Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made minor changes to his cabinet on March 1st, following Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from her post as Minister of Veterans Affairs earlier in February. The changes affect three portfolios with existing Ministers changing departmental responsibility.
Who goes where?
Lawrence MacAulay the former Minister of Agriculture becomes: Minister of Veterans Affairs
A one-time Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs in 1993, MacAulay has some background on the issues facing the department.
MacAulay has decades of experience in Ottawa. The government is attempting to send a message to stakeholders that past turbulent leadership in the department is being given over to a steady hand.
Marie-Claude Bibeau former Minister of International Development becomes: Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Bibeau’s move is another reminder of how critically important Quebec is to the Liberals.
As the Liberals seek to grow their footprint in the province, they need to reach into more rural areas – like Bibeau’s riding. This could also be seen as an effort to counteract inroads Conservative leader Andrew Scheer made with Quebec dairy producers in his leadership race.
Maryam Monsef former Minister of Women and Gender Equality becomes: Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Minister of International Development
Adding the International Development portfolio to Monsef’s existing Gender Equality role is a natural alignment.
The move allows the government to further highlight its commitment to a feminist international assistance policy and the G7 commitment to invest in improving educational opportunities for women and girls.
How we got here?
This small cabinet shuffle, the second in 2019, is a minor episode in a much larger and still unfolding story. The first shuffle, in January, was prompted by Scott Brison stepping down from his post as President of the Treasury Board.
The resulting cabinet shuffle included Jody Wilson-Raybould being moved from her post as Minister of Justice and Attorney General to become Minister of Veterans Affairs. Minister Raybould’s resignation from Cabinet, following her demotion, has resulted in Parliament being embroiled in a high-profile debate regarding the alleged political interference with the Attorney General’s decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin on criminal bribery charges.
What comes next?
The Conservatives and NDP are expected to keep the issue alive during the next two weeks, which are both Parliamentary break weeks. The Justice Committee will hear testimony next week when the Prime Minister’s former Principal Secretary, Gerry Butts and others appear to provide statements and answer questions, on March 6th.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will be very vocal on this issue as he travels during the break, while newly elected NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will be focused on preparing for his debut in Parliament.
The short-term impact from Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from Cabinet and her assertion of political interference has had an immediate impact on the government’s support as seen in recent opinion polls. The long-term effect of this crisis is expected to wane unless this results in a criminal investigation.
The government is looking to take this story off the front page through other announcements, which could include early leaks of budget items. The Liberals are also expected to start fighting back next week, challenging Ms. Raybould’s interpretation of events during Committee proceedings. The federal budget on March 19, will be an attempt to refocus the government’s agenda and appeal directly to voters.
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