Justin Trudeau will unveil a major overhaul of his cabinet on Tuesday to address problem files like defence and deliver on key pledges on the environment and housing, while at the same time changing the senior staff in his own office.
Some of the Liberal government’s most high-profile ministers are expected to be on the move, with new leadership coming in the health, defence, and environment portfolios, sources say. Veteran Liberal MP Marc Garneau is expected to be moved out of the Global Affairs portfolio, according to the sources.
The expected moves were described to The Globe and Mail by nine sources close to the government, including current and former senior government officials. The Globe is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to comment on the confidential discussions.
Mr. Garneau, a 72-year-old veteran Liberal, was the first Canadian to fly in space. He launched a bid for the Liberal leadership in 2013, but lost to Mr. Trudeau.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is expected to be given a new portfolio after six years in charge of the Canadian Armed Forces. The military is contending with a growing crisis of confidence in their ability to protect victims of sexual harassment within the military and hold perpetrators accountable.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu will also get a new job, and the Health ministry is expected to be split, with a second minister added, one source told The Globe.
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is also expected to be reassigned. He will stay in the climate change portfolio as the new Minister of Natural Resources, several sources said, and Steven Guilbeault is expected to replace him as Environment Minister. Mr. Guilbeault was the heritage minister in the last government and is a prominent Quebec environmentalist.
The cabinet shakeup will put new leadership at the helms of portfolios where the Liberals have struggled, sources said. In cases like Mr. Garneau’s, they said, the changes were required not because of poor performance but because Mr. Trudeau needed to make room for new faces.
Sources said ministers were informed by Friday about their new posts, though it is possible last-minute changes were negotiated ahead of Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall.
On Monday, the Prime Minister’s Office announced it was adding two new senior positions to Mr. Trudeau’s staffing team, according to an internal document obtained by The Globe. Brian Clow is being promoted from his role as an executive director in the PMO to deputy chief of staff responsible for parliamentary affairs, issues management, communications and policy, and he will be responsible for the COVID-19 file. Marjorie Michel, who until now was the chief of staff to the Treasury Board President, is also becoming a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Trudeau. Her responsibilities will include human resources, appointments, outreach and the executive office.
Mr. Trudeau’s decision to trigger a snap September election less than two years into the minority mandate the Liberals secured in 2019 resulted in a House of Commons that is virtually identical, in terms of party standings, to the one that existed before the election was called.
When Parliament meets on Nov. 22, the Liberals will have four more seats than they previously did, but will still be 11 MPs shy of a majority government.
Though little changed in terms of party standings, the election saw the defeats of three female cabinet ministers: Seniors Minister Deb Schulte in the Greater Toronto Area, Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef in Peterborough, Ont., and Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan in Nova Scotia. Those three losses, combined with Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s decision not to run for re-election, mean Mr. Trudeau will need to make major changes in order to fulfill his pledge of maintaining a gender-balanced cabinet.
One senior government official said Tuesday’s shuffle will aim to highlight the importance of delivering on core Liberal priorities, including child care, climate change, housing affordability, truth and reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples, the broader economy and the pandemic and other health care concerns.
The official said a key theme from the prime minister’s message on Tuesday will be the importance of acting quickly in these priority areas.
That rhetorical focus on acting quickly stands in stark contrast to the fact that Mr. Trudeau is facing criticism from the opposition for waiting until eight weeks after the election to summon MPs back to the House of Commons.
The military has been beset by a cascade of scandals under Mr. Sajjan’s watch. Since February, a growing number of the Canadian Armed Forces’ most senior officers have been investigated for misconduct and several remain on leave.
The Defence Minister has been singled out for ignoring a sexual misconduct allegation against former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance, and for failing to implement the wide-ranging changes called for more than six years ago in a report from former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps on sexual misconduct in the armed forces. Military observers have criticized the Liberal government for taking a laissez faire approach to the Forces at a time when culture change was needed.
On Monday, the Conservatives repeated their call for Mr. Sajjan to be removed from cabinet entirely, when the Prime Minister unveils his cabinet on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister has made tackling climate change a key priority since 2015 and his cabinet picks are expected to show the government’s continued focus on the issue. It will also be the key focus of Mr. Trudeau’s first international trip since the September election: he will be in Glasgow later this week for COP26, the United Nations climate change conference.
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