OTTAWA — Government insiders are gearing up for what could be Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s largest cabinet shuffle since the Tories first formed a government in 2006.

It will be a massive cabinet shuffle, with an infusion of new blood and a certain amount of a new generation, Conservative strategist Yaroslav Baran says.

"This is the pre-election cabinet. It’s important. … This is the team, by and large, plus or minus 19 times out of 20, (that) is going to be the face of the party going into the next election two years from now," Baran told HuffPost.

With several experienced cabinet ministers already having announced that they have no plans to run again (Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy and Minister of State for Finance Ted Menzies) and others who have telegraphed their demotion (Environment Minister Peter Kent), the Conservative government has a chance to show a fresher face.

And after seven years in office, Conservative strategist Tim Powers says, that is precisely what Harper needs to do.

"The charge that all opposition parties will make is that the government is old and tired, so they want to show that they are reinvigorated," Powers told HuffPost.

Both opposition parties will argue for change during the next federal election in 2015. Harper will face youth and charisma in Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau with what the Grits hope will be a team of experienced and impressive candidates, while New Democrats will offer both experience — with leader Thomas Mulcair — and new blood, through its younger caucus.

The Conservatives will want to show not only stability but also that they have done a good job developing people who are now ready to replace veteran performers, Powers said.

With that in mind, here are a few things to watch for during the upcoming cabinet shuffle.

1. Where do top performing ministers go?

"You put strong ministers where you either want to hold the line or (where) you want them to achieve certain goals, and those goals are ones you view as central to your electoral success," Powers said.

It is unlikely that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will change roles, but other effective communicators such as Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Heritage Minister James Moore are most likely headed for new positions, which could indicate areas the government wants to focus on (Industry) or where it thinks it has had problems (National Defence).

"It’s one thing to be a good cabinet minister, but if you can’t communicate effectively the government’s agenda as it relates to your own portfolio and drive that forward … then the prime minister will probably consider moving you or, if you are good, he’ll look at promoting you," said Chris Froggatt, Baird’s former chief of staff and now the managing director of National, a public relations firm.

If Kenney, for example, heads to Industry Canada — whose current minister, Christian Paradis, is seen as lazy and ineffective — there may be big changes on the horizon in terms of telecom policy and wireless fees and Canada’s digital strategy.


Here’s a look at what could happen in the upcoming cabinet shuffle.

(Disclosure: We do not guarantee accurate results, just informed speculation.)

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  • Who Makes Harper's Next Cabinet?

    "The most important thing right now is for the government to show and project competency, that is probably the single most important thing it needs to do." -Chris Froggatt, Conservative strategist

  • Jason Kenney

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2008 <strong>Age:</strong> 45 <strong>Riding:</strong> Calgary Southeast, Alberta <strong>Speculation: </strong>Heading to Industry, possibly DND. A number of files, like telecom, need attention at Industry Canada and the department could benefit from Kenney’s skills as effective communicator who knows how to seize opportunity and agenda. He’s also very good at managing the expectations of his department’s stakeholders. Bonus: Industry is a department where the potential leadership candidate can get some economic experience.

  • James Michael Flaherty

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Finance <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2006 <strong>Age:</strong> 63 <strong>Riding:</strong> Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Flaherty made no secret he wants to stay where he is and while the prime minister may not like how aggressively the finance minister has lobbied to keep his job, Harper knows that if he replaces Flaherty it sends a signal he doesn’t have confidence in the government’s economic messaging and its deficit reduction targets. In short, Flaherty isn't going anywhere.

  • John Baird

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of Foreign Affairs <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age: </strong>44 <strong>Riding: </strong>Ottawa West-Nepean, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Baird is staying put. A trusted member of Harper's inner circle, Baird will be holding down the foreign affairs file after this summer shuffle.

  • Peter Gordon MacKay

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of National Defence <strong>Appointed: </strong>2007 <strong>Age:</strong> 47 <strong>Riding:</strong> Central Nova, Nova Scotia <strong>Speculation:</strong> MacKay will be shuffled out of DND. Although the F-35 problem is now with Public Works to get sorted out, the thinking is the department could use a fresh start. MacKay, a former Crown attorney, might be headed to Justice.

