May 28, 2008 / 5:48 PM / 9 years ago

Federal cabinet shuffle to be small: source

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses after announcing that he has accepted the resignation of Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 26, 2008.Chris Wattie</p>

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper will shuffle his cabinet in coming weeks but will limit the moves to what is necessary to replace the foreign minister, a source close to Harper said on Wednesday.

The cabinet shuffle was prompted by Maxime Bernier's sudden resignation on Monday, for having left classified documents in the apartment of a former girlfriend with past ties to organized crime.

"The prime minister has no plans for a large cabinet shuffle," the source said, adding that until Bernier's departure there were no plans at all to rejig the cabinet this spring.

Harper, currently on a brief tour of Europe, will probably try to conduct the shuffle before the July 7-9 summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations in Japan, the source said.

Rumors have circulated for months about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty swapping portfolios with Industry Minister Jim Prentice, but this does not appear to be likely.

"I don't think there's any idea of them switching," said the source, who declined to be identified.

Those close to Flaherty, in charge at Finance since the minority Conservative government took power in February 2006, did not see any reason to believe he would move, said another well-connected insider.

"I don't expect (his job) to change," he told Reuters. "The same rumors came up last August and I expect they'll amount to the same substance this time."

Prentice backers insist he is happy to stay where he is, although they concede that if he were to move, the Finance Department would be the preferred destination.

Prentice is one of those seen getting Bernier's old job, which is being filled temporarily by Trade Minister David Emerson. Other potential candidates include Health Minister Tony Clement and Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg.

Bernier was a leading minister from the influential province of Quebec, where the Conservatives must pick up seats if they hope to win a majority in the next federal election.

In maintaining Quebec's representation at the cabinet table, Harper will be hampered by the fact that most rank-and-file Conservative legislators from the province have little experience.

Another minister who might be on the move is Treasury Board Minister Vic Toews, who has been reported as possibly taking a senior court job in his home province of Manitoba.

Editing by Rob Wilson

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