Canada's new prime minister keeps 'same old gang' in his Cabinet
Toronto — This week in Canada it was in with the new and in with the old. John Turner became Canada's 17th prime minister at 9 a.m. Saturday. Also sworn in were the new Cabinet members, 29 men and women, down from the 37 in former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's Cabinet.
''Same old gang,'' quipped Mrs. Geills Turner as she passed the group of reporters and cameramen at the House of Commons. She was referring to the press pack, but she could have been commenting on her husband's Cabinet: 24 members of the new Cabinet were in the old one.
''How can they dent the charges of the same old gang with only five new faces ,'' asked Michael Meighen, a prominent Progressive Conservative Party organizer. ''Mr. Turner will be hard-pressed to go to the Canadian people and say there's been a new broom.''
Mr. Meighen speculates that Mr. Turner, who is himself not a member of Parliament, will not call an early election now but will try to build his own reputation of running a tight ship.
Much of Mr. Turner's time in the past few weeks has been devoted to the delicate job of forming a new Cabinet. There are a lot of familiar faces.
Jean Chretien, who was Mr. Turner's closest rival for the Liberal Party leadership, became the No. 2 man in the Cabinet. Mr. Chretien, who was energy minister in the Trudeau Cabinet, will be minister for external (foreign) affairs. He will also be deputy prime minister and the Liberal Party's No. 1 man in Quebec.
Other appointments include those who kept the same Cabinet post: Marc Lalonde stays on as finance minister; John Roberts, another leadership contender, remains minister of employment and immigration; and Jean-Jacques Blais, defense.
Doubling up on jobs in the Cabinet is one way the new prime minister managed to pare down the size of the Cabinet without causing a political revolt.
Two of Mr. Turner's big supporters in the leadership race have greatly expanded power in the new regime. Lloyd Axworthy kept his job as transport minister, an important and powerful post, and added minister responsible for the Wheat Board, the Northern Pipeline Agency, and Canada Harbour Place. This makes Mr. Axworthy, who is 1 of only 2 elected Liberals from westen Canada, czar of the west.
Andre Ouellet, who won Mr. Turner much support in Quebec, becomes president of the Privy Council, minister for regional and economic development, minister of labor, and minister in charge of the Canada Post Corporation. This makes him second to Mr. Chretien as the most powerful French-speaking minister.
Mr. Trudeau left office in a burst of patronage. Bryce Mackasey, a labor minister in Trudeau's early government, will go to Portugal as ambassador. Allan MacEachen, former deputy prime minister, will go to the Senate (an appointed body in Canada patterned on the House of Lords in Britain), as will six others.