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PM’s pre-election shuffle eyes border, trade and bruising provincial relations

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8 minute read

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau has unveiled his pre-election cabinet in a shuffle designed to showcase new faces and to address increasingly troublesome files — from border security, to trade promotion, to the potential for bare-knuckle scraps with the provinces.

In Wednesday’s shuffle, the prime minister gave new portfolios to six ministers and expanded his cabinet by promoting five other MPs to his front benches. The shakeup will boost the profiles of more members of Trudeau’s team, which has long relied on his personal brand, ahead of next year’s federal election.

The moves also look to reinforce possible weak spots.

In one key change, Trudeau confidant and long-time MP Dominic LeBlanc moved from fisheries to intergovernmental affairs, elevating him into a higher-profile role that’s destined to become particularly turbulent. 

As a result, Canadians should expect to see a lot more of LeBlanc. At the helm of the unpredictable provincial relations file, the sometimes-pugnacious politician will have more bureaucratic powers at his fingertips with support from several departments.

The federal-provincial dynamic is set to become more confrontational for Trudeau’s Liberals following the recent election of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government led by Premier Doug Ford. Over the coming months, there’s potential for more conflicts if Quebec and Alberta elect right-leaning governments of their own.

The new cabinet lineup has also been crafted to handle Canada’s complicated relationship with the United States. Following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, Ottawa has faced growing challenges related to irregular border crossers and big unknowns surrounding Canada-U.S. trade, including an escalating tariff dispute and the difficult renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I think there’s no question that the international context is constantly changing,” Trudeau said Wednesday after announcing his new cabinet at Rideau Hall.

“There is certainly a level of clarity for Canadians, for businesses, for everyone across this country that we need to diversify our markets, we need to ensure that we are not as dependent on the United States.”

To expand Canada’s trade interests beyond the U.S., Trudeau moved natural resources minister Jim Carr into the international trade portfolio. Carr’s job will be to re-energize stalled efforts towards a trade deal with China, to promote the Canada-EU free trade agreement among European countries that have yet to ratify it and to continue to push for deeper economic integration into Latin America.

The shuffle will also raise the profiles of five Liberal MPs entering cabinet for the first time.

The newcomers include Bill Blair, who was named minister of the new portfolio of border security and organized crime reduction.

The former Toronto police chief will be responsible for the thorny political issues of border management and a surge of migrants at unofficial entry points, as well as gun violence and the complex process of cannabis legalization.

Other new ministers include Mary Ng, who oversees small business and export promotion. The Toronto-area MP was an adviser to Trudeau before her byelection win last year.

Filomena Tassi, a Hamilton MP and former high-school chaplain, assumes the new cabinet file dedicated to the needs of seniors.

Jonathan Wilkinson, a North Vancouver MP, is taking over from LeBlanc as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Coast Guard. The Rhodes Scholar served as parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

Mandate letters for the new ministers are expected later this summer.

In Quebec, veteran MP Pablo Rodriguez will succeed Melanie Joly, a fellow Montrealer, as heritage minister. The move will position Rodriguez as a key minister responsible for selling the Liberals to Quebec, a critical electoral battleground for the party.

Joly, who struggled at times in her role as heritage minister, was shunted to tourism, official languages and la Francophonie.

Trudeau put the controversial pipeline file in the hands of Amarjeet Sohi, who represents an Edmonton riding. Sohi, who will take over Carr’s natural resources portfolio, handed off his infrastructure file to Francois-Philippe Champagne, the former international trade minister.

The responsibilities of five existing ministers were also revamped. Many cabinet members with key roles stayed put, including McKenna, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt said Trudeau’s shuffle highlights areas where the government has failed to deliver on its promises.

“They’re failing in trade, they’re failing in pipelines, they’re failing in infrastructure and as a result those ministers have been moved to other portfolios — this is desperate attempt to hit that reset button,” Raitt said.

“If Justin Trudeau had thought the last two-and-a-half years had gone well, he wouldn’t be making these kinds of changes.”

Raitt also said she’s concerned about Ottawa’s decision to have LeBlanc — whom she described as “extremely partisan” — and Blair deal with the provinces. Blair sparred with the Ford family during his time as police chief.

Ian Brodie, who served as chief of staff for former prime minister Stephen Harper, said in a tweet that Blair’s appointment shows the Liberals are worried Ontario’s Ford government can hurt them over border security and the migrant issues. Brodie believes Blair will make things personal for Ford and the Liberals will hope the premier “gets unhinged.”

Indeed, the Liberals will have to manage a progressively vexing provincial landscape.

Provincial ballots are coming in Quebec this fall and Alberta next spring, and Ottawa already has a difficult relationship with British Columbia’s NDP government over federal support for the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline. 

At the moment, there’s also risk the Ottawa-Ontario relationship could be severely strained over key issues, including the federal carbon-pricing plan and management of the migrant influx.

— with files from Lee Berthiaume, Janice Dickson and Mike Blanchfield

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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International

Texas judges issue additional rulings blocking Title IX revisions

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

From The Center Square

Rule change blocked in 15 states

Two federal judges have ruled in favor of Texas and Texas plaintiffs in separate lawsuits filed to block a Biden administration Title IX rule change from going into effect.

