February 13, 2006

New federal Cabinet features reorganized departments, rookie ministers

A smaller, more streamlined federal Cabinet, characterized by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as "designed for work-not for show," features the creation of a Transport, Infrastructure and Communities portfolio to better link urban, interprovincial and international infrastructure development.

The new Minister for this portfolio, Lawrence Cannon, will accordingly be responsible for the Office of Infrastructure Canada. A number of Crown corporations, among them the Canada Lands Company, have also been transferred to this portfolio. The National Capital Commission and Canada Post are now part of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities as well.

Cannon, a first-time MP from the Quebec riding of Pontiac, was previously a city councillor in Gatineau. He has served as president of the Société de transport de l'Outaouais and of the Association du transport urbain du Québec. Between 1985 and 1994, Cannon was a member of Quebec's National Assembly, holding the posts of Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and Minister of Communications in Premier Bourassa's government.

Alberta MP Rona Ambrose (Edmonton-Spruce Grove) has been assigned the Environment post. First elected to Parliament in 2004, she has served as critic for international trade and for intergovernmental affairs. Ambrose has also been a member of a number of parliamentary committees and related subcommittees.

A former columnist and communications consultant, she also worked for the Alberta government as a senior officer with the province's International and Intergovernmental Affairs Department. This position permitted her to focus on issues such as the Kyoto Protocol (see Commentary, page 3).

Other noteworthy appointments are as follows.

Natural Resources: Gary Lunn, from the BC riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands is a lawyer who has also worked as a mining construction superintendent and as a safety officer in the forestry industry. He has been an MP since 1997, serving at various times as critic for Public Works and Government Services, the Privy Council, Northern Development, Métis and Non-Status Indians, Human Resources Development, International Trade, National Revenue and Fisheries and Oceans. Lunn has also been a member of numerous standing committees, including serving as vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Fisheries and Oceans: Newfoundland and Labrador MP Loyola Hearn (St John's South-Mount Pearl) is a former provincial legislator who was first elected in a federal by-election in 2000. He was most recently the official opposition critic for Fisheries and Oceans and has served as Conservative Party House Leader as well as other critic positions, including Public Works and Government Services and Canadian Heritage. Hearn was a member of several standing committees and parliamentary subcommittees as well.

Health: First-time MP Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ontario) was a member of the Ontario legislature from 1995 to 2003, representing Brampton South (later, Brampton West-Mississauga). During that period, he held a variety of posts, including Minister of Transportation, Minister of Environment, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Clement holds degrees in political science and law. In his new post, he is also responsible for the Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario (FEDNOR).

In other reorganization activities, the departments of Human Resources and Skills Development and of Social Development have been consolidated into a single Department of Human Resources and Social Development to ensure integrated policy development, as well as improved delivery of programs and services through Service Canada.

The departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade have been reintegrated to ensure a coherent approach to foreign affairs and international commerce. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Trade will be supported by their respective divisions in the new department. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will also be part of this portfolio to ensure a co-ordinated approach to international development.

Finally, two Cabinet committees - Operations and Priorities and Planning - have been created to ensure effective day-to-day governing and to provide strategic direction on national priorities. They will be assisted by three policy committees - Social Affairs, Economic Affairs, and Foreign Affairs and National Security - whose task will be to determine how best to achieve these strategic priorities.

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