Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on long-time Liberal minister Lawrence MacAulay to become Minister of Veterans Affairs, replacing Jody Wilson-Raybould, who abruptly quit from the cabinet position in February.
Mr. MacAulay will be replaced at Agriculture by Marie-Claude Bibeau, who becomes the first woman to hold that portfolio in Canadian history. In that portfolio, the Quebec Minister will play a large role in ensuring that dairy farmers are compensated for concessions that Canada made in a free-trade agreement reached last year with the United States and Mexico. The issue is particularly important in her home province, where producers are seeking billions of dollars.
Ms. Bibeau’s responsibilities at International Development will now be handled by Maryam Monsef, who will also continue as Minister for Women and Gender Equality.
The small cabinet shuffle was forced by Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s departure on Feb. 12, which was prompted by ongoing questions over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair. Before being moved to Veterans Affairs in January, Ms. Wilson-Raybould held the positions of attorney-general and justice minister. She has alleged that while in those roles, Mr. Trudeau, senior members of the Prime Minister’s Office and other senior officials repeatedly pressed her to order the director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to settle charges of corruption and fraud against the Quebec engineering company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. without a trial.
In her testimony to the Justice committee of the House on Wednesday, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she could not discuss the rationale for her resignations or the conversations that she had with Mr. Trudeau ahead of her departure from cabinet.
Mr. Trudeau has said the only reason Ms. Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of Justice and into Veterans Affairs in January was because Scott Brison resigned as president of the Treasury Board. That departure prompted a small shuffle that also sent Jane Philpott to the Treasury Board, Seamus O’Regan to Indigenous Services, David Lametti to Justice and Bernadette Jordan to Rural Economic Development.
First elected to the House in 1988 and now 72 years old, Mr. MacAulay has served in cabinet under Jean Chrétien as solicitor-general and labour minister. The headquarters of Veterans Affairs are located in his home province of Prince Edward Island.
Mr. MacAulay said he does not see the move to Veterans Affairs as a demotion. When Ms. Wilson-Raybould went from Justice to Veterans Affairs, there was a feeling in Ottawa that she was moving down in the cabinet pecking order. “To represent veterans at the cabinet table, it’s a distinct honour,” said Mr. MacAulay, who was secretary of state for veterans between 1993 and 1996.
Ms. Bibeau was first elected in 2015, and was appointed minister of international development and La Francophonie that November when Mr. Trudeau swore in his first cabinet. During her tenure, she oversaw the creation of the Liberal government’s feminist international-assistance policy, which aims to eventually ensure that at least 95 per cent of Canada’s foreign aid helps improve the lives of women and girls.
Ms. Bibeau said her experience will be a big advantage in her new role. "I come from a rural riding – a dairy riding actually – in the south of Quebec so I’m already very close to the agricultural producers in Quebec, I know quite a bit about supply management and I really look forward to working with the agricultural producers on various issues,” she said.
The La Francophonie portfolio was transferred from Ms. Bibeau to Mélanie Joly during the July, 2018, cabinet shuffle.
With a report from Michelle Zilio in Ottawa.