Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Minister of International Development Maryam Monsef was sworn in during a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall on Friday,
Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS
At Friday’s mini-cabinet shuffle – the one sparked by the resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould from her brief role as Veterans Affairs minister – no one looked more pleased than Maryam Monsef. Demoted as democratic institutions minister in 2017 over the electoral-reform flop, she now finds herself promoted again. She retains her current portfolio as minister of gender equality but adds International Development to her résumé.The message to ministers and MPs – in case they somehow missed it – was: If you play ball after a cabinet demotion, you might yet rise again. Wilson-Raybould did the opposite, refusing to glide graciously from Justice to Veterans; instead, she quit cabinet. If she had just taken her lumps, maybe one day she’d be back with the cool kids again. Like Monsef.That doesn’t mean Monsef was promoted only to send a message; she has legitimate qualifications for her new role. But she is also fully capable, like her fellow Friday cabinet appointees – Marie-Claude Bibeau and Lawrence MacAulay – of delivering choreographed government messaging on the Wilson-Raybould affair. At the microphone after their swearing-in, all three ministers deflected questions about Wilson-Raybould, instead repeating the Grit policy agenda: improving the lot of the poor, fighting climate change, strengthening the middle class. Caucus is focused on these vital issues, they insisted, having memorized their talking points well.At the microphone after their swearing-in, all three ministers deflected questions about Wilson-Raybould, instead repeating the Grit policy agenda.We can expect more such parroting of the government’s action plan, but the Wilson-Raybould strategy also has two other parts. First, unveil a barrage of fresh announcements – Canada’s going to the moon! We’re tabling legislation to pardon people for pot possession! We introduced a game-changing bill to protect Indigenous children!And second, unleash the hounds.To that end, the Justice Committee has invited Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s former top aide, to appear, and re-invited Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. Butts, a formidable debater, will deliver a no-holds-barred defence of any actions he was involved in. Wernick? We’ve already seen his blunt style at work.Not invited is Wilson-Raybould’s former chief of staff, Jessica Prince, who would presumably support her ex-boss’s perspective. At the moment, it’s a Liberal-chosen group of invitees.Meanwhile, Trudeau himself has not provided Canadians a full explanation of how he sees the affair. Trite phrases mouthed briefly at public announcements hardly constitute completeness.Yet if he wants to clear this up, he must find a way to speak openly and at length to the public. Like Monsef, Trudeau, too, has lessons to learn.