OTTAWA - To get a feeling for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet shuffle, a glance at the seating arrangement inside Rideau Hall's august ballroom spoke volumes.
In the front rows, veteran cabinet ministers held on to the top economic and international files that the Conservative government has long declared its top priority.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Treasury Board President Tony Clement, Trade Minister Ed Fast, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver comprise the team handling key issues like job creation, oil pipelines and a Canada-Europe free trade deal.
Directly behind them was a group of long-time politicians in new portfolios charged with backing them up on the economic front — Industry Minister James Moore, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney and Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel.
Harper banked on the economy as a winning issue for the Conservatives in the 2011 election, and appears to be adopting the same strategy for 2015.
"The team Canadians elected in 2011 is deep and it is talented. Many younger members of Parliament have earned more responsibility and are ready for more responsibility," Harper said outside Rideau Hall on a sweltering July day.
"Today they step forward and join experienced hands who remain in key portfolios."
In the posterior rows, an entirely different demographic — new, younger MPs and women, taking up some of the social portfolios and junior minister posts.
Bilingual, Metis Manitoba MP Shelly Glover nabbed Canadian Heritage; pediatric surgeon Kellie Leitch was named labour minister; and former Canadian diplomat Chris Alexander took over from Jason Kenney at Citizenship and Immigration.
Pierre Poilievre, one of Harper's go-to, hyper-partisan MPs for taking on the opposition, fills the democratic reform portfolio and thus the daunting task of Senate reform.
The new ministers have all served as parliamentary secretaries, carrying the government's message regularly on television panels and during question period.
The new faces were the ones emphasized most by the Prime Minister's Office — Alexander and Michelle Rempel, minister of state for western economic development, were the pair selected to speak to the media following the official ceremony.
"As someone who has been in public service for Canada since 1991, to be a minister, to be in this place, with eight colleagues who are joining the Privy Council for the first time, it's an emotional moment for us," Alexander said.
"But we have no illusions about the job we have to do, about how hard the work will be."
Putting an even finer point on its goal of achieving a younger, more contemporary feel, the PMO released the names of each appointment via Twitter instead of by email, fax or handout.
Harper also confirmed Monday the government would deliver a throne speech, complete with a "renewed policy agenda," when the House of Commons resumes in the fall.
Harper's government has appeared sensitive to the optics of a front bench that will eventually take on the NDP with its young, diverse caucus and the Liberals with their popular new leader, 41-year-old Justin Trudeau.
The number of women in cabinet grew by two to 12 — 31 per cent of the ministry, compared with 27 per cent before the shuffle. The powerful Planning and Priorities committee of cabinet goes from two women to three, although a woman is no longer vice-chair.
The NDP responded soon after the swearing-in ceremony with a news conference held by two female MPs — deputy leader Megan Leslie and Quebec MP Rosane Dore Lefebvre.
"If we look at the economic portfolios, it's the same people. (Harper) talked about fresh faces, there was all this hype about more women in different portfolios, and those portfolios are exactly the same," said Leslie.
"If the prime minister...actually thought it was time for a new direction, those key portfolios would be moved around."
The shuffle was also notable for those who did not make the cut.
The Senate itself was absent from Rideau Hall. The Prime Minister's Office had already signalled it would no longer include the Conservative leader in the upper chamber in cabinet, hoping to sever at least some ties with the Senate spending scandal.
Party whip Gordon O'Connor was replaced by B.C. MP John Duncan, who resigned from cabinet earlier this year after he revealed he had written to a Tax Court judge on behalf of a constituent.
Duncan is well-liked in caucus — a fact that could help after a season of some discontent in the backbenches, and tensions to come should some MPs be unhappy they were passed over for promotion.
Former Environment Minister Peter Kent is also out of cabinet, replaced in the job by Leona Aglukkaq.
Several other, older ministers had previously indicated they were departing, such as Vic Toews, Diane Ablonczy and Marjory LeBreton.
Newly minted Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who switched jobs with new Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, provided a bit of comic relief during the hour-long swearing-in ceremony.