  • James Moore

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2008 <strong>Age:</strong> 37 <strong>Riding:</strong> Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, British Columbia <strong>Speculation: </strong>Definitely in line for a new job, Moore is seen by some as long overdue for promotion. He’s a very effective communicator but some wonder whether the minister, who harbours leadership ambitions, is as capable of implementing an agenda. Moore could go to National Defence, Citizenship and Immigration or possibly Natural Resources. If the government decides it wants to have a more aggressive agenda, perhaps Environment.

  • Shelly Glover

    <strong>Role: </strong>Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance <strong>Appointed: </strong>2011 <strong>Age: </strong>46 <strong>Riding:</strong> Saint Boniface, Manitoba <strong>Speculation:</strong> With Public Safety Minister Vic Toews out of cabinet, Glover could get the nod over fellow Manitoban Candice Bergen because she’s bilingual. The former police officer could get a role such as Associate Minister of National Defence, perhaps even Heritage or Veterans Affairs.

  • Diane Finley

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development <strong>Appointed: </strong>2008 <strong>Age: </strong>55 <strong>Riding: </strong>Haldimand-Norfolk, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Finley is unlikely to be dumped from cabinet, especially not after the death of her husband Sen. Doug Finley, the man credited with bringing the Conservatives to power. Finley is considered a competent minister although the communications around one of her key files, temporary foreign workers, was bungled. She’s likely to stay put, seeing a move to Labour or Health as a demotion.

  • Candice Bergen

    <strong>Role:</strong> Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 48 <strong>Riding:</strong> Portage-Lisgar, Manitoba <strong>Speculation:</strong> She was an effective communicator promoting her bill to scrap the long-gun registry and though we haven’t heard much from her, now that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is gone a strong presence from Manitoba is needed. She could get a junior ministry such as Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism). She could also be a good whip and replace Gordon O’Connor.

  • Kellie Leitch

    <strong>Role: </strong>Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 42 <strong>Riding:</strong> Simcoe-Grey, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Up for a promotion. She is an extremely hard worker, is very ambitious, good with stakeholders and, as one source said, she could be a huge asset if they government utilized her more. Still her French is not great. Perhaps she could inherit Labour, or even National Revenue.

  • Rona Ambrose

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women <strong>Appointed: </strong>2010 <strong>Age:</strong> 44 <strong>Riding:</strong> Edmonton-Spruce Grove, Alberta <strong>Speculation:</strong> Ambrose is largely seen as competent. The shipbuilding contracts were awarded without too many problems but she’s likely to be affected by the dominos. Perhaps she's off to Labour or Health?

  • Maxime Bernier

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism) <strong>Appointed: </strong>2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 50 <strong>Riding:</strong> Beauce, Quebec <strong>Speculation: </strong>Bernier has redeemed himself after the scandal with Julie Couillard, he is quite popular and could see himself promoted up. Perhaps Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs or even Heritage?

  • Chris Alexander

    <strong>Role: </strong>Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 44 <strong>Riding: </strong>Ajax-Pickering, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> He could go head International Cooperation or might end up with a junior portfolio such as Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs) or Associate Minister of National Defence.

  • Edward Fast

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia Pacific Gateway <strong>Appointed: </strong>2011 <strong>Age: </strong>58 <strong>Riding:</strong> Abbotsford, British Columbia <strong>Speculation:</strong> Fast is heading CETA negotiations and unless the government thinks things are going badly, he’s likely to stay where he is.

  • Bernard Valcourt

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2013 <strong>Age: </strong>61 <strong>Riding:</strong> Madawaska-Restigouche, New Brunswick <strong>Speculation:</strong> Unlikely to move

  • Leona Aglukkaq

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of Health, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council <strong>Appointed: </strong>2008, 2011, 2012 <strong>Age: </strong>46 <strong>Riding: </strong>Nunavut, Nunavut <strong>Speculation:</strong> Aglukkaq hasn’t done a bad job at Health Canada and has kept the department out of the headlines. She could be a real asset as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

  • Gordon O'Connor

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of State and Chief Government Whip <strong>Appointed: </strong>2008 <strong>Age: </strong>74 <strong>Riding:</strong> Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> He is likely to be shuffled out. O’Connor’s aggressive nature didn’t sit well with many caucus members.

