Nicholson to Foreign Affairs, Kenney to Defence

Pierre Poilievre picks up Kenney's former duties at employment and social development

Justin Tang/CP

Justin Tang/CP

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has picked Rob Nicholson to fill the void left in his cabinet by John Baird’s surprise departure last week.

The swift shuffle sees Nicholson take over the foreign affairs portfolio and hand over his previous job at national defence to Jason Kenney.

Kenney’s role as minister for employment and social development will go to Pierre Poilievre, an Ottawa-area MP who has held several smaller cabinet roles over the years.

Poilievre will also assume responsibility for the National Capital Commission, which was previously overseen by Baird who also represented an Ottawa riding.

“Our government is delivering real results for Canadians by growing the economy, making communities safer, and standing up for Canadian values at home and abroad,” Harper said in a statement Monday morning.

“The changes to the ministry announced today will help ensure that key portfolios continue to have the strong leadership required to advance Canadian priorities.”

Poilievre and Kenney will do double duty.

Poilievre hangs on to his previous responsibilities as minister responsible for democratic reform while Kenney will continue to be responsible for multiculturalism.

Baird announced last week he’d decided to end his two decades-plus of political life and move to the private sector, ripping a major hole in a cabinet Harper had put in place in 2013 to see his party through to the next election.

Baird’s departure also came with several pressing foreign affairs items on the agenda, including the ongoing negotiations to released a jailed Canadian journalist in Egypt and hostilities between Russia and the Ukraine.

Nicholson is likely to have his first exposure to the latter issue later Monday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Harper meet in Ottawa.