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What now for the seven ministers ousted from cabinet?


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Members of the federal cabinet stand behind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he speaks after a cabinet shuffle, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, on July 26.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Marc Garneau can certainly sympathize with the seven ministers dropped from the federal cabinet in last week’s shuffle. He went through that experience himself.

Mr. Garneau, the former Montreal MP, had a six-year run in cabinet, beginning with the election of the Liberal government in 2015. He was transport minister for six years until 2021, then appointed foreign minister – a post he held for most of that year until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped him after the October election.

“In the case of those who have decided not to run again, they may be perfectly comfortable and not have any qualms about it, and not feel, in any way, sidelined because they have made a personal decision in their lives and they feel they are helping the cause of our party,” Mr. Garneau said in a recent interview.

“But for those who were removed from cabinet and were surprised and felt that this was something they had not seen coming, I think it probably takes a little while longer to reorganize their thinking and decide how they are going to move forward.”

Mr. Garneau said he could not speak for the specific seven, but added, “I think it will be harder for some than for others.”

The seven ministers dropped on July 26 are Omar Alghabra, who was transport minister; Carolyn Bennett, mental health and addictions minister; Mona Fortier, Treasury Board president; Helena Jaczek, public services minister; David Lametti, justice minister; Marco Mendicino, public safety minister; and Joyce Murray, fisheries minister.

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Ms. Fortier, Mr. Lametti and Mr. Mendicino have all committed to run again in the next election while the other former ministers have said they are leaving politics and will not be seeking re-election.

Still, all have committed to sticking around until the next election, a promise that could mean about two years trying to find and settle in a new role in the nation’s capital. Although losing a cabinet post means a $92,800 pay cut, they will continue to earn a salary of $194,600 as MPs.

“Some of those folks are playing out the last mile, whether it’s one year or two years or whenever the next election is,” Scott Reid, who served as director of communications for former prime minister Paul Martin, said in an interview. He is cofounder of strategic communications firm Feschuk.Reid.

Mr. Reid said they may miss the sense of “Yes Minister importance,” but will focus on their constituency duties and think about what comes next, professionally.

Those who were ousted from cabinet against their wishes face a different challenge, he said. “They have decisions to make. `Are you going to be a comeback kid?’ in which case, what is the best way back?”

Mr. Reid said to do so, the politicians will have to figure out how to prove they are worthy of reconsideration. Some, he said, may seek an issue of particular interest and become an advocate for it.

Michael Wernick, a former clerk of the Privy Council – the head of the federal public service and secretary to cabinet – said there will be a round of parliamentary secretaries appointed before Parliament sits again in September. But he doubts such posts – basically being an assistant to a minister – would be of interest to former ministers.

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Mr. Wernick said many ex-ministers become the chairs of House committees. Some are given bigger roles as election campaign chairs or co-chairs for their region or take a bigger role in the party executive.

Mr. Reid said the ministers who have been removed have gone through a challenging experience because their ouster has been so public. “This occurs in the public spotlight. It’s the first thing people think of when you walk through the next set of doors. Until you rewrite it, it’s the first line in your Wikipedia/obituary,” he said. “If you have been dropped from cabinet, it’s a public declaration that you have been found wanting.”

The Globe and Mail reached out to the former ministers seeking re-election for comment. Only Ms. Fortier replied by e-mail.

She said she is taking some time off on vacation, but will be back by mid-August and in a position to talk about what she is planning for her next steps. “Being on vacation will give me the opportunity to decide them and also which priorities I intend to work on,” she wrote. “It’s going to be a full agenda when I get back.”

Other former ministers have written online about their professional transitions.

Mr. Mendicino wrote in a letter that “politics is in my blood” and his roots in his Eglinton-Lawrence riding in Toronto run deep. He said he would continue to serve his constituents through this mandate and into the next election, but did not elaborate further.

Mr. Lametti said in a letter on his MP’s website that he was pleased to see a pair of his former parliamentary secretaries appointed to cabinet. Arif Virani is now Justice Minister and Gary Anandasangaree is Crown-Indigenous-Relations Minister, but did not indicate his plans for the future.

For Mr. Garneau, he said he found great professional satisfaction in his committee work after leaving cabinet, especially on issues around medical assistance in dying.

“I really was very pleasantly surprised by how satisfied and happy I was doing my last two jobs on committees,” he said. “The work of a parliamentarian is not just being a cabinet minister. There are really, really interesting things you can do without being a cabinet minister. I was fortunate to be involved in a couple.”

In March of this year, Mr. Garneau, 74, announced his exit from politics so that he could spend more time with his family.



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