  • Michelle Rempel

    <strong>Role: </strong>Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age: </strong>33 <strong>Riding:</strong> Calgary Centre-North, Alberta <strong>Speculation:</strong> Although Rempel is an extremely effective communicator and hard worker who knows her files inside and out, some at the centre feel the Calgary MP promotes herself too much, sources say. She’s likely to get a promotion, but a junior position. Possibly something like Minister of State (Science and Technology) or even a department where her youth and energy would be appreciated such as Heritage.

  • Julian Fantino

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of International Cooperation <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2012 <strong>Age: </strong>70 <strong>Riding:</strong> Vaughan, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Fantino could be appointed to the Senate (there is a vacancy for Ontario), or an ambassador post. He is well liked, and could stay where he is or return as Associate Minister of National Defence.

  • Bal Gosal

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of State (Sport) <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 53 <strong>Riding:</strong> Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Ontario <strong>Speculation: </strong>Gosal loves his job. It’s hard to see who Harper would pick in the backbench to replace him.

  • Chungsen Leung

    <strong>Role: </strong>Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 62 <strong>Riding:</strong> Willowdale, Ontario <strong>Speculation: </strong>Leung could find himself promoted to Minister of State for Multiculturalism, if the government decides to split Jason Kenney’s former jobs.

  • Lisa Raitt

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Labour <strong>Appointed: </strong>2010 <strong>Age: </strong>45 <strong>Riding: </strong>Halton, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Raitt has redeemed herself from a rocky start as a rookie MP and minister and shown herself quite capable of handling hot potatoes with several strikes looming on her watch. She didn’t hesitate to table back to work legislation for postal workers, Air Canada employees and CP rail workers. She could see herself promoted to Citizenship and Immigration, another department that needs an effective communicator, or even National Defence.

  • Alice Wong

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of State (Seniors) <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age: </strong>65 <strong>Riding:</strong> Richmond, British Columbia <strong>Speculation: </strong>Wong may not run again. If she doesn’t, someone younger and ambitious such as Vancouver’s Wai Young, who like Wong was born in Hong Kong, could get her spot in cabinet. Perhaps as Minister of State (Transport).

  • Denis Lebel

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011, 2011, 2013 <strong>Age: </strong>59 <strong>Riding:</strong> Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec <strong>Speculation:</strong> Lebel could be up for a promotion. Sources say he’s flown under the radar but has impressed others around the cabinet table. Perhaps to Public Works? Lebel may also be appointed Quebec Lieutenant.

  • Gail Shea

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of National Revenue and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 and 2013 <strong>Age: </strong>54 <strong>Riding:</strong> Egmont, Prince Edward Island <strong>Speculation: </strong>With Keith Ashfield out of cabinet, Shea could stay put or find herself back at Fisheries.

  • Gary Goodyear

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario) <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2009 <strong>Age: </strong>55 <strong>Riding: </strong>Cambridge, Ontario <strong>Speculation: </strong>Could be up for a promotion. He’s done a good job communicating changes at the National Research Council of Canada. Perhaps he'll be appointed Associate Deputy Minister of Defence? Or even the Government whip?

  • Gerry Ritz

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board <strong>Appointed: </strong>2007, 2008 <strong>Age: </strong>61 <strong>Riding: </strong>Battlefords-Lloydminster, Saskatchewan <strong>Speculation: </strong>Ritz has been there forever and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the job.

  • James Rajotte

    <strong>Role:</strong> Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2009 <strong>Age: </strong>42 <strong>Riding: </strong>Edmonton-Leduc, Alberta <strong>Speculation:</strong> Certainly in line for a promotion, pundits have been calling for one for years. But now that there are two vacancies in Alberta, it could be Rajotte’s time. Minister of State for Finance, Ted Menzies’ former position, would be a good fit.

