Prime Minister Stephen Harper will shuffle his cabinet Monday, with the focus on keeping “steady hands” at the table to manage the economy and also promote younger faces and more women to key portfolios.
The shuffle, which comes midway through the Conservative majority mandate, is meant to reinvigorate the government and regain trust from Canadians as they look toward the next election in 2015.
It’s expected Harper will keep Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in the critical finance portfolio. Flaherty has held the job since the Tories first took power in 2006 and, despite health problems related to a skin condition, he has made it known he wants to stay in the job to balance the budget in the next two years.
On Sunday, a senior Conservative source said the government’s priority has been “delivering our commitments — providing strong, stable government at a time of continued economic concern.”
“Tomorrow the prime minister will unveil a new cabinet and a strong team of new faces and steady hands to continue our focus on the priority of Canadians, which is the economy.”
Harper has spent weeks examining how to remake his cabinet, as his government slid in the polls, went on the defensive over the Senate expense scandal, and faced accusations that it had lost its sense of purpose.
Ever since he became prime minister, Harper has tended to shy away from making major changes when he shuffles his cabinet. But in recent weeks, word went out to cabinet ministers that if they didn’t intend to run again in the next election, they should make it known. Several did just that in recent days.
The prime minister will unveil a new cabinet and a strong team of new faces and steady hands to continue our focus on the priority of Canadians, which is the economy
That has helped clear the way for Harper to bring in new blood.
“You’ll see a substantial change in the ministry,” said the source, adding many “younger and capable” Tories will become ministers.
“You’ll see a significant increase in the number of women in cabinet – many with significant portfolios.”
Among those who may move from the backbench to cabinet are Alberta’s Michelle Rempel, Manitoba’s Candice Bergen and Shelly Glover, and Ontario’s Kellie Leitch.
Another young MP who many think could be promoted is Chris Alexander, who was first elected in 2011. He was Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan.
At the same time, the Conservative source stressed that Harper is also striking a balance and will ensure he has “steady and experienced hands” at the cabinet table “to keep Canada’s economy moving forward.”
“Tomorrow’s changes will broadly underscore our government’s focus on the economy and job creation in every region of Canada.”
Apart from Flaherty, other key ministers in cabinet include John Baird, in foreign affairs, Tony Clement, at treasury board, and Jason Kenney in immigration. It’s not known if they will be shuffled.
Similarly, there has been widespread speculation over whether Peter MacKay — the former leader of the Progressive Conservative party who struck a deal with Harper in 2003 to create a new party — will be shuffled out of the defence portfolio that he has come to like.
Among the existing ministers due for a promotion is James Moore, whose work in the heritage portfolio has impressed many.