Harper gives cabinet minor shuffle

Fri Aug 6, 2010 3:56pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Hodgson and Allan Dowd

OTTAWA/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave his cabinet a minor shuffle on Friday, saying there was no need for an election now, but appointing a minister with a combative reputation as House leader.

John Baird, who had been minister of transportation, takes over as government House leader, where he will play a key role in winning the support of opposition parties needed to pass legislation and keep the minority Conservative government in power.

Baird has been seen by many observers as one of the Conservatives' more partisan cabinet ministers, making his choice for the new role a surprise.

But Harper told reporters he is keen to make Parliament work. and the country needs stability given the uncertain global economic recovery.

"Our economic action plan needs time to run its course. Canada cannot afford to interrupt this green shoot of a recovery with an unnecessary election," he said.

Harper shuffled his cabinet after former Government House Leader Jay Hill announced he will not seek re-election. Chuck Strahl takes over Baird's former transport portfolio, with Strahl's Indian and Northern Affairs post handed to John Duncan.

The main opposition Liberals took a wait-and-see approach to Baird's appointment, saying that while he can be combative he can also be a calmer negotiator.

"We'll just have to see how he decides to play it," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses while speaking during a Conservative caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa August 5, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>