Trudeau Shuffles Cabinet, Keeps Key Roles Intact in Summer Reset

(Bloomberg) -
trudeau cabinet
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, shown here speaking during a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, last Thursday. (Bloomberg/Marlene Awaad)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is resetting after a rocky year dented his chances of re-election.

He shuffled his Cabinet Wednesday, swapping roles like trade and natural resources, amid the purchase and eventual resale of Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline, while leaving key posts like finance and foreign affairs unchanged, ensuring a continuity of ties with the Trump administration.

It’s a summer reload after a year in which his polling lead evaporated, leaving him in a dead heat with the opposition Conservatives ahead of an election in October 2019. Ontario, the country’s most populous province, just ushered in Doug Ford, a populist conservative, as premier, while other provinces look set to swing right in the coming months. It will leave Trudeau battling on three fronts: with premiers; with Mr. Trump and his protectionist trade agenda; and with an emboldened opposition in the federal legislature.

Wednesday’s shuffle is one of Trudeau’s biggest reorganizations since he took power in November 2015. Jim Carr, who had been natural resources minister, will now be trade minister, while Francois-Philippe Champagne, the former trade minister, is now in charge of the infrastructure file. Amarjeet Sohi takes over at natural resources, and former police chief Bill Blair is the new border minister.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who also handles U.S. trade issues including talks to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement, remains in her role, as does Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

The past year had its share of challenging moments for Trudeau, including a public spat with the U.S. president, NAFTA talks that have essentially stalled, an embarrassing trip to India.

Trudeau’s Liberals have fallen to 35.5 percent support in Canada’s multiparty system, from 38.8 percent a year ago, according to an aggregator run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have climbed to 34.9 percent from 32.6 percent, while the third-party New Democrats are sitting at 18.9 percent, up from 15 percent.

Canadian prime ministers tend to win a second term but those support levels suggest Trudeau is in for a fight and risks losing power or being cut down to a minority in the legislature, meaning he’d need the support of other lawmakers to govern.