OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to give his year-old cabinet a facelift on Tuesday, shifting some weak ministers, promoting strong performers, bidding adieu to some veterans and injecting new blood as his government braces for Donald Trump’s imminent ascension to the U.S. presidency.
Sources tell The Canadian Press that the shuffle will involve up to a third of Trudeau’s cabinet posts.
Among the ministers who could be moved is International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is believed likely to replace Stephane Dion at Foreign Affairs.
Freeland, a former economics journalist with extensive contacts in the United States, is credited with deftly navigating through some eleventh-hour obstacles that threatened last fall to scupper the Canada-European Union free trade agreement — potentially valuable experience for dealing with the incoming Trump administration.
Trump, whose inauguration takes place Jan. 20, has vowed to adopt an unapologetically protectionist, America-first policy on trade, including re-opening or even tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Dion’s tenure at Foreign Affairs has been a rocky one, marred by controversy over his approval of a $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. His prickly demeanour could also be ill-suited to dealing with the unpredictable Trump, who has demonstrated a tendency to easily take offence.
Rumours have swirled for months that Dion was to be named ambassador to France but he has denied any interest in the plum post. Sources suggested late Monday that he may be named ambassador to the United Nations.
Immigration Minister John McCallum is also expected to quit politics, with sources suggesting he’ll be named ambassador to China.
News of the shuffle leaked out Monday, just as the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Trudeau’s two top aides, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, have been meeting with some of Trump’s senior advisers, building bridges to the incoming administration.
Also believed to be in the shuffle mix are Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu, seen as a strong performer who is expected to take over the labour portfolio from MaryAnn Mihychuk, who is being dumped from cabinet altogether.
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef — widely criticized for her handling of Trudeau’s promise to reform Canada’s voting system — is expected to take over Status of Women.
Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details publicly, expect several new faces in cabinet. Among the potential newcomers are Francois-Philippe Champagne, who is parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, as well as Toronto MPs Adam Vaughan and Marco Mendocino and Burlington, Ont. MP Karina Gould.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s name was also in the wind on Monday night.
In his first cabinet of 30 ministers, Trudeau famously appointed an equal number of men and women “because it’s 2015.” That parity was upset last fall when Hunter Tootoo resigned from cabinet and the Liberal caucus in order to seek treatment for alcohol addiction following what he later admitted was an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.
It is assumed that Trudeau will want to restore the gender balance with Tuesday’s shuffle.
This week’s shuffle may well be a prelude to another reset expected midway through Trudeau’s first mandate. Insiders expect a major realignment this summer, with a cabinet shuffle followed by a throne speech to kick off the second half of the mandate.