Canadian PM Harper reshuffles cabinet amid polls slump

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 July, 2013, 3:13am


Canada's prime minister has appointed eight new ministers in a cabinet shuffle, hoping to reanimate a Conservative government sagging in polls after seven years in power.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will remain at their posts, steering Canada's export-driven economy through global headwinds and shifting its foreign policy toward rising nations in Asia and South America.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a Twitter message that he was "welcoming eight new faces" and was "proud to be naming four new strong, capable women to the ministry".

"This fall (they) will carry our new agenda forward."

With two years to go in its first majority mandate, Harper's government is at its lowest polling levels since being elected in 2006.

The Conservatives trail the Liberals, relegated in the last election to third-ranked after ruling for most of the past century.

"This is really the commencement of something I told all ministers at the beginning of Parliament, that in the course of the mandate I would bring generational change to the ministry," Harper said.

In the weeks before the announcement, a half-dozen ministers said they were stepping down, including public safety minister Vic Toews and environment minister Peter Kent.

New policies will be unveiled when the House returns in September, but the government's focus will remain on "creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity", he said.

The main opposition New Democrats and Liberals rapped the cabinet changes as gloss.

"Today's cabinet shuffle will not provide Canadians with the real change they want to see," said Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. "We think that the worst record on economic growth since the 1930s is nothing to be happy about."

Before taking the oath as finance minister, Flaherty brushed aside the criticisms and renewed his promise to balance the federal budget in 2015. He will be helped by Kerry Lynne Find, who was named minister of national revenue, and Kevin Sorenson, the new minister of state for finance.

Former minister for the Francophonie Stephen Blaney replaces Toews as Canada's top anti-terrorism official, while attorney general Rob Nicholson swaps jobs with defence minister Peter MacKay.

James Moore will take over the industry portfolio and Bernard Valcourt will become minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development.

Two of the most powerful women in the cabinet will stay on, with Leona Aglukkaq moving to the environment ministry and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose taking on Aglukkaq's old job at the health ministry.

They will be joined by former policewoman Shelly Glover, new minister of Canadian heritage and official languages, Michelle Rempel, new minister of state for Western economic diversification, Candice Bergen as minister of state for social development, and orthopaedic surgeon Kellie Leitch as labour minister.