12/16/2016 07:29 EST | Updated 12/17/2016 04:00 EST

Winter Cabinet Shuffle Being Mulled By Trudeau

The prime minister may dump weaker performers, such as Maryam Monsef, from his inner circle.

OTTAWA — Liberal cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries and MPs might like to ask Santa if they can keep their portfolios or get a promotion. The Huffington Post Canada has learned a winter shuffle is being contemplated.

Last December, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed his 35 parliamentary secretaries — 23 men and 12 women — the MPs were told their portfolios had a one-year mandate.

Their positions have been extended a few weeks as the prime minister looks to rejig his cabinet, a senior source said. Trudeau may:

  • Elevate strong performers, such as Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s parliamentary secretary, François-Philippe Champagne
  • Reward hard workers, such as International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland
  • Or dump weaker performers from the inner circle, such as Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef.

“[The parliamentary secretaries] are extended until the House returns in January while we evaluate their partnerships with them,” Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s director of communications, told HuffPost in an email.

Late Friday evening, after this story was published, Purchase sent an email saying "nothing on the horizon" was planned regarding a cabinet shuffle.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and European Council President Donald Tusk attend the signing ceremony of CETA in Brussels on Oct. 30. (Photo: Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

Rotating parliamentary secretaries may help Trudeau with the management of an ambitious and talented caucus. There are currently 182 Liberal MPs, many of whom are men or women from traditional areas of strength for the party who may not have the gender, demographic, ethnic or religious criteria that increase their chance of landing a cabinet post.

Parliamentary secretaries earn $16,800 on top of their $170,400 base salary as MPs. While most are expected to answer questions when their ministers are not in the House of Commons, some have been given additional responsibilities.

Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, for example, was charged with leading a federal-provincial task force on the legalization of marijuana. Another who got extra duties was former Toronto municipal councillor Adam Vaughan, who was given the mandate of helping the government address national housing challenges.

Maryam Monsef stands in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawaon Dec. 5. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

The job of a parliamentary secretary can often be a stepping stone to cabinet as it’s a way for backbench MPs to showcase their abilities. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, for example, was a particular strong performer as parliamentary secretary to then environment minister Peter Kent. She was later promoted, by prime minister Stephen Harper, to minister of state for Western economic diversification.

Trudeau has 29 cabinet ministers — 30 including himself. Fifteen are women. He promised gender equality in his cabinet during the last election and received international recognition for his commitment.

The Ottawa guessing game of who will go where has already begun.

Over the summer, there were persistent rumours that Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion would be shuffled out of his portfolio next year and sent to Paris to be Canada’s ambassador to France. Dion told HuffPost at the Liberals’ summer caucus that he wasn't interested in changing positions any time soon.

Cabinet ministers earn $81,500 on top of the $170,400 base salary.

UPDATE - Dec. 17, 2016: This story was updated with comments from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's director of communications Kate Purchase. The story originally stated Purchase neither confirmed nor denied a post-Christmas cabinet shuffle.

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