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Politics Politics Briefing: Trudeau makes changes to some senior cabinet roles

Good morning,

Sir John A. Macdonald once jokingly described his job as prime minister as being a “cabinet maker." Well, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s current Prime Minister, may not have made a new cabinet this morning, but he did make some alterations. And while not many parts are being changed, the changes are significant.

The new President of the Treasury Board, one of the most senior economic portfolios in cabinet, is Jane Philpott. Ms. Philpott, a former family doctor, has already served as Health Minister and Minister for Indigenous Services.

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Ms. Philpott’s new position was necessitated by the resignation from cabinet of Scott Brison, the veteran Nova Scotia MP. His resignation left a gap in cabinet for a representative from Nova Scotia, a gap that will now be filled by Bernadette Jordan. Ms. Jordan is taking on the new portfolio of Minister of Rural Economic Development.

The other big change is David Lametti as the new Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Mr. Lametti, a law professor until he was elected to Parliament in 2015, had not previously served in cabinet.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had been Justice Minister since Mr. Trudeau was elected in 2015, is now in charge of veterans' affairs, a lower-profile portfolio.

And Seamus O’Regan, who had been the minister responsible for veterans, is taking on Ms. Philpott’s former role as Minister for Indigenous Services.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

A Canadian has been sentenced to death by a Chinese court for charges of drug smuggling. In November, Robert Schellenberg had been sentenced to 15 years. But on Dec. 29, Chinese prosecutors announced they had new evidence against him and a retrial was called, which proceeded quickly to today’s verdict and the death sentence. Mr. Schellenberg maintains he is innocent of the charges.

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Last week, Mr. Trudeau floated that one of the Canadians recently detained in China should have been subject to diplomatic immunity. Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave and working for a nonprofit group, did not enter China with a diplomatic passport. China denies Mr. Kovrig would have immunity under the Vienna Convention.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, an 18-year-old refugee from Saudi Arabia who arrived in Toronto over the weekend, said she’s looking forward to her new life in Canada. Ms. al-Qunun’s case became high-profile last week after she barricaded herself in a Thai hotel and made a public plea on social media for help. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland personally welcomed Ms. al-Qunun at the Toronto airport.

Groups that campaign to end access to abortion services say they like some things about the new People’s Party of Canada, but they will support Conservative candidates because they think they are more electable.

Toronto police Superintendent Ron Taverner met with Ontario Premier Doug Ford multiple times before Mr. Ford appointed him to the lead the Ontario Provincial Police, records show, and Mr. Taverner even had dinner with the hiring official who would later vet him for the job.

And the fictional Saskatchewan town of Dog River has a new visitor: Mr. Trudeau has recorded a cameo for the Corner Gas animated show. He is the third prime minister to make an appearance in the franchise, after Paul Martin and Stephen Harper.

Marcus Gee (The Globe and Mail) on Ron Taverner’s appointment to be Ontario’s top cop: “There is much that needs investigating about this dubious appointment. But the matter should not end there. Whatever the commissioner finds, it is simply wrong to have a personal friend of the Premier running the police force.”

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Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on Quebec’s environment minister: “Whereas environment minister was previously seen as a more junior portfolio than, say, health minister or finance minister — or at least a position that could be conducted out of the spotlight for the most part — it has emerged front and centre. Perhaps this is where it ought to have been all along. But as Quebecers, like many citizens around the world, wake up to the grim reality of climate change and start to panic about the shortening time left to prevent its worst consequences, the environment minister will be an ever more crucial actor. Likely the position will only continue to rise in prominence as more government decisions, from transportation to the economy to health care, come to be viewed with an eye to their environmental cost and impact.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party: “It’s clickbait politics. Mr. Bernier is trying to fill the ranks, and the coffers of his fledgling party, with provocative tropes. Try one, get a reaction, try more.”

Andrew Coyne (National Post) on the fears of a ‘world government’: “Some of the most perplexing problems facing modern societies — climate change, financial market regulation, the refugee crisis, to go with the enduring challenges of avoiding war and keeping markets open — transcend national borders. The more globalized we become in fact, thanks to advances in communications and transportation, the more global our approach has to be.”

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