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Nycole Turmel has shuffled the decks of her shadow cabinet, elevating the rookie MP who defeated Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe to the front bench as Opposition foreign affairs critic.

Recent announcements by several MPs to enter the race to succeed Jack Layton prompted the moves by the Interim NDP Leader. She had indicated that those caucus members who decided to run would lose their critic roles.

The shadow cabinet shuffle gives prominence to new women MPs and leans on some savvy veterans to fill in vacancies.

Hélène Laverdière has replaced Paul Dewar, who recently announced his leadership bid, as foreign critic. She comes with an international background, having served as a foreign affairs officer in Senegal, Chile, and Washington. She also has a PhD in sociology.

In addition the well-liked veteran Windsor MP Joe Comartin, who served as justice critic, is replacing Thomas Mulcair as Opposition House Leader. Mr. Mulcair announced his bid for the leadership last week.

He comes with support from many of the rookies in the Quebec caucus and is considered to be the most serious competition to Brian Topp, the backroom organizer who announced his candidacy last month.

Moving Mr. Comartin, however, created a domino effect. His role as justice critic is now being filled by Newfoundland and Labrador MP Jack Harris, who was the long-time defence critic.

David Christopherson, another experienced NDP MP from Ontario, takes over the defence file .

One of Mr. Topp's supporters, meanwhile, Jinny Sims, a rookie from British Columbia and former B.C. Teachers Federation president, has been moved to international co-operation critic and associate critic of foreign affairs.

Jean Crowder, who was first elected in 2004 to her Nanaimo-Cowichan constituency, becomes chair of the standing committee on access to information, replacing B.C. MP Nathan Cullen, who is also seeking the leadership.

And Nickel Belt MP Claude Gravelle, who was first elected in 2008, takes over from Quebec MP Romeo Saganash as natural resources critic. Mr. Saganash, a rookie MP and considered a star candidate for the party, is also running for the leadership.

The leadership contest takes place on March 24.