Rumour mill ramps up ahead of federal cabinet shuffle


OTTAWA — Political Ottawa is abuzz with speculation about how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will reshape his cabinet Monday after the unexpected resignation of longtime Liberal Scott Brison from his post as Treasury Board president.

READ MORE: Trudeau cabinet shuffle expected to be very small, will fill void from Brison departure

The cabinet shuffle is expected to be small, with as few adjustments as possible to fill the void of Brison’s departure.

But given the internal importance of the Treasury Board when it comes to constraining government spending, the shuffle is expected to result in at least two senior ministers being moved.

Speculation Sunday revolved around Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott being moved to Treasury Board.

WATCH: Unpacking the politics of a cabinet shuffle

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Brison’s departure also leaves Trudeau’s cabinet without representation from Nova Scotia — a hole expected to be filled on Monday as part of the shuffle.

The Liberals hold all 11 seats in Nova Scotia, giving Trudeau 10 backbenchers (excluding Geoff Regan who presides over the House of Commons as Speaker) to choose from. Speculation Sunday centred on Sean Fraser as the most likely candidate for the province’s slot on the front bench, although other names, particularly Bernadette Jordan, were still circulating.

Senior sources say the Nova Scotia newcomer will not go directly into Treasury Board, which despite its low public profile is considered a vitally important cabinet job.

WATCH: Longtime MP Scott Brison quits politics

It is the guardian of the public purse, overseeing how the government is managed, how it spends money and how it goes about regulating many aspects of Canadians’ lives. The president of the Treasury Board is also responsible for negotiating 27 collective agreements with 15 different bargaining agents.

Philpott, who was named to the newly created Indigenous Services post 18 months ago, is widely seen as one of Trudeau’s most competent ministers and something of a fixer who is dispatched to put out political fires.

READ MORE: Scott Brison resigns from federal Liberal cabinet

As Trudeau’s original health minister, she is credited with helping the government navigate relatively unscathed through the rocky debate over legalizing medical assistance in dying. She was tapped by Trudeau in August 2017 to make concrete progress on improving the lot of Indigenous Peoples, one of the prime minister’s top priorities.

Philpott is currently vice-chair of the Treasury Board cabinet committee.

Sources say Trudeau wants to keep the shuffle small, moving as few ministers as possible. He conducted a major shuffle just last July, which was intended to fix problem areas and put in place a cabinet ready for this fall’s election — a plan that was upended by Brison’s surprise decision to retire from politics.

Among those expected to stay put are Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

Those possibly on the move include Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu.

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