July 5, 2012 / 6:49 PM / in 5 years

Canada PM says no cabinet reshuffle till mid-2013

(Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday he would not shuffle his Cabinet again until the middle of 2013, killing off speculation that several senior ministers might soon be given new jobs.

Harper, who replaced his international aid minister on Wednesday, won a majority government in May 2011. His ruling Conservatives do not have to face election until late 2015.

“We’ve said repeatedly we have no plans of making big changes right now ... I‘m more likely to look at a big change around the mid-term of this government rather than a whole bunch of little changes in between,” he told a Calgary radio show.

Although Finance Minister Jim Flaherty looked set to stay in his job, political observers had tipped veterans such as Defense Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to move.

MacKay, Harper’s biggest rival, endured a rough start to 2012 amid stories of how Ottawa had deliberately underestimated the cost of buying new fighter jets. Much to the irritation of party insiders, Toews bungled the launch of proposed Internet surveillance legislation.

Another Cabinet member set to leave sooner rather than later is government whip Gordon O‘Connor, 73.

Harper also said he was unlikely to shut down the current session of Parliament this year. Doing so allows a prime minister to take a break and then reconvene legislators to formally present them with the government’s new agenda.

“Some time ago I made a decision that I probably wouldn’t do it. I didn’t see any reason to do it right now,” he said.

“We’ll probably have a new session mid-term when we’ll take a look at how everybody is performing and make some major changes at that point. But I think between now and then let’s keep everybody focused on the job.”

The Conservatives say they want to concentrate on the economy at a time when Europe is in crisis and the United States is still struggling to recover.

Canada, bolstered by its huge oil reserves, came through the economic depression in better shape than most major nations.

Harper, echoing Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, said he was concerned Canadians were taking on too much debt at a time when interest rates are near record lows.

“We obviously encourage people to be cautious because rates will eventually go up,” he said.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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