Squinting hard to read the text of his ministerial oath, MacKay eventually gave up and pulled a pair of reading glasses out of his pocket — causing the room to erupt with laughter. In the back of the room, wife Nazanin Afshin-Jam bounced their three-month-old son Kian.
"Welcome to the old geezer's club," Harper said to MacKay.
The full list of the new, old faces in Harper's cabinet, here.
And don't forget to take our survey on the next Conservative leader.
The big news: James Moore goes to Industry and Jason Kenney gets HRSDC, where his skills are needed even if he... http://t.co/nWMO9uQ5yo— Althia Raj (@althiaraj) July 15, 2013
The only Minister with any power in this Cabinet is the Prime Minister. Today's shuffle does nothing to change that. #shuffle13— Justin Trudeau, MP (@JustinTrudeau) July 15, 2013
The full list of the new cabinet -- RIGHT HERE.
"The Prime Minister has stated that there needs to be more women in Cabinet and in politics. I agree. Gender distribution is an important part of any cabinet composition."
Things got off to a bit of a bumpy start this morning.
8 New Faces (Leitch, Rempel, Poilievre, Sorenson, Glover, Bergen, Alexander, & Rickford) and 2 returning faces (Duncan & Rob Moore).— Althia Raj (@althiaraj) July 15, 2013
Peter Kent, Steven Fletcher and Gordon O'Conner are all gone.
Looks like the only ministers dropped are Steven Fletcher and Peter Kent. #cdnpoli— Richard Madan (@RichardMadan) July 15, 2013
James Moore? Jason Kenney? Peter MacKay? Brad Wall?
Who do you think should take over if Harper steps down before 2015?
The whole promotion/demotion debate is kind of subjective, but Justice is definitely a lower profile job than Defence.— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) July 15, 2013
As a former Crown prosecutor and defence counsel, I am honoured to have been given the Justice portafolio. I look forward to the job ahead.— Peter MacKay (@MinPeterMacKay) July 15, 2013
Flaherty tells media heading into Rideau Hall: "We'll get that budget balanced"— Steven Chase (@stevenchase) July 15, 2013
The Nova Scotia MP made no secret of his desire to stay in National Defence, but he'll be named Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada..
Haven't counted up yet but the number of departments that have been split suggests Cabinet size has gone from swollen to bloated.— John Ivison (@IvisonJ) July 15, 2013
But Peter MacKay wanted to keep his job.
Is he off to Justice?
I will work hard to end the paradox of too many people without jobs in an economy that has too many jobs without people. #shuffle13— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) July 15, 2013
Jason Kenney given job of making job training program work. BIG challenge. #cdnpoli— John Ibbitson (@JohnIbbitson) July 15, 2013
Your new Public Safety Minister..
A big surprise..
"Pipeline Prophet" keeps his portfolio..
Where is Jason Kenney going?!
This is an election-facing cabinet.— Stephen Taylor (@stephen_taylor) July 15, 2013
Poilievre gets Minister of State (Democratic Reform)
How will this impact James Moore's rumoured leadership ambitions?
Looking forward to serving Canadians in my new role as Minister of Industry.— James Moore (@JamesMoore_org) July 15, 2013
1) He probably took a BIG pay cut
It is believed that Wright was <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">earning more than $2 million</a> in salary and bonuses at Onex, but made around $300,000 working on Parliament Hill.
2) He's unmarried
Along with John Baird, Jason Kenney, and James Moore, Wright was one of four <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/12/harper%E2%80%99s-single-white-males/" target="_blank">“single, white males”</a> profiled in Maclean’s magazine in 2011 as holding immense power in Harper’s inner circle. Moore has since tied the knot.
3) He's a big runner
Wright would apparently run a half-marathon each morning before starting a <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">14-hour work day at Onex.</a> <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/12/harper%E2%80%99s-single-white-males/" target="_blank">He has kept that pace after he began working in Ottawa</a>. He is said to be fond of telling a story of once being surrounded by several snarling dogs during an early morning run - <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2010/09/28/travers_nigel_wrights_job_is_to_restore_order_to_pmo.html" target="_blank">a perfect metaphor for politics.</a>
4) Harper isn’t the first PM he's worked for
Wright was a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2010/09/24/harper-chief-of-staff.html" target="_blank">speechwriter and policy adviser</a> to former prime minister Brian Mulroney. He was also <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/editorials/wright-you-are-mr-harper/article1380288/" target="_blank">policy co-ordinator</a> for Kim Campbell's leadership campaign.
