Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabbed Joe Oliver on Wednesday to take over from Jim Flaherty in the all-important Finance portfolio, and also promoted junior minister Greg Rickford to succeed Oliver at Natural Resources.
Southern Ontario backbench MP Ed Holder has also been brought into the cabinet fold, replacing Rickford as minister of state for science and technology.
In the past, even small cabinet shuffles have been documented with news releases and backgrounders. This time — and for the second time in less than a year — Harper relied instead on Twitter to announce his newest lieutenants.
"I just named Joe Oliver Canada’s new finance minister," the prime minister tweeted as the new ministers were sworn in at Rideau Hall. "He will continue to strengthen the economy & balance the budget by 2015."
An hour later, he issued a five-paragraph statement on the shuffle.
Oliver, 73, is widely respected within the Harper cabinet and Conservative party and is known on Bay Street, where he spent decades as an investment banker. He went on to become executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission and then president of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada.
His sometimes gruff and often partisan demeanour is much different from that of the jocular Flaherty, who often poked fun at himself.
Flaherty was Harper government’s first and only finance minister until his departure, which he unexpectedly announced late Tuesday.
Maxime Bernier, minister of state for small business and tourism, said he, like many, was surprised by Flaherty’s resignation.
"He was one of the best finance ministers that we’ve ever had in Canada," Bernier said Wednesday while visiting Brandon. "He tackled the financial crisis very well … and because of him and because of the leadership of our prime minister, now we will be able to have a balanced budget and surplus in a year or two."
As the minister of state for small business, Bernier said he worked very closely with Flaherty, bringing the point of view of entrepreneurs and small business.
"I enjoyed working with him," Bernier said, adding that Canada is in a very good fiscal situation "thanks to Jim."
"I wish him a big success for his new challenges," he said.
Conservative MP Larry Maguire said Flaherty was one of the first people he met the morning after he was elected MP in Brandon-Souris last fall.
"I’ll never forget the opportunity just to meet him that first morning," Maguire said. "He was very complimentary but he has had a lifetime I think of responsibility and accountability on the financial side that … is recognized by the world, not just by Canadians and … it provides a strong leadership for our provincial finance ministers as well."
Bernier spent a few days in Brandon this week with Maguire. They met with the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, toured Behlen Industries and went on a site tour in the Manitoba oilfield.
Flaherty managed the economy through the recession of 2008-09. He went deep into the red with large deficits, but left the books virtually balanced after his Feb. 11 budget.
Flaherty said his decision was made with his family earlier this year. He said it was unrelated to a rare skin condition that requires him to take medication, which includes weight gain and apparent fatigue among its side-effects.
He will continue to sit as the member of Parliament for the riding of Whitby-Oshawa.
» The Canadian Press, with files by Jillian Austin
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 20, 2014