OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister to fill the void left by the resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould as part of a minor cabinet shuffle this morning.
Two other ministers already in cabinet are taking on new responsibilities: Marie-Claude Bibeau replaces MacAulay as agriculture minister and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef takes on the additional portfolio of international development.
That means Bibeau will be responsible for selling trade agreements to Quebec dairy farmers that will reduce the protective effect of supply management in their industry. She's also the first female federal agriculture minister.
"It's a huge privilege — I come from a rural riding, a dairy riding, in fact, in the south of Quebec, so I'm very close to the producers in Quebec," she said outside Rideau Hall after being sworn in. She said she's eager to meet with them.
MacAulay will take over responsibility for a new veterans-benefits regime that the parliamentary budget officer reported last week will mean less generous support for veterans leaving the Canadian Forces.
Like Wilson-Raybould before him, MacAulay said he didn't see the move to Veterans Affairs as a demotion.
"To have the honour to represent the people who protect peace and democracy for us worldwide, that's a long piece from a demotion," he said.
Unusually, the official headquarters for the Department of Veterans Affairs is outside the capital region — it's in Charlottetown, MacAulay's home province.
Wilson-Raybould, who was moved from the justice portfolio to veterans affairs in the last federal cabinet shuffle in mid-January, resigned her post Feb. 12.
On Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould testified to the House of Commons justice committee that she was pressured by Trudeau, his senior staff and others to halt a criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
She said she believed she was shuffled out as attorney general and justice minister because she didn't give in to the political arm-twisting.
Trudeau has denied the SNC-Lavalin affair had anything to do with Wilson-Raybould's move, saying she would still be justice minister had former Treasury Board president Scott Brison not suddenly decided to leave politics.
Asked by reporters, all three of them said they will support Trudeau's decision on whether Wilson-Raybould stays in the Liberal caucus after her public criticisms of the way Trudeau and his staff handled her.
"She's a very well-respected lady," MacAulay said of Wilson-Raybould, but what to do about her place in their party is up to the prime minister.
- The Canadian Press