Ottawa Ontario – Ottawa awoke from its summer slumber today when Trudeau or perhaps more accurately his PMO staff decided to put together a small cabinet shuffle. At least it had those inside the Ottawa bubble chattering about it quite a bit. I would guess that the rest of the country just tuned it out and got on with their summer.
It was an interesting shuffle because of the break-up of the former Indigenous Affairs Department into Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.
The former department had a lot of issues which ranged from the legislation they had to follow, to the mindset in the department itself. I have watched very competent ministers and a Prime Minister (both Liberal and Conservative), who wanted to make progress become frustrated time and time again. It is a tough issue to deal with.
By moving one of his best ministers from Health to Indigenous Services the Trudeau government is signaling that they have moved indigenous issues to the forefront of their agenda as they begin the slow ramp up to the next election. Politically it is a good move, the government will get positive comments, hopefully a more constructive dialogue will develop and if successful before 2019 it can translate into a lot of votes for the Liberals.
Jane Philpott has a good reputation as someone who can get things done. By adding her to the mix, Trudeau is also signaling that minister Bennett simple wasn’t up to the job- that is no surprise to those who have followed the antics on the Hill over the years. Putting partisanship aside for the moment, I hope that this step translates into real results for our First Nations and soon.
The other major change includes the vaulting of a minor player into the top line Health portfolio. You don’t get to do that without some heavy players backing you. It will be interesting to see how Ginette Petitpas Taylor works out and it will be interesting to watch how she defends the government in key areas of health concern including the marijuana legislation. The other changes were pretty minor although Seamus O’Regan to Veteran Affairs will be one to watch as there are plenty of unsolved issues awaiting him there.
If this wasn’t the long awaited “big” shuffle it means that somewhere down the line there will be one. Every cabinet has dead wood and under-performing ministers and Trudeau’s cabinet is no exception.
The new ministers have a few weeks to get ready for the Fall session. Then they will be observed and, measured by the opposition parties and the public. Their fate and their political futures will be decided in short order.
Today is a day to congratulate them on their appointment, regardless of partisan strip it is an amazing achievement. I wish them well- up to a point.