a strong candidate for a Ministerial post, and his appointment further bolsters the contingent of Quebec Ministers – another key geographic consideration for Election 2019. Meanwhile, the appointment of Bernadette Jordan ensures that Cabinet continues to have representation from every Province. The Liberals currently occupy every seat in Parliament representing Atlantic Canada and will hope to hold most of those ridings this fall.

Perhaps just as important as who was moved in the shuffle is the fact that the Prime Minister and his senior political staff did not use Brison’s resignation as a pretext for wholesale changes to Cabinet. For example, the high-profile Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, and Environment remained unchanged. The Cabinet shuffle conducted in Summer 2018, which elevated five MPs British Columbia, Quebec, and the GTA to Cabinet, was clearly intended to install fresh faces in those three electoral battlegrounds. This time around, the limited scope of the shuffle indicates that Mr. Trudeau and his team are comfortable with their lead policymakers and spokespeople heading into campaign season.

What Comes Next

The full Cabinet will convene for a retreat from January 16 to 18 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, after which the entire Liberal team will hold a National Caucus meeting on January 20 in Ottawa. Those meetings will be used to set policy priorities and work on messaging for the final session of Parliament before the election campaign.

Since Mr. Lametti and Mrs. Jordan were both Parliamentary Secretaries, a corresponding shuffle of those positions will be required before Parliament resumes sitting on January 28. Stakeholders should also expect some changes to the Cabinet Committees – for example, the Treasury Board Committee will need a new member.

Watch for the TSA Analysis of the return of Parliament, in which we’ll detail the legislative objectives of the Government for the final months of the current parliamentary session and analyze what stakeholders can expect from the advocacy landscape in the run-up to Budget 2019 and the fall election.

Appendix – Profiles of New Ministers

David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

First elected in 2015 in the Quebec riding of LaSalle – Émard – Verdun, Lametti is a widely-respected member of the Liberal caucus. He most recently served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Prior to becoming an MP, he was a highly-regarded legal scholar, as a Professor of Law at McGill University, a founding member of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy, and in numerous other endeavours. With the Justice post, Lametti is taking on a senior portfolio in Cabinet, and his appointment increases the number of Ministers from Quebec, which will be a crucial battleground in Election 2019.

Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development

First elected in 2015 in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore – St. Margaret’s, Jordan will be the voice of her Province in Cabinet. She most recently served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions and was selected by her fellow Atlantic Liberal MPs as Chair of the Atlantic Liberal Caucus. Jordan will now be Minister of Rural Economic Development, a new Cabinet role that will be critical to the Liberals as they seek to enhance rural outreach ahead of the upcoming election. She will oversee the Government’s initiatives to bring high-speed internet to more rural households and businesses and to address the unique infrastructure needs of rural communities.