Harper set to debut cabinet

One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s top fighters in the House of Commons is about to become Canada’s face on the international stage, as part of a new Conservative cabinet preparing to wield the power of a majority for the first time.

OTTAWA — One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s top fighters in the House of Commons is about to become Canada’s face on the international stage, as part of a new Conservative cabinet preparing to wield the power of a majority for the first time.

A senior Conservative source said John Baird is expected to take on the role of Foreign Affairs minister when the Governor General swears in the new ministry at Rideau Hall Wednesday morning.

Baird is just one component of a shuffle described as “medium-sized” by a government official, with a “limited” number of new members being introduced.

The prime minister is expected to keep many of the same faces in their current roles including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Environment Minister Peter Kent.

“The main message coming out of this is continuity and stability,” the official said, pointing out that election came in the middle of a parliamentary session.

But there are some surprises being anticipated — new portfolios might be added to the list.

And there will definitely be new faces on the front benches. Harper must replace ministers who retired or were not re-elected.

Besides Foreign Affairs, there are also the portfolios of Treasury Board, Intergovernmental Affairs, Transport, Veterans Affairs and Sport portfolios.

Harper also lost representation from Quebec and British Columbia. In the former province, he’s likely to turn to former minister Maxime Bernier, as well as three-term Quebec City MP Steven Blaney.

In British Columbia, there is chatter about incumbent MPs Andrew Saxton and Cathy McLeod sitting in the front benches.

Bernard Valcourt of New Brunswick, a Mulroney-era minister, is widely believed to be up for a post, as is Newfoundland and Labrador newcomer Peter Penashue.

With only 28 women in the 166-member caucus, female MPs have better odds at landing in cabinet. Harper might shuffle some of his more senior women, including Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt and Bev Oda.

The official said that Harper has ensured a strong presence of women in the ministry, “both in numbers and in the nature of their portfolios.”

Harper is not expected to elevate many rookies, leaving them instead to gain more experience in Parliament, many as new parliamentary secretaries.

But a few stars from the 2011 election might wind up with posts.

Newly elected Ontario MP Kellie Leitch, a pediatric surgeon, is the source of much speculation, as is former Canadian diplomat Chris Alexander.

Harper will also have to decide how to best use some of his new crop of Toronto-area MPs. The government official confirmed that Harper would appoint members from the “City of Toronto.”

Mark Adler, founder of the Economic Club of Canada, is a possibility, or bilingual investment dealer Joe Oliver. Mississauga, Ont., city councillor Eve Adams would come with a degree of political expertise.

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