Texas is now the 15th state where the revisions are blocked from going into effect ahead of an Aug. 1 deadline.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Amarillo Division on Friday granted the state’s request in a lawsuit filed by the state and two University of Texas at Austin professors. Kacsmaryk enjoined the U.S. Department of Education from “implementing, enacting, enforcing, or taking any action any manner to enforce” a new rule that revised Title IX pending the resolution of the case.

“The Final Rule inverts the text, history and tradition of Title IX: the statute protects women in spaces historically reserved to men; the Final Rule inserts men into spaces reserved to women,” Kacsmaryk said in his 32-page ruling.

In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said, “Texas has successfully blocked Biden’s Department of Education from destroying Title IX protections for women and forcing radical ‘transgender’ ideology on Texas schools. Biden’s rule would have forced our schools to accommodate biological men on women’s sports teams and in female bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms, and required students and teachers to use incorrect pronouns. A federal judge has halted Biden’s rule pending a final ruling. It’s an honor to defend our State from Biden’s unlawful subversion of Title IX.”

Also on Friday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary injunction against the rule in favor of Carroll Independent School District. In May, the district’s board of trustees, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, passed a resolution denouncing the Title IX changes and sued asking the court to block it from going into effect.

Also in May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott instructed the Texas Education Agency and Texas colleges and universities not to comply with the changes, The Center Square reported. In the last two legislative sessions, Abbott signed bills into law to strengthen student safety and “protect the integrity of women’s sports by prohibiting men from competing against female athletes.” Abbott said, “I will not let President Biden erase the advancements Texas has made.”

Judge O’Connor said in his ruling, “The compliance costs also go beyond monetary harm given the potential to infringe on constitutional rights. Privileging gender identity over biological sex is in no way authorized by the statutory text. And the consequences based on this statutory distortion appear limitless. For these reasons, and those stated by other federal courts, Carroll ISD is likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge to the final rule.”

The rulings were issued after O’Connor in June vacated a guidance issued by the DOE and the Department of Justice requiring schools to implement similar policies to the rule change before it was finalized. He also issued a permanent injunction against its enforcement in Texas, The Center Square reported.

Texas sued in June 2023 over the agencies’ mandates; the agencies are responsible for administering and enforcing Title IX.

At issue is Title IX, part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The law was enacted at a time when women and girls had limited athletic opportunities. Despite widespread opposition, including from women’s groups, the Biden administration began amending Title IX through several methods, arguing doing so would “advance educational equity and opportunity for women and girls across the country.”

It’s guidances and rule changes redefine biological sex to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

In response, 18 AGs argued the changes “demolished” women’s and girls’ rights, “making a mockery of Title IX’s fundamental organization principle – basic biology.”

After the Biden administration finalized the rule, multiple states sued. Texas sued on its own. Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Idaho filed a lawsuit. Alaska, Kansas, Utah and Wyoming filed another. Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia filed a separate lawsuit. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina filed another.

So far, federal judges have ruled against the Biden administration.

In June, Louisiana, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty was the first to rule against the administration, blocking the administration’s changes from going into effect in Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Idaho.

O’Connor also ruled against the agency Title IX mandates in June.

In Kansas, U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves blocked the rule change from going into effect in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Then in July, in Kansas, District Judge John Broomes ruled against the administration, blocking the changes from going into effect in Alaska, Kansas, Utah and Wyoming. And Judge Kacsmaryk blocked the rule from going into effect in Texas.

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International

‘Security Lapses’: Comer Hits Secret Service Director With Subpoena Following Trump Assassination Attempt

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By REBEKA ZELJKO

 

Chairman James Comer of the House Oversight Committee issued U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle a subpoena on Wednesday after a failed assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump.

Comer subpoenaed Cheatle to appear in a House Oversight Committee hearing on July 22 to answer questions regarding the attempted assassination on Trump on July 13 during a Pennsylvania rally. The attempted assassination has since raised many questions about the competence of the U.S. Secret Service and the failures that took place that allowed 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks to take aim at a former president from a rooftop positioned just 130 yards away.

“The lack of transparency and failure to cooperate with the Committee on this pressing matter by both DHS and the Secret Service further calls into question your ability to lead the Secret Service and necessitates the attached subpoena compelling your appearance before the Oversight Committee,” the subpoena reads.

The former president was wounded in the ear during his rally in Butler County, Pennsylvania. One attendee at the rally was killed and two others were injured.

“The United States Secret Service has a no-fail mission, yet it failed on Saturday when a madman attempted to assassinate President Trump, killed an innocent victim, and harmed others,” Chairman Comer said in a press release announcing the subpoena. “We are grateful to the brave Secret Service agents who acted quickly to protect President Trump after shots were fired and the American patriots who sought to help victims, but questions remain about how a rooftop within proximity to President Trump was left unsecured.”

“Americans demand answers from Director Kimberly Cheatle about these security lapses and how we can prevent this from happening again,” Comer said in the press release. “We look forward to Director Cheatle’s testimony this upcoming Monday, July 22.”

Since the assassination attempt, several prominent lawmakers have called for investigations and hearings into the incident. On Sunday, Speaker Mike Johnson announced that he will launch a “full investigation” into the attempted assassination.

“Our prayers are with him, all the rally attendees, those who were injured, and the family of the individual who lost their life,” Johnson said in a post on X. “Congress will conduct a full investigation of the tragedy to determine where there were lapses in security.”

The Secret Service directed the Daily Caller News Foundation to the Department of Homeland Security, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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