Ottawa’s lone representative in cabinet, Kanata-Carleton MP Jenna Sudds, was appointed minister of families, children and social development, and her perspective and background could be good news for Ottawa’s business community, one observer says.In the wake of significant changes to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet this week, Ottawa has been left without a local MP holding a senior ministerial role in the House of Commons. However, the shuffle could still be good news for Ottawa businesses and the capital’s beleaguered downtown core, experts suggest. About three-quarters of cabinet portfolios switched hands Wednesday, with four former ministers announcing they would not be seeking re-election and three — including Ottawa-Vanier MP and former president of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier — being dropped from cabinet. The appointment of seven new ministers along with the ouster of seven others leaves the Liberal cabinet sitting at 38 people, including Trudeau. Half of them are women. The Liberal government is selling the new team as one that will take a fresh approach to housing, affordability and security leading into the next federal election. Ottawa’s lone representative in cabinet, Kanata-Carleton MP Jenna Sudds, was appointed minister of families, children and social development. Her perspective and background could be good news for Ottawa’s business community, one observer says. “Jenna is unique and with the strategic value she’s going to bring, she’s also an experienced councillor who knows the inner workings of the city,” said Muhammad Ali, vice-president at Ottawa public affairs consulting agency Crestview Strategy. “Her background gives her a leg up in making sure the city gets its fair shake in the House of Commons.” Sudds worked as an economist in the federal government for 12 years before becoming the inaugural president and executive director of the Kanata North Business Association. Sudds also served as executive director at the CIO Strategy Council, a national technology council. She was elected as city councillor for Kanata North in 2018 and served as deputy city mayor before entering federal politics in 2021. Her ties to the local business and economic development community will give her — and the city — an advantage, Ali said. “It makes her a very effective minister. Looking at this broadly, she’s in a portfolio that might not jump out as being flashy, but it’s all about her added value,” he explained. “If she sees there’s a need to do some extra, she will have that leverage. “Jenna is a very pro-business type politician and she’s very supportive of economic development in the city, but she herself also has that focus, so that’s positive for Ottawa business leaders.” Jonathan Malloy, a political science professor at Carleton University, agreed that Sudds’s background could be instrumental for Ottawa. “All that a cabinet portfolio is is what the minister makes of it and how the prime minister prioritizes it,” he said. “Sudds is a former councillor, so she has more knowledge of the inner workings of the city. So we can speculate that would certainly be helpful in promoting Ottawa’s interests.” Although Fortier occupied an integral role as president of the Treasury Board, she was “not known to be a strong minister or have a strong presence in cabinet,” Malloy said. “Ottawa has the obvious issues of the public service workforce (and) working from home and it’s not very important to the entire country but it’s certainly important to Ottawa,” he added. “Sudds … will be able to bring that perspective that it’s something very important to the city.” The shuffle comes as the federal government looks to tighten spending in the federal public service and reduce its office footprint. The 2023-24 budget proposed a three per cent spending cut for all departments and agencies. However, the government said the cuts would not include layoffs or staff reductions. In May, the federal government also signalled it is planning to significantly reduce its owned and leased portfolio of real estate, including many buildings in the National Capital Region, citing the rise in remote and hybrid work. Ali says the overall “message” behind the shuffle is that a campaign cabinet is being built and the Liberals will likely target Ottawa businesses when seeking re-election. An election must happen by October 2025, but could be called sooner. “This new cabinet’s purpose now is to be more deliberate and make sure government policy comes back to focusing on that narrative of building jobs and ensuring stresses of business owners are properly supported so they can continue to thrive,” Ali explained. “There’s the tech sector out in Kanata facing pressure and downtown Ottawa is suffering more than a lot of cities in Canada,” he continued. “Having that lens of targeting small businesses and tracking investments … that’s the mindset this cabinet will try to capitalize on.” At the same time, the cabinet shuffle could be concerning for some local business owners who have been navigating the “off-and-on” approach to economic development that the federal government has taken, Malloy said. “It’s hard to figure out how much changes in public policy affect business, but my general take is that what businesses want most is consistency and predictability,” he explained. “But this government has been very on and off. For example, there were (CEBA) loans, which are now being taken back and I don’t think it’s been helpful for small and medium businesses.” Ali also points to Minister of Small Business Rechie Valdez, MP for Mississauga-Streetsville, who can pull from her own experience as a small business owner and entrepreneur. Ottawa could feel the impact of her presence in the House of Commons, Ali said. “She’s already in a tourism and small business area, she lives and breathes small business where she is, and might be able to bring real-life reflection to how that sector feels about government policy and better adjust it to support them,” he said. Ottawa’s business community could also see disruptions in procurement, Malloy said. “If they’re contracting out business services, that would impact local business. Take, for example, the ArriveCan app that was contracted out at a considerable cost,” he explained. “If they’re looking at how to deliver services, that could have an impact, either positive or negative, on local business. But we haven’t had a lot of other details, so this is just speculation.” – with files from The Canadian Press
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