Kenney, Guergis among new faces in
[PoliticsWatch updated 3:45 p.m. January 4, 2007]
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made major changes to his cabinet
Thursday, including naming five more MPs to cabinet.
The biggest part of the shuffle is moving Rona
Ambrose out of environment and replacing her with John Baird.
Ambrose had come under fire from opposition MPs and environmental
groups for her handling of the government's Clean Air Act. And
public concerns about climate change has quickly made environment a
Baird is the bombastic former provincial cabinet minister who has
quickly become famous on Parliament Hill for his counterattacks on
Liberals during question period.
Speculation is that Baird has been placed in the role of environment
minister to attack any criticism that may come from Liberal Leader Stephane
Dion, who was the environment minister in the Martin government
while Canada's greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise.
But the the prime minister denied such suggestions and said Baird
got the job because he was successful in getting the government's
centrepiece legislation, the Federal Accountability Act,
"He did that in a way that displayed skilful negotiation with the opposition. He has a lot of experience and a proven track record in moving things through a minority
parliament," the PM told reporters at a press conference
outside 24 Sussex Drive.
Ambrose moves to intergovernmental affairs, an area Harper said she
is a "specialist in." But Ambrose could come under attack
in that file when the government moves ahead with its plan to
address the fiscal imbalance with the provinces.
Harper said Thursday that addressing that issue will be a feature of
the upcoming budget.
Here are the changes.
John Baird -- Environment Minister
Rona Ambrose -- Intergovernmental Affairs Minister
Peter Van Loan -- Government House Leader
Rob Nicholson -- Justice Minister
Vic Toews -- Treasury Board President
Monte Solberg -- Human Resources and Social Development
Diane Finley -- Citizenship and Immigration Minister
Marjory Lebreton -- Secretary of State for Seniors
Helena Guergis -- Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Affairs
Jason Kenney -- Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian
Gerry Ritz -- Secretary of State Small Business and Tourism
Jay Hill -- Secretary of State and Government Whip
Christian Paradis -- Secretary of State for Agriculture
The prime minister spent much of his press conference trying to put
the best face on the shuffle, calling it a "fine tuning"
and denying it was a pre-election move.
Nonetheless, the major shuffle comes less than a year after the last
election, a much quicker retooling than his predecessors. Former
prime minister Jean Chretien, for example, did not shuffle
for almost two years after his election in 1993.
Shuffling ministers too often creates instability and handicaps the
political executive when dealing with the entrenched
The other major move of the shuffle was replacing Baird at Treasury
Board Vic Toews, the former justice minister.
Toews was among the eight Tory cabinet ministers with cabinet
experience at the provincial level before the Tories came to power
last year. He was entrusted with moving the government's
tough-on-crime agenda through Parliament and introduced 11 criminal
justice bills last year.
Harper listed Toews reputation as an "economic
conservative" and his previous cabinet experience as a reason
he was sent to Treasury Board, the powerful department that approves
government spending and negotiates with the public service.
The government is currently coming under fire for a number of groups
across the country for the $1 billion in spending cuts Baird
announced in September.
Toews is replaced at justice by Rob Nicholson, the former
Government House leader. And Peter Van Loan, who just two
months was a backbench MP, receives one of the biggest promotions by
Harper also increased the size of the cabinet by reintroducing
secretaries of state.
However, regional balance was not an issue, as three of the five new
cabinet members are from Western Canada. Atlantic Canada continues
to have just three cabinet ministers as it did not get one of the
five new cabinet jobs.
The new cabinet includes three of Harper's most trusted and talented
backbench MPs, Jay Hill, Jason Kenney and Helena Guergis.
Harper hinted that MPs such as Kenney and Guergis -- who were both
picked among the
top political performers outside of cabinet by PoliticsWatch
recently -- will be in the party's long-term plans if it
remains in government, saying the cabinet was expanded to give
cabinet experience to the MPs.
Kenney, Guergis and Quebec MP Christian Paradis were all
parliamentary secretaries for the PM, Trade Minister David
Emerson and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn
respectively. The PMO did not immediately name replacements for them
In addition to the shuffle, the PM also announced that the
government has created a permanent cabinet committee on the
environment and energy security.
Harper said that a similar group was created with the introduction
of the Clean Air Act. The new committee will focus most of its
attention on negotiating with the provinces and industry on
greenhouse gas targets.
Dion held a press conference later on Thursday where he didn't so
much criticize Harper's changes, but the changes he didn't
"Why Michael Fortier is still the public works minister
despite a promise for more accountability," he said of the
appointed Senator who is in cabinet.
He also criticized Harper for keeping Defence Minister Gordon
O'Connor and Heritage Minister Bev Oda in cabinet.
The opposition has criticized O'Connor for being a former defence
industry lobbyist and Oda for her handling of cuts to the Status of
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