National Post (National Edition)

O'Toole shuffles Poilievre out of finance


OTTAWA • Conservati­ve leader Erin O’Toole has shuffled the Conservati­ve caucus roles and moved Pierre Poilievre out of the high profile role of finance critic.

It marks the first shuffle O’Toole has carried out since being elected the party’s leader last August.

Poilievre now becomes the party’s critic for jobs and industry, a newly created role, with Ed Fast taking over as finance critic.

Other changes include James Cumming becoming the COVID-19 economic recovery critic; Raquel Dancho taking on the critic role for future workforce developmen­t and disability inclusion; Jasraj Singh Hallan taking over as immigratio­n critic; Jamie Schmale becoming Crown-Indigenous relations critic; and Corey Tochor becoming critic for families, children and social developmen­t.

The changes were prompted in part by MPs Peter Kent and Cathy McLeod announcing they won’t run in the next election. But the most notable move is Poilievre, who has been in the key role of finance critic since 2017.

As a parliament­ary pit bull, Poilievre was effective at getting under the skin of former finance minister Bill Morneau, particular­ly during the small business tax reform controvers­y and the WE Charity scandal. Morneau resigned as finance minister and Liberal MP last summer, and Chrystia Freeland — a more formidable political communicat­or and parliament­ary jouster — has been finance minister since then.

In a statement, O’Toole said the caucus shuffle is to prepare for the next phase in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our team is relentless­ly focused on rounding the corner in this pandemic and getting Canadians back to work,” O’Toole’s statement said.

“We can’t afford a Liberal economic experiment that has failed wherever it’s been tried before and will put untold Canadians out of work.”

Still, Poilievre’s move out of the finance critic role will give him less of the spotlight on the party’s front bench.

Poilievre has long taken a hard line on economic issues, a message that is somewhat out of step with the direction O’Toole has been moving the party in, with a friendlier tone toward labour unions and emphasis on messages such as “solidarity” when it comes to economic growth.

Last year, Poilievre had been expected to be a front-runner in the leadership race before he surprising­ly dropped out at the last minute, citing family reasons.

Ed Fast, a lawyer who represents the B.C. Lower Mainland riding of Abbotsford, has been a Conservati­ve MP since 2006 and held several cabinet minister roles in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. Fast endorsed O’Toole in the 2017 Conservati­ve leadership race, but switched his endorsemen­t to Peter MacKay in the 2020 race.

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