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NEWS: Harper cabinet shuffle today at 2 pm ET

CBC reports that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper will begin the new year with a minor shuffle of his cabinet. The shuffle will occur at 2 p.m. ET at Rideau Hall and will be small, involving six or fewer ministers.”

The Globe and Mail adds that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make minor adjustments to his cabinet Tuesday morning that will see a new Environment Minister appointed to guide the Conservatives’ post-Kyoto climate change policies. About six cabinet positions will be shifted, with CTV reporting that Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas, and Ted Menzies, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, are slated for promotion.”

The National Post notes, “The shuffle comes just months before a possible spring election, giving Harper a chance to put some fresh faces into the front benches. And so it’s expected he will reward some of his strong performers already in cabinet, and perhaps elevate some of those now acting as parliamentary secretaries.”

The Post also speculates that, “Heritage Minister James Moore is widely believed to be a strong performer in cabinet and could be headed for a promotion. …Observers are watching to see if Harper elevates (recently elected MP Julian Fantino in the Toronto-area riding of Vaughan and newly appointed senator Larry Smith) to cabinet to maximize their public exposure. …Among the main ministers expected to stay where they are: Flaherty in finance; Tony Clement in industry; Rob Nicholson in justice; and Peter MacKay in defence. (Ministers that could be shuffled include) Lawrence Cannon in foreign affairs; Bev Oda in international cooperation; and Leona Aglukkaq in health.”

The Toronto Star adds, “Harper has vowed not to call or deliberately provoke an election, but Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has convinced Tory strategists that opposition parties will use the next federal budget in February or March to pull the plug on Harper’s minority government.”