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Path to Trudeau's new cabinet hits final stretch ahead of swearing-in ceremony


OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau is poised to conduct a major overhaul of his cabinet Tuesday, crafting a new lineup of ministers intended to signal his government's sense of urgency to deliver on a half dozen priority commitments, including climate change and affordable housing.

Senior government sources saythe prime minister has chosen ministers he believes will be able to quickly mobilize the machinery of government to act on priority issues — in much the same way that the government was able to rush billions worth of emergency aid programs out the door to keep Canadians afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about Tuesday's cabinet swearing-in ceremony.

As he makes room for some new faces, Trudeau is expected to drop Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau from cabinet altogether.

He's also expected to move Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to natural resources, with a new focus on clean tech.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, a respected environmentalist in Quebec before leaping into the political fray in 2019, is expected to take over the environment portfolio.

Other priority areas for Trudeau's Liberal minority government include finishing the fight against COVID-19, rebuilding a greener, more equitable economy, long-term investments in health care and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is expected to be moved but not turfed from cabinet. Trudeau came under renewed pressure Monday from the Conservatives to dump Sajjan over what they describe as his mishandling of sexual misconduct among senior ranks of the military.

Randy Boissonnault, elected in Edmonton Centre in 2015, defeated in 2019 and re-elected last month, is thought to be a shoo-in for cabinet as one of only two Liberals elected in Alberta.

Trudeau's cabinet currently numbers 37 ministers, including himself. All indications Monday were that the new cabinet will be slightly larger.

The new roster of ministers remained a closely guarded secret but the emphasis on speed suggests Trudeau might want experienced hands on the priority files and might also be planning some structural changes to ministries to give added emphasis to some areas.

Trudeau has already announced that Chrystia Freeland will remain in her dual role as deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Trudeau has also said his new cabinet will maintain gender parity and be regionally balanced and reflect the diversity of Canada.

He has to name replacements for three female ministers who lost their seats in last month's election — Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef and Seniors Minister Deb Schulte — as well as Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna who did not seek re-election.

While only Trudeau and a handful of his closest advisers know who the prime minister will choose to fill those vacancies, speculation has centred on rookie Halifax West MP Lena Metlege Diab, a former provincial justice minister, to fill Jordan's Nova Scotia slot.

McKenna's Ottawa slot could be filled by Orleans MP Marie-France Lalonde, a former Ontario cabinet minister, newly elected Kanata-Carleton MP Jenna Sudds, a former deputy mayor of Ottawa, or veteran Ottawa West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld.

Trudeau received some unsolicited opposition advice Monday about who shouldn't make the cut.

In addition to calling for Sajjan to be removed from the cabinet, Conservatives warned Trudeau against appointing Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin, who defected from the Greens last spring following a dispute with that party's leadership over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Atwin, who had referred to Israel as an apartheid state, won re-election last month as a Liberal.

Meanwhile, the NDP and some Indigenous leaders called on Trudeau to dump Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, whom they accused of failing to live up to the Liberal government's commitment to reconciliation.

Once sworn in, any new faces in new places will quickly get a crash course on their portfolios and try to soak up details ahead of Parliament's return on Nov. 22.

The Liberals have said that high atop the agenda for MPs when the House of Commons returns is a $7.4-billion reshaping of federal pandemic aid, which the Liberals unveiled late last week.

The swearing-in ceremony, presided over by Gov Gen. Mary May Simon, is set to kick off at Rideau Hall at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.

Joan Bryden and Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press