Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle: Few surprises as B.C. ministers change portfolios

The appointment of Jonathan Wilkinson to the natural resource portfolio, and former Greenpeace member Steven Guilbeault to environment signals a commitment to Liberals’ climate agenda, says analyst.

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There were few surprises for B.C. members of parliament in Tuesday’s cabinet shakeup, as they ended up at the helm of four government ministries, including those related to the critical issue of climate change.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ousted Vancouver-South MP Harjit Sajjan from his post as defence minister after allegations of sexual misconduct in the military led to repeated calls for his removal. Sajjan was given the portfolio of minister of international development.

The move was a demotion, according to Richard Johnston, a professor emeritus in the department of political science at UBC. “He had clearly become a liability. He had been there a long time and things were getting worse.”

Johnston said the real question remains why Sajjan remained in cabinet at all, and suggested geographical balance and the need to keep at least four ministries in B.C. could have played a role.

Sajjan will be replaced by former procurement minister Anita Anand, the MP for Oakville, Ont., who has been widely credited for the success of Canada’s vaccine rollout. Anand is only the second woman in Canadian history to hold the position; the first was former prime minister Kim Campbell.

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Other shifts in cabinet among B.C. MPs signal Trudeau’s commitment to climate and the environment, said Johnston.

North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson was shuffled out of the environment portfolio and into natural resources.
North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson was shuffled out of the environment portfolio and into natural resources. Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson was moved out of the environment portfolio and appointed to the ministry of natural resources. Former Greenpeace member Steven Guilbeault of Quebec replaces him as minister of the environment.

Guilbeault has served as minister of Canadian heritage since 2019, and represents the Montreal riding of Laurier–Sainte-Marie.

The appointment of Guilbeault to the environmental portfolio, and Wilkinson, who has a background in clean energy, to the natural resources portfolio signals a tangible commitment to the climate agenda, and is “absolutely related” to coming summits at the G20 in Rome and the United Nations climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow, said Johnston.

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The appointment of longtime Vancouver-Quadra MP Joyce Murray as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard was a surprise, said Johnston, but could herald a “transferring focus from the east coast to the west coast fisheries.”

Murray replaces Bernadette Jordan, who lost her reelection bid in her Nova Scotia riding.

Delta MP Carla Qualtrough is staying on as minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion. Qualtrough is one of only 10 ministers to retain her position.

While B.C. didn’t gain any portfolios, Johnston said it retained its role as a “medium-weight player,” adding that “B.C. has a presence in this government that is more substantial than with past Liberal governments.”

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Johnston cited the federal Liberal party’s “urban agenda,” a soured relationship with Alberta, Vancouver’s growing population, and the provincial government’s good relationship with Ottawa as contributing factors to the province’s growing influence.

“The Liberals are the party of cities now, and there is a sense that the Liberals are looking west in ways they haven’t done since 2015,” said Johnston. “Metro Vancouver is going to grow, it will probably soon get another seat, it’s densifying and urbanizing, and there’s a lot to be bargained for out here.”

Four cabinet ministers are from B.C., 16 are from Ontario, 11 from Quebec, and none from the Northwest Territories or the Yukon. Manitoba, Alberta, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. have one cabinet minister each, Newfoundland and New Brunswick each have two. Saskatchewan and Nunavut elected no Liberals in the 2021 federal election.

dryan@postmedia.com

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