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Cabinet portfolio name game offers telling clues about Trudeau's priorities

Last Updated Nov 4, 2015 at 2:57 pm PDT

OTTAWA – What’s in a name? Apparently quite a bit when it comes to the new Liberal cabinet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent messages Wednesday not just with his ministerial choices, but also through a reorganization and rebranding of portfolios.

“Cabinet making is an art and a skill,” said Jonathan Rose, a political science professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. “I think that these names demonstrate the fine balance between these two.”

First off, Trudeau, 43, is also intergovernmental affairs minister, as well as the cabinet member responsible for youth — a clear signal that Canada’s second-youngest prime minister is embracing the next generation as a key constituency.

Predecessor Stephen Harper, on the other hand, had a minister of state for seniors — a portfolio that has disappeared.

Other telling shifts may be largely a matter of semantics but nonetheless signify Trudeau government priorities.

Citizenship and Immigration now includes explicit mention of refugees in its name. The change comes as the new government promises to do more for those seeking haven, starting with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Families, Children and Social Development is the new name for one of the departments many Canadians deal with directly, underscoring the Trudeau government’s pledges to bolster the middle class.

The environment portfolio becomes Environment and Climate Change — a nod to the prime minister’s promise to advance Canada’s efforts in the global arena on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

And the portfolio once known as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is now Indigenous and Northern Affairs, another sign of cultural sensitivity aimed at signalling a new era in relations between the federal government and Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.

Gone are the junior ministers, known as ministers of state in the Harper era, making for a leaner cabinet.

That means the disappearance of discrete portfolios for a host of regional development agencies.

Others — such as Status of Women, Democratic Institutions, Small Business and Tourism and Sport — have been elevated to full portfolios. In addition, Sport also includes Persons with Disabilities, another new emphasis.

Science, long seen as a secondary ministry under Harper, now has its own cabinet member. In addition, Industry has been rebranded as Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

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