  • Joe Oliver

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Natural Resources <strong>Appointed: </strong>2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 73 <strong>Riding:</strong> Eglinton-Lawrence, Ontario <strong>Speculation: </strong>Oliver, despite being 73, wants to run again and is widely regarded as a hard working minister. He may stay put. If he moves, Transport would be a natural fit for a Toronto minister.

  • Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay

    <strong>Role:</strong> Associate Minister of National Defence <strong>Appointed: </strong>2013 <strong>Age: </strong>58 <strong>Riding:</strong> Delta-Richmond East, British Columbia <strong>Speculation: </strong>Harper likes to develop his ministers before giving them the big jobs, Findlay could head to Veterans Affairs or National Revenue.

  • Christian Paradis

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture) <strong>Appointed: </strong>2011 <strong>Age: </strong>39 <strong>Riding: </strong>Mégantic-L'Érable, Quebec <strong>Speculation:</strong> Seen as lazy and ineffective, Paradis is likely to be demoted. The biggest file so far during his tenure, foreign takeover policy, was managed by Harper’s then chief of staff Nigel Wright and announced by Harper himself. Paradis is also the government’s Quebec Lieutenant -- a job he could potentially lose to a cabinet minister who is harder working such as Denis Lebel. With only five MPs from Quebec, Harper might chose to give Paradis a file such as Intergovernmental Affairs or Veterans Affairs. Or simply make him responsible for Economic Development in Quebec.

  • Lynne Yelich

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification) <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2008 <strong>Age:</strong> 60 <strong>Riding:</strong> Blackstrap, Saskatchewan <strong>Speculation: </strong>She’s unlikely to move. Perhaps she could take on the Minister of State (Seniors) portfolio.

  • Robert Douglas Nicholson

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2007 <strong>Age:</strong> 61 <strong>Riding:</strong> Niagara Falls, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Seen as a competent minister, Nicholson could be headed to Public Safety. He’s not the most impressive communicator, but the government likes that he sticks to his talking points and doesn’t get into trouble.

  • Peter Kent

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of the Environment <strong>Appointed: </strong>2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 69 <strong>Riding:</strong> Thornhill, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong>Likely to be demoted. Kent told his constituents if that was the case he would use his time as a backbench MP to serve them better.

  • Steven Blaney

    <strong>Role:</strong> Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister for La Francophonie <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age: </strong>48 <strong>Riding:</strong> Lévis--Bellechasse, Quebec <strong>Speculation:</strong> Blaney is well liked. He’s done a good job in his department. He could stay where he is or perhaps head to Heritage?

  • Tim Uppal

    <strong>Role: </strong>Minister of State (Democratic Reform) <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age: </strong>38 <strong>Riding:</strong> Edmonton-Sherwood Park, Alberta <strong>Speculation: </strong>Uppal hasn’t been a very effective minister and he has a young family. Harper could chose to put someone in the role would would be a better communicator, like Michelle Rempel or an outside pick like a backbencher. Perhaps Steven Fletcher could get the job back?

  • Tony Clement

    <strong>Role: </strong>President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario <strong>Appointed:</strong> 2011 <strong>Age:</strong> 52 <strong>Riding: </strong>Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> Clement is staying right where he is. He recently took over the Treasury Board Secretariat and has sunk his teeth into many of its programs. He’s still chairing the committee overseeing expenditure cuts in government, has a strike on his hands with the Foreign Service officers, is trying to limit public sector sick days and is enthusiastically promoting the government’s open data plans.

  • Peter Van Loan

    <strong>Role:</strong> Leader of the Government in the House of Commons <strong>Appointed: </strong>2011 <strong>Age: </strong>50 <strong>Riding: </strong>York-Simcoe, Ontario <strong>Speculation:</strong> There was speculation Van Loan would be moved from this position -- he isn’t the most conciliatory figure. But he lobbied hard to get the job again after serving a first term and it’s difficult to see where he would go.

