Amarjeet Sohi, centre, stands with Trudeau and Governor General Julie Payette after being sworn in as minister of natural resources Wednesday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made significant changes to his cabinet, bringing five new ministers to the table and creating new portfolios for seniors, intergovernmental affairs and border security.
The retooled cabinet signals the government's intent to ease trade dependence on the U.S., address concerns about border control, and bolster political forces in key regions in the run-up to next year's federal election.
In one surprise move, Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief who has been the government's point man on the marijuana legalization file, was appointed minister of border security and organized crime reduction. He will also be in charge of managing the hot-button issue of irregular migration with asylum seekers crossing into Canada from the U.S.
Other new ministers added to the cabinet today:
Ministers with new or changed duties:
- Dominic LeBlanc moves from Fisheries and Oceans to Intergovernmental Affairs, Northern Affairs and Internal Trade.
- Amarjeet Sohi moves from Infrastructure to Natural Resources.
- Carla Qualtrough, remains minister of public services and procurement and gets the added portfolio of Accessibility.
- Jim Carr moves from Natural Resources to International Trade Diversification.
- Mélanie Joly goes from Heritage to minister of tourism, official languages and la francophonie.
- François-Philippe Champagne moves from International Trade to Infrastructure and Communities.
- Treasury Board President Scott Brison also becomes minister of digital government.
- Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has "northern affairs" dropped from her title.
- Government House Leader Bardish Chagger is no longer in charge of tourism and small business.
In a news conference after the swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall, Trudeau said the focus on innovation and trade is a response, in part, to the constantly changing international context.
"There is certainly a level of clarity for Canadians, for businesses, for everyone across this country that we need to diversify our markets. We need to ensure that we are not as dependent on the United States," he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet today at Rideau Hall 2:02
Calling it a "desperate attempt" to hit the reset button before the next election, Deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt said the shuffle is an acknowledgement that the government has failed to deliver results on trade, pipelines and infrastructure.
"It's the last-ditch attempt to finish that homework at the last minute, to try and get the approval when they go to the election next time," she said.
Canadians will judge
"I don't think it's going to make one whit of difference. Canadians are going to judge upon what is being delivered."
Francois-Philippe Champagne, left, touches the arm of Pablo Rodriguez as he waits to be called forward to be sworn in as minister of Canadian heritage and multiculturalism. Bill Blair, right, watches during the swearing-in ceremony. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
LeBlanc's new job will be to smooth the waters in a changing domestic political landscape with a new premier in Ontario, elections on the horizon in New Brunswick, Quebec and Alberta, and simmering disputes over pipelines, carbon taxes and interprovincial trade.
With several issues of potential tension with new Ontario Premier Doug Ford, LeBlanc said the federal and provincial governments share a common interest in strengthening the economy and creating more jobs.
"There'll be a lot more, I think, that we have in common than we may disagree on, and my job will be to work with all of these leaders in a way that advances the interests of Canadians," he said.
The cabinet shakeup boosts the number of ministers from Ontario and Quebec, where the Liberals need to win more seats in the next election to offset potential losses elsewhere.