Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added two new faces to his cabinet Monday morning, tapping Montreal MP David Lametti as Canada’s new justice minister and Nova Scotia’s Bernadette Jordan as minister of rural economic development — a new position on the front bench.
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) January 14, 2019
Speaking outside Rideau Hall, Trudeau said he needed to make some changes to his cabinet to deal with the sudden departure of Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, who was president of the Treasury Board.
Brison announced late last week that he would step down from the cabinet and not run again in the next election.
Vancouver’s Jody Wilson-Raybould is moving from Justice to Veterans Affairs, generally considered a more minor portfolio. Trudeau said veterans issues require the same deft touch Wilson-Raybould brought to the justice portfolio.
Trudeau said not to think that serving veterans is anything other than a great responsibility.
For her part, Wilson-Raybould said she doesn’t see the move as a demotion. She said she is proud to be veterans-affairs minister, calling it an extremely important role.
Jane Philpott is moving from Indigenous Services to Treasury Board, Brison’s former portfolio and a key economic position at the cabinet table. She’ll oversee much of the machinery of government spending, including managing the federal public service and its unions.
Trudeau said Philpott is a natural choice for the position because she had been involved in a related cabinet committee, meaning she is already well-versed in the file.
Seamus O’Regan, meanwhile, is moving from Veterans Affairs to Indigenous Services.
Both of those ministries are areas where the government provides direct services that have to be done right, Trudeau said.
Jordan becomes the first Nova Scotia woman to sit in cabinet.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a release that she will be tasked with creating a rural-development strategy, including bringing high-speed internet to rural communities and help in rural infrastructure development.
Those matters are currently overseen by two other cabinet positions — the ministers of innovation and of infrastructure — and it’s not immediately clear where Jordan will be situated within the bureaucratic structure.
On Twitter, Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said Philpott and Lametti “are solid performers and well regarded,” but called the remainder of Trudeau’s move “quite a head-scratcher.” He said Indigenous Peoples and veterans “will be concerned.”
Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the moves amounted to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.
“Prime Minister Trudeau is the captain of a sinking ship,” Poilievre told a news conference, arguing that the shuffle leaves in place all the ministers who are responsible for what the Conservatives consider the government’s biggest problems: the failure to balance the budget, the influx of irregular border-crossers and the failure to get a pipeline to take Alberta’s resources to the coast for shipment overseas.