  • Joe Daniel

    Joe Daniel Role: Backbench MP Appointed: N/A Age: 60 Riding: Don Valley East, Ontario Speculation: Daniel is not well known but he’d bring diversity to cabinet and is an easy to like guy. If he gets in, it could be a to a junior position such as Minister of State (Science and Technology).

2. What’s the message coming out of the shuffle?

See above. Where the strong players go will indicate what the government’s message — beyond stable economic management and job creation — will be in 2015.

For example, a change at the top at Environment Canada could telegraph a renewed focus on the file.

But because the Tories don’t want to detract too much from their core message, we can expect Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to stay where he is.

"You don’t tend to abandon your strengths," said Powers, a vice-president with Summa Strategies.

3. A warmer, friendlier and more female government?

The cabinet shuffle gives the Tories a chance to try to alter the public’s perception that they are mean and nasty. Will that mean more women in cabinet?

It certainly can’t hurt, Powers said, adding that women like to see women being promoted. Faced with an opponent like Trudeau, who is well liked by female voters, the prime minister should make room for more women, he said. "All those things are calculated, as you know."

Strong performers such as Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and parliamentary secretaries Kellie Leitch and Michelle Rempel could get a nod. So could Associate Minister of National Defence Kerry-Lynne Findlay, a former parliamentary secretary at justice, who was placed at defence as a sort of “training ground,” one source said.

4. Where are the new cabinet ministers from?

Where the new faces come from could signal what part of the country or what ridings Harper believes he needs to focus on. Will there be a stronger presence from Ontario, where 15 new ridings are being carved out, especially in the voter-rich region of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)?

What about in New Brunswick, where Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield’s request to be left out of the cabinet while he receives treatment for cancer leaves a vacancy? The Fredericton MP has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, who is not expected to move since he was appointed only in February, is now the sole cabinet representative for the province. Will Robert Goguen, currently the parliamentary secretary for justice and a francophone from a traditional Liberal seat get into cabinet?

Or will Fundy Royal MP Rob Moore, who used to be junior minister but was dumped after the 2011 election, be reappointed? In June, Moore led the charge against a paid speaking engagement by Justin Trudeau, saying the charity from which Trudeau had accepted $20,000 should be compensated since it failed to recoup its costs.

5. What’s the surprise?

"With the prime minister, there is always a surprise or two or a name that people didn’t think of that gets injected into cabinet," Powers said. It’s certain Canadians will not see a senator appointed to cabinet this time, and it is unlikely that a member of the opposition will cross the floor, but Harper could still throw a curveball.

He could appoint someone such as Ontario MP Kyle Seeback or New Brunswick MP John Williamson as minister of state in charge of democratic reform. Seeback and Williamson were among those in the Tory backbench who spoke this spring in favour of giving MPs more freedom to speak in the Commons — one of several unhappy interludes for the Harper government this spring.

They could also give the Tories renewed impetus on the Senate reform file – perhaps launching a referendum on Senate abolition that would force the Liberals, who want to be seen as a force for change, to argue in favour of the status quo.

Neither is tainted by the Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy affair. They are not vocal social conservatives who could be accused of planning to reopen the abortion issue, and neither has had problems with Elections Canada. But is either trusted enough to carry the file?

6. Cabinet committees — who leads them, and does their mandate change?

Baran, a former chief of staff to the Government House leader and now a principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, says who ends up in what particular portfolio, for the most part, isn’t really important.

"What I think is more important is paying attention to what happens with the cabinet committee structure," Baran said. If Harper cancels or creates new committees, moves one department from the social committee to the economic committee, he said, that is far more meaningful because it "signals" how the government is going to be approaching issues.

"A lot of cabinet making is formulaic building of a puzzle, you need balances between demographics, between regions, between linguistic abilities, and that really dictates who many of the candidates are. That’s why I think that the final profile of which person is in which is seat is less important than some of the other big picture stuff, like has the mandate of Ops (the cabinet committee on operations) changed, is the scheduling of P&P (the cabinet committee on priorities and planning, which defines the government’s priorities and ratifies other committees recommendations) changed?"

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