As the Liberal team recovers from a bruising few weeks in Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to reshuffle his cabinet over the summer, sources tell Radio-Canada.
Many changes can be expected. Several Liberal sources — who spoke to Radio-Canada on the condition they not be named — said they believe Marco Mendicino is at risk of being dismissed as minister of public safety.
Asked about the possibility of a shuffle before Tuesday morning’s cabinet meeting, Trudeau had little to say.
“I am going into a cabinet meeting right now. We’re going to have a lot of good work to do and I have nothing to announce today,” he said.
WATCH: Prime Minister Trudeau brushes off questions about cabinet shuffle
But behind the scenes, sources say, advisers to the prime minister have been laying the groundwork for cabinet changes for weeks. Members of the prime minister’s team, including deputy chiefs of staff Marjorie Michel and Brian Clow, have polled ministers to ask if they plan to run in the next election.
It’s the first step in a re-organization that should bring changes at the top in several ministries.
The cabinet shuffle is expected sometime during the summer, possibly as early as July. The Prime Minister’s Office is building the team that will be with him when the next federal election is called, sources said.
The shuffle is an attempt to give the government a facelift after a difficult few months. The timing would allow new ministers to familiarize themselves with their files before the next cabinet retreat, scheduled for the end of August.
Mendicino in danger
Mendicino has been under intense pressure for weeks. His management of Bill C-21 on gun control, communication problems related to Chinese interference in Canadian politics and the controversy surrounding the transfer of Paul Bernardo to a medium-security prison have all damaged his image considerably.
Behind the scenes, all of the Liberals who spoke to Radio-Canada said they believe their colleague will find it difficult to keep his job at public safety.
“Marco, I don’t think he will stay,” one elected official said in French.
“Mendicino is at the top of my list,” a Liberal strategist said in French when asked who is most likely to be demoted.
Liberal sources suggest Mendicino could be given another cabinet portfolio to allow him to rebuild his image.
On Tuesday, Trudeau was asked whether he still has confidence in his public safety minister.
“I have full confidence in all members who are in my cabinet,” he said in French, without directly referring to Mendicino.
“Only four or five people [in cabinet] are untouchable,” one political adviser to the government said.
The members of the Liberal caucus who spoke to Radio-Canada named several ministers who aren’t expected to be demoted or moved to new portfolios: Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.
Sources said Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez could be given a new portfolio.
Speculation surrounds Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. Sources said some of her caucus colleagues have noticed a change in her attitude and a certain detachment since the last federal budget.
A spokesperson for Freeland said she isn’t going anywhere.
“The deputy prime minister has already filed her nomination papers and is looking forward to running for office in her riding,” the spokesperson wrote in French.
Sources say the Trudeau government wants to refocus its priorities ahead of the next sitting of Parliament, with a greater emphasis on the cost of living and the housing crisis.
Trudeau sent signals along these lines at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ annual conference on May 26. He has announced that his next long-term infrastructure plan will be unveiled in the fall.
In his speech to the FCM, Trudeau’s remarks on the housing crisis and access to property seemed to echo the message Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has been delivering for months on access to housing.
“The housing crisis has put a generation of Canadians, particularly millennials, in a situation where they now think they may never be able to afford a home to raise their family in, which was much easier for their parents and their grandparents,” Trudeau told elected officials.
On the cost of living, the government plans to continue to promote its dental care and child care initiatives.
Trudeau said he was encouraged by the results of Monday’s byelections — particularly in the riding of Oxford in rural Ontario, where the Liberals placed second behind the Conservatives but pulled a larger share of the vote than in the last federal election. (The Conservative vote in Oxford may have been undermined by a dispute among local Conservative supporters over the party nomination.)
Trudeau said Tuesday the Oxford result shows the government’s “message is resonating.”
“We’re very excited about continuing to share strong positive messages with Canadians over the coming summer,” he said.
Liberal MPs say they are convinced that, faced with the more aggressive tone of the Conservative leader, left-leaning voters will move to their column in the next election campaign.
“Social progressives are scared of Poilievre,” a Liberal elected official said in French on condition of anonymity.