5) He almost became a priest
Wright considered joining the Anglican priesthood as a young man. <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">He is currently a subdeacon at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Toronto. </a>
6) He was the subject of a conflict of interest probe
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/08/nigel-wright-conflict-of-interest-chief-of-staff_n_2435040.html" target="_blank">The federal ethics watchdog cleared Wright of conflict of interest allegations in January. </a> Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson investigated Wright after it was reported he was lobbied on three occasions by Barrick Gold Corp, despite deep personal connections to the company’s founding family. Dawson found there was no violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Next: Wright Helps Duffy Reaction
Also, not for naught: what the hell is Mike Duffy doing with his money that he can't pay back his improper expenses?
Mike Duffy: "I stayed silent on the orders of the PMO." For whatever reason, the sentence just sends chills up my spine.
Mike Duffy is such an idiot. I wish Frank Magazine was still around to really savage him properly.
There's only one explanation - Wright expected SEX in return for his gift of $90K to Mike Duffy. Happens all the time. #cdnpoli
Welfare cheats are kicked out for $90 but PM Harper gave Mike Duffy Senate job and he cheated $90,000 #cdnpoli #HarperHistory #BadEconomy
Karma, Mike Duffy. Karma. #CutTheChequeNigel
This Mike Duffy story just keeps getting better and @RobertFife hasn't slept in 5 days!
The $90,172 Nigel Wright covered considered a gift that Sen. Mike Duffy will have to pay taxes on. #cdnpoli
Why didn't Mike Duffy mortgage his PEI house to pay for the $90,000 repayment? #cdnpoli #CPC #cronyism
Next: If I Had $90,000
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy you a nice fur coat, just like Tom Flanagan's (because that's cruel) #cdnpoli
#ifihad90000 I'd buy an economic action plan ad. Jk, those cost millions... like twenty!
#ifihad90000 I'd buy you a blue vest, but not a real blue vest that's cruel. And I don't actually wear vests, my warm centrist persona does.
#ifIhad90000 I sure in hell wouldn't be giving it to Mike Duffy! #Cdnpoli
. #ifIhad90000 I'd fund a War of 1812 #cbc miniseries that was historically accurate - and to be proactive, one on WWI as well.
#ifihad90000 I'd buy a mediocre journalist and make him into a senator.
#IfIHad90000 I’d have one of Canada’s search & rescue helicopters pick me & my pals up to go fishing
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy an Economic Action Plan ad, But not a real Economic Action Plan ad because that's cruel
#IfIHad90000 I’d buy property in PEI and I would actually spend time there too
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy you less than 1/10 of one percent of an F-35, because those things are crazy expensive / Like a Picasso or a Garfunkel
#IfIHad90000 We wouldn't have to eat PEI Lobster / But we would eat PEI Lobster / Of course we would, we'd fly it in
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy you membership in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification / Haven't you always wanted a talkfest?
#IfIHad90000 I'd still eat at Hy's..lunch AND supper..what's Kraft Dinner?
I'd buy you a panda. Haven't you always wanted a panda? #IfIHad90000
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy Condy's looooooooove (as in Rice, ya'know!) #EhMacKay
Aside from poking fun at Duffy, I imagine the hashtag #IfIHad90000 will have a lot of people contemplating Dijon Ketchup & tree forts today
Perhaps I'm the only one who wonders why a 67-year old making a 6 figure salary is in such a precarious financial situation... #ifihad90000
#IfIhad90000 Well, I’d buy you a monkey, Haven’t you always wanted a monkey? #NamedDuffyOfCourse #TrueLyrics
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy a potato patch, (but not a real potato patch, that's cruel) ... #EhMacKey