OTTAWA — While the shuffling of key ministers and the ousting of others dominated cabinet chatter on Tuesday, there were also questions about MPs thought to be cabinet shoo-ins who were nowhere to be seen.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s front bench shakeup saw the creation of a slightly expanded cabinet, with seven ministers remaining in their old posts, nine newcomers, and three members shown the door.
As for those left without a seat at the table, Quebec MP Greg Fergus is one of the names topping that list.
Fergus is set to start his third term representing the riding of Hull-Aylmer, and most recently served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, the president of the Treasury Board and the minister of digital government, among other positions.
“You get a guy like Greg who’s done everything right within his party, serving the country — and he gets overlooked,” said NDP MP Matthew Green, a member of the Parliamentary Black Caucus alongside Fergus.
“I just don’t understand it. It’s really unconscionable.”
Fergus, who declined to comment on this story, has done much more than partaking in a never-ending list of parliamentary roles, committees and associations: he also stood by the prime minister’s side during the 2019 election campaign after old photos emerged of Trudeau in blackface.
And even as Trudeau’s past actions loomed over his commitment to combating anti-Black racism the following summer, Fergus took a knee alongside the prime minister during a Black Lives Matter protest on Parliament Hill.
Fergus is one of several MPs from across the National Capital Region who were left without cabinet gigs on Tuesday.
Gatineau MP Steven MacKinnon, also a former Liberal party national director, was another contender who missed out on a spot. In Ottawa, former Ontario ministers Marie-France Lalonde and Yasir Naqvi, who each fit in Trudeau’s vision of a diverse cabinet, also failed to level up.
The region might have done with one more minister, said one government source who spoke on the condition they not be named, given that Catherine McKenna’s departure left only Ottawa-Vanier’s Mona Fortier representing the area.
Fergus and others might have filled that void, the source said, but Trudeau’s commitment to gender parity made that difficult.
The NDP’s Green, meanwhile, says the Liberal government will need to move past “this notion that they can only have a handful of Black people in cabinet.”
Ahmed Hussen was returned to cabinet Tuesday, while Toronto Centre’s Marci Ien became the first Black woman on the front bench in nearly two decades.
But Bardish Chagger’s ejection from cabinet left a potential opening for other picks from southwestern Ontario, like London West’s Arielle Kayabaga, the source said.
And while Atlantic Canada was well-represented among the 38 faces sent to cabinet this week, there are still those who were bypassed, said Lori Turnbull, director of the school of public administration at Dalhousie University.
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore was one of those options, Turnbull said, although one of the top contenders was Halifax West’s Lena Metlege Diab, a former Nova Scotia minister long speculated to fill the void left by former fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan.
Jordan’s Nova Scotia spot on the front bench was instead plugged by Central Nova’s Sean Fraser, a longtime MP who was handed the immigration file Tuesday.
“Every prime minister will have their own math ... around how they’re going to put the pieces together and who they want to bring in,” Turnbull said.
“And one thing is that (Diab) represents Halifax West, which is a very safe Liberal riding. So it’s possible that if (Trudeau) is ... sort of trying to solidify a seat, he doesn’t need to solidify that one with a cabinet post.”
Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel