Dun­can braces for cabi­net shuf­fle

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - MIA RAB­SON

TTAWA — She’s gone from a ju­nior min­is­ter, to a min­is­ter with a $4-bil­lion bud­get, to a min­is­ter hold­ing down two dif­fer­ent port­fo­lios.

Now Kirsty Dun­can, min­is­ter of science and min­is­ter of sport and per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, finds her­self at the cen­tre of spec­u­la­tion as talk heats up about a cabi­net shuf­fle.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau will shuf­fle his cabi­net some­time in the next week, sources tell The Cana­dian Press.

As word spreads among the govern­ment that the changes im­mi­nent, po­lit­i­cal staff are anx­ious about their own fu­tures and some cabi­net min­is­ters are look­ing at flight op­tions in case they get a call to re­turn to Ot­tawa im­me­di­ately.

That call will only come if they are af­fected, so don’t ex­pect all 29 min­is­ters to make an ap­pear­ance in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

A year be­fore an elec­tion, re­plac­ing min­is­ters who won’t run again in 2019 could be one plan — though there are no min­is­ters among the dozen MPs who have al­ready sig­nalled they won’t be on the bal­lot next time around.

Split­ting Dun­can’s du­ties back into two jobs is ex­pected to be one of the moves, since Trudeau is be­lieved to be plan­ning his first ex­pan­sion cabi­net since tak­ing of­fice, and he needs jobs to give the new faces.

Dun­can has been the science min­is­ter since the be­gin­ning of the Trudeau govern­ment. In Jan­uary, she was sworn in as min­is­ter of sport and per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties just days af­ter Kent Hehr, her pre­de­ces­sor in that post, was forced to re­sign from cabi­net over ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions from his time as a mem­ber of the Al­berta leg­is­la­ture.

Trudeau never said how long he ex­pected his science min­is­ter to jug­gle two de­part­ments, in­clud­ing two en­tirely dif­fer­ent sets of staff, Dun­can said. But she also won’t di­vulge how much longer she in­tends to keep it up.

“That of course will be up to the prime min­is­ter,” she said. “I am happy to serve in what­ever ca­pac­ity he sees for me.”

She does ac­knowl­edge “it’s been a very busy seven months.”

Leg­is­la­tion passed in June gives Trudeau wig­gle room to eas­ily ex­pand cabi­net by four spots if he wants. The bill, in­tro­duced in 2016, was largely brought for­ward as a house­keep­ing mea­sure to elim­i­nate the dif­fer­ence in pay and prece­dence for ju­nior min­is­ters, or those who didn’t have de­part­ments un­der their helm. Pre­vi­ously known as min­is­ters of state, the bill al­lows for up to eight of these po­si­tions. There are four now, and there were five un­til sport and dis­abil­i­ties was added to Dun­can’s ti­tle.

In ad­di­tion to split­ting Dun­can’s role back into two jobs, Trudeau could do the same for Bardish Chag­ger, who is both the govern­ment house leader and the min­is­ter of small busi­ness and tourism. An­other pos­si­bil­ity men­tioned by one govern­ment source is bring­ing back a min­is­ter for se­niors, which is some­thing se­niors ad­vo­cates are ask­ing for. A min­is­ter for se­niors has ex­isted in pre­vi­ous cab­i­nets.

As for Dun­can, she says she has pas­sion for all her files now and doesn’t pre­fer one over the other. As a for­mer pro­fes­sor and re­search sci­en­tist, the science beat is right in her wheel­house. But so is sport and dis­abil­i­ties, as a for­mer gym­nast and marathon run­ner who spent years coach­ing and work­ing with ath­letes with dis­abil­i­ties.

But the port­fo­lios each have a ma­jor line item that has to get im­ple­mented be­fore the next elec­tion and both could ben­e­fit from an in­di­vid­ual min­is­ter steer­ing the ship. In late June, Dun­can in­tro­duced Canada’s first na­tional ac­ces­si­bil­ity leg­is­la­tion, and it now needs to be hand-held through the par­lia­men­tary process so it be­comes law be­fore the end of next June.

At the same time, Science has a $4-bil­lion bud­get in­vest­ment to roll out, in­clud­ing 25 per cent in­creases in grant­ing coun­cil funds, new money for labs and com­put­ers and im­prov­ing gen­der eq­uity and di­ver­sity in Canada’s sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.

And next week, Dun­can is to start con­sul­ta­tions in Que­bec about adopt­ing in Canada a United King­dom pro­gram known as Athena SWAN to pro­mote women in science, math, tech­nol­ogy and engi­neer­ing. She was in the U.K. in June meet­ing with of­fi­cials there about how it works, and says she knows from her own ex­pe­ri­ence the dis­crim­i­na­tion women in the field con­tinue to face.

“I don’t ever want to hear again that, ‘When I went into my prof’s of­fice to get a mark, I was asked to twirl,’” she said.

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JUSTIN TANG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Kirsty Dun­can, min­is­ter of science and min­is­ter of sport and per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, speaks at the House of Com­mons on Tues­day. She is at the cen­tre of spec­u­la­tion as talk heats up about a cabi­net shuf­fle.

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