Reviewing the new Conservative Shadow Cabinet

March 25, 2024

Niipaawi Strategies Reviews new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre's first Shadow Cabinet appointments

Today new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre revealed his first Shadow Cabinet. In doing so, Mr. Poilievre had the opportunity to put his own mark on his caucus and team that will oppose the current government. It also provided an opportunity to elevate new voices into larger positions while sending a signal to the country about where he may wish to take the country. A complete list of all appointments can be found at the link embedded here.

There were some appointments that were particularly noticed for many reasons. These appointment gives some insight into where the Conservatives under Mr. Poilievre may go and what their priorities may be. Here are the appointments that we at Niipaawi particularly noted:

Jasraj Singh Hallan - Shadow Minister for Finance and Middle Class Prosperity

The MP for Calgary Forest Lawn is only in his second term in Ottawa and was most noted for his past work as Shadow Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in the previous Shadow Cabinet under Erin O’Toole, and for his work on the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. While those were roles that gave him exposure and he was a strong performer in them, the Finance portfolio is a big step up and a clear sign of confidence from Mr. Poilievre. This appointment will also make for an interesting contrast with the current Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, one which could become a greater extension of Mr. Poilievre’s victorious leadership campaign.

Being Finance Critic is not easiest at the best of times but is usually when the leader you work under was also your predecessor in that role. It remains to be seen how much leeway Mr. Poilievre will give his Shadow Cabinet members compared to past Conservative leaders, but Mr. Singh Hallan’s experience in this role will give a very good indication.

Dr. Stephen Ellis – Shadow Minister of Health

The first-term MP for Cumberland—Colchester in Nova Scotia has the potential to become the federal face of his party in Atlantic Canada with such a prominent position. At the best of times in Canada, the Health portfolio is extremely important and highly regarded. Given that we are not in the best of times as COVID remains with us and the health care system struggles to deal with the continued impacts of it, that importance will only grow in this Parliament. Placing a family physician from rural Nova Scotia in the role not only makes sense, but it also gives the Conservatives the inherent advantage of having a critic in the role with firsthand knowledge of the ailing system itself. Actual experience and knowledge of a system or top is a strong tool for any critic to have. And when the government does not have someone of equal experience and knowledge on the other side of the aisle in that role, it puts the opposition in a position of strength. If Dr. Ellis can rise to the moment as a Parliamentarian and Shadow Minister, his experience as a doctor could make a substantial impact in this Parliament.

Gérard Deltell - Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change

As one of Jean Charest biggest backers in the current Conservative caucus, one wondered what might happen to MPs like Mr. Deltell after a win by Mr. Poilievre. To see him put into the Environment and Climate Change role is an interesting signal, which may be offset by others. The Conservatives need to have an answer to the challenge of Climate Change, and they have failed to bring forward a credible policy forward to date to meet the expectations of the Canadian electorate. Putting an experienced and serious MP like Mr. Deltell into this position could be a sign that the party may be looking to do the work that is needed. But this will also be a position to watch to see how much leeway Mr. Poilievre is giving his Shadow Cabinet and could tell us a lot about how this caucus will be managed.

Hon. Michael Chong - Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

While a surprisingly considerable number of previous Shadow Cabinet members were kept in their portfolios, the most surprising is Mr. Chong. That surprise comes from Mr. Chong’s open opposition to Mr. Poilievre’s leadership campaign and approach. It would not have shocked many if Mr. Poilievre had put a leadership campaign loyalist into such an import role as Foreign Affairs, but the fact that he returned Mr. Chong to it speaks to his strong previous work in this portfolio. Mr. Chong is deeply respected for his work on this file and keeping him in place gives Mr. Poilievre a strong team player who can deliver strong results for the Conservatives, if he is giving the leeway to do so. It should also be noted that Mr. Chong is one of only two members of this Shadow Cabinet, aside from Mr. Poilievre and House Leadership Team members Kerry-Lynne Findlay and Tim Uppal, who served as ministers in the Harper government.

The Others Not Selected

As is usually the case when it comes to naming a shadow cabinet, those who are omitted can be just as noteworthy as those who are chosen. This is true again in this case, as several noted and respected names in the Conservative Party were not tapped to be a part of Mr. Poilievre’s team. Included in that list are Hon. Michelle Rempel-Garner, Dan Albas, Hon. Ed Fast, Hon. Mike Lake and John Nater. All these members have a deep well of Parliamentary experience and have previously been strong performers in the House of Commons. Putting them on the sidelines is a choice, but not likely a choice that will be to the benefit of a stronger caucus. For a party that wishes to present itself as the next “Government in Waiting,” that case gets undercut when strong potential ministers are given the signal they are not wanted.

With these appointments, the table is likely set in Parliament for the next two years and until the next election. The new Conservative leader did send a message to his caucus and Canadians with these appointments, but this is only the first step. How this shadow cabinet performs and the policy solutions they propose will go a long way to determining how successful they will be. Mr. Poilievre has put his team in place, and now we will see how they perform in their new roles.