PARLIAMENT HILL, Ottawa—Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his cabinet Monday morning and offered up a few major promotions that bring women into more prominent roles in his cabinet.
One of the biggest surprises was formerly low-profile Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney jumping into a senior government role as minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, the post vacated by Vic Toews, who recently stepped down as an MP.
Another surprise was Jason Kenney moving from immigration, where he played a pivotal role gaining the ethnic vote for the Conservatives, to the employment portfolio, a position that is still not clearly defined in light of the change of title from human resources and skills development.
However, the employment file is an important one and Kenney is already familiar with some challenges there involving inter-provincial regulations and credentials recognition. And given the challenge employment faces due to a shaky global economy, it’s one area the PM needs a capable minister should things go badly.
In his place, Chris Alexander leaps into a high-profile role as minister of citizenship and immigration, though it is possible the file will be relatively quieter after the reforms Kenney has already introduced. Kenney will still play an adviser role in immigration.
Lisa Raitt goes from labour to transport. In her former role, Raitt was the government’s lead in an often tense relationship with organized labour, a file in which the government could face increasing tensions as it tries to reduce spending in the public service.
Shelly Glover leaps from the backbench into cabinet as the minister of Canadian heritage, a significant first role in cabinet previously filled by James Moore. Moore, who was seen to have performed well in the role, has moved up to industry.
In a video posted to YouTube, Glover reflected on her “humble beginnings as a Métis girl in the city of Winnipeg,” saying she was proud of and grateful for the promotion.
Glover was a police officer before going into politics and is fluently bilingual, a skill particularly relevant to the heritage file.
Moore’s move to industry bumps out Christian Paradis who was demoted to international development, a post that has become less influential after the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was moved under the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Several big names stayed put, including Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, who oversees ongoing efforts to secure two major pipelines. Minister of International Trade Edward Fast also stays, continuing his efforts to close a difficult trade deal with the European Union. John Baird stays as foreign affairs minister and Jim Flaherty continues as finance minister.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, who had been criticized by backbench MPs for his handling of caucus, will stay in place, but Chief Government Whip Gordon O’Connor will be replaced by John Duncan.
Peter MacKay and Rob Nicholson exchange roles, with MacKay now becomes minister of justice and attorney general while Nicholson takes over at national defence.
Rona Ambrose, previously minister of public works where she did much to deflect criticism over the controversial F-35 fighter jet procurement, has been moved to health. Her predecessor there, Leona Aglukkaq becomes minister of the environment, a file the government has faced strong criticism on. Aglukkaq replaces Peter Kent, who is now out of the cabinet.
Pierre Poilievre, one of Harper’s favourite spokespeople, becomes minister of state for democratic reform.
Julian Fantino becomes minister of veterans affairs.
Kellie Leitch was also promoted and now replaces Raitt as minister of labour and Ambrose as minister of status of women.
Diane Finley moves from human resources—which has now become Kenney’s employment file—to public works.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay goes from associate minister of national defence to minister of national revenue, where tax evasion has been a high-profile issue in recent months.