Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejigs Cabinet

Toronto: In major Cabinet rejig on Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau removed seven ministers, and reshuffled several portfolios including that of current Minister of National Defence Anita Anand, who will be the new Treasury Board chairperson.

Arif Virani is sworn in as Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits, during a Cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, Ontario, on Wednesday. (REUTERS)
Arif Virani is sworn in as Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits, during a Cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, Ontario, on Wednesday. (REUTERS)

The other two Indo-Canadians in the Cabinet were also transferred to new posts. Kamal Khera was shifted from the Seniors portfolio to become Minister of Diversity, Inclusion, and Persons with Disabilities while Harjit Sajjan becomes the new Minister of Emergency Preparedness after having served as Minister of International Development.

Another Indo-Canadian made his debut in the Cabinet was Arif Virani, who represents Parkdale-High Park in Toronto, who was appointed as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. This was a major promotion for Virani, the child of Indian refugees from Uganda, who had earlier served as Parliamentary Secretary in various capacities.

The major reshuffle, the first since Trudeau returned to power in September 2021 for a third term as prime minister, following mid-term elections, though heading a minority government. He appointed the Cabinet in October that year but needed to reboot his government as it loses public popularity and trails the opposition Conservatives in recent polls. Andrew McDougall, professor of political science at the University of Toronto described the reshuffle as “significant”, and added, “I think it reflects the extent to which the Liberals feel a need to try something new.”

“The Liberals have been struggling in recent polls and this is likely an effort to show Canadians that they have a new team that is focused on the priorities of ordinary people,” he felt.

Current Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair became the new Minister of National Defence.

While economic failures have bedevilled the Trudeau government, Anand was being moved to such a portfolio was not seen as a demotion as she was considered one of the achievers in the Cabinet.

According to its website, the Treasury Board “provides advice and makes recommendations” to the government “on how the government spends money on programmes and services, how it regulates and how it is managed”.

Among the ministers retaining their posts were Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly.

The new Cabinet members were sworn in by governor-general Mary Simon in a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday morning.

In a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Trudeau said, “We have the right team, made up of accomplished people who reflect the diversity and talent of our country.”

The statement also underlined Trudeau’s priorities, as it said, “The new Ministry, adding to a strong core economic team, is ready to deliver on what matters most to Canadians: making life more affordable for the middle class, growing the economy, and building a strong future for people from coast to coast to coast.” High inflation and soaring housing costs are among the reasons for Trudeau’s increasing unpopularity.

But the problems facing him and his government are serious as evidenced by the reality of four outgoing Cabinet ministers announcing they will not contest the 2025 elections. Whether the changes rejuvenate the Liberals’ electoral prospects remains to be seen, as McDougall noted, “I’m sure they are looking for a boost in the polls. Whether or not it will work remains to be seen. It’s still Trudeau’s government after all, at the end of the day he is in charge so we will have to see if this ends up making a difference in the way the Canadians perceive the Liberals.”

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