Updated at: 07/15/2013 2:05 PM
By CHARMAINE NORONHA
(AP) TORONTO - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday named eight new ministers, including four women, in his biggest cabinet shuffle since taking office in 2006.
After an expenses scandal hurt the Conservative government’s popularity this spring, the shake-up appears to be aimed at presenting a fresh face for the government ahead of an important speech in the fall when Harper will lay out new policies and priorities.
"These changes to the ministry feature both younger members of Parliament ready for new opportunities, and steady hands that will continue to deliver strong leadership in key portfolios. In particular, I am proud to welcome four new strong and capable women to the cabinet table," said Harper.
The new team is also one Harper hopes will lead the Conservatives into the 2015 election following that expenses scandal that forced two members of Parliament’s upper house, the Senate, to quit after improperly claiming expenses.
The scandal shook the right-of-center government, which came to power in early 2006 promising to boost government accountability.
Recent polls have shown the Conservatives trailing the centrist Liberals, who are led by young, charismatic Justin Trudeau, the son of former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Manitoba member of Parliament Shelly Glover comes aboard as heritage minister, Kellie Leitch as the minister of labor, Michelle Rempel as minister of state, and Candice Bergen as minister of state.
Harper also promoted relative youngsters Pierre Poilievre, Rob Moore and Chris Alexander to cabinet posts. Poilievre becomes minister of state for democratic reform. Moore, 39, is now the minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Alexander becomes citizenship and immigration minister. The former diplomat takes over from the long-serving Jason Kenney, who moved to the rebranded employment and social development portfolio.
Harper named James Moore as industry minister, now responsible for responding to any potential bids to take over ailing smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd, as well as foreign takeovers of Canadian companies.
Long-serving ministers Peter MacKay and Rob Nicholson swapped jobs. MacKay is now the justice minister and Nicholson becomes defense minister.
Alberta MP Kevin Sorenson becomes minister of state for finance.
Along with the new faces, Harper kept some senior players in place such as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Treasury Board President Tony Clement, and International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who all held on to their key economic portfolios.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)