Joyce Murray tapped as new Treasury Board President in latest Trudeau shuffle

OTTAWA – Longtime Liberal MP Joyce Murray has been tapped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join cabinet as the new Treasury Board President and Minister of Digital Government.

Trudeau appointed the Vancouver-Quadra, B.C. MP and one-time leadership contender to the role in a single-person shuffle at Rideau Hall on Monday.

This is Trudeau’s third shuffle in as many months. Murray has held the position as parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board throughout the current government’s mandate.

“Murray will help advance the priorities of the Government of Canada and deliver its commitments to Canadians,” the PMO said in a statement about her cabinet appointment.

She will take on overseeing the federal public service and intergovernmental spending as part of the Treasury Board file. This position also touches on the management of government departments.

Murray was first elected to represent her current riding in a 2008 by-election. Prior to federal politics, Murray was a B.C. cabinet minister.

Speaking with reporters following her swearing-in ceremony, Murray said that despite the turnover in who leads the Treasury Board, work at the department has continued.

“There’s a lot to do and I am going to be focused on … continuing and completing the agenda that has been set out and building on the really good work of previous Treasury Board presidents,” Murray said.

Adding a woman allowed Trudeau to maintain gender balance while filling the vacancy left by Jane Philpott’s resignation from cabinet. Philpott resigned earlier this month saying she had lost confidence in the way the government was handling the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Since Philpott resigned, Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough had been temporarily acting in the Treasury Board position.

This slight front bench rejigging follows February’s cabinet shuffle in which Trudeau filled the vacancy left by Jody Wilson-Raybould when she resigned from veterans affairs after allegations emerged that she felt pressured by senior PMO officials to interfere in a criminal prosecution against the Quebec engineering giant.

In February’s shuffle, Trudeau moved around three existing cabinet ministers, giving one — Maryam Monsef — an additional portfolio to cover off all cabinet responsibilities.

Philpott had only been in the Treasury Board positon for a few months. She was shuffled into that role in January, in response to Scott Brison’s departure. It was that shuffle that saw Wilson-Raybould replaced as justice minister and attorney general by David Lametti. During that visit to Rideau Hall, Trudeau shuffled three ministers into new roles, and appointed two rookies.

Trudeau’s former top adviser Gerald Butts cited the January shuffle as the flashpoint for the months-long ongoing SNC-Lavalin controversy, citing, as Trudeau has put it, an “erosion of trust” between Wilson-Raybould and the PMO after they sought to shuffle her into Philpott’s old job as Indigenous services minister and she turned it down.

During her post-shuffle media availability, Murray acknowledged that it has been a “challenging few weeks,” but said the caucus is united and she does not have any outstanding questions about the scandal.

In a statement to her constituents earlier this month, Murray offered her perspective on the SNC-Lavalin affair, saying she had “absolute confidence” in Trudeau and the work the Liberal government is doing.

Murray has at times been outspoken and critical about some key Trudeau policy moves. She had been pushing for electoral reform since her leadership bid — which she lost to Trudeau — and said it was “difficult” to see that it was a promise the Liberals would not be following through on. She has also said that cabinet’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain expansion disappointing, and has voiced concerns from her constituents that tax dollars are being spent to purchase the project from Kinder Morgan.

In her personal life, Murray and her husband have been seized with assisting one of their sons who was seriously injured in a fall while honeymooning in Cancun.

“I am happy to say that he is healing well, he is in great spirits. He is still in Vancouver General Hospital but we hope that he will be home soon for convalesces and eventually rehabilitation of his injuries,” she said.

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