OTTAWA — Manitoba's presence at the federal cabinet table was cut in half Tuesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed Kildonan-St. Paul MP MaryAnn Mihychuk the door after just 15 months as the minister of employment, workforce development and labour.
Mihychuk, 61, said she was surprised and disappointed by the decision but she will move forward proud of the work she did.
"There were rumours, of course, you know that," she said from her Main Street constituency office. "That's part of the game in politics. But I am proud of my record."
Averting a looming postal strike, signing an international treaty to reduce child labour and expanding the Canada Summer Jobs program are all on her list of accomplishments.
Her departure leaves Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr as Manitoba's one voice in cabinet as the minister of natural resources. Manitoba has had just one minister at the table at times in previous governments, but there had been two since 2008 in Stephen Harper's Conservative government and after the Liberals' victory in October 2015.
Mihychuk would not reveal what Trudeau offered as the reason for her ouster. The role of employment minister is being filled by Thunder Bay MP Patty Hajdu, who moves from her role as minister for the status of women.
Mihychuk is one of three ministers leaving cabinet entirely, but the only one to remain as an MP. Immigration Minister John McCallum was appointed as the ambassador to China. Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion was rumoured to also be getting an ambassadorship but that hadn't materialized Tuesday afternoon.
Mihychuk said she sees the shuffle as a reset for Trudeau ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration next week.
"I am disappointed" she said. "(But) there's also another part of me that says it's a new chapter."
Her exit comes five months after Trudeau cut her duties, passing the employment insurance file from her portfolio to Jean-Yves Duclos, the minister of families, children and social development.
That move was billed as a rebalancing of workloads, but insiders said it was also a message to Mihychuk to shape up after Trudeau received a number of complaints about her handling of EI matters. She also caused the government some grief over airplane maintenance when she promised the former Manitoba government $20 million in aerospace training funds, something she had no authorization to do.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau was unaware of the pledge when first asked about it last spring, but ultimately the government said it would come up with the money in order to prevent Manitoba Conservative Senator Don Plett from delaying passage of Bill C-10.
Mihychuk was appointed to cabinet in November 2015, one of the few female Liberal MPs with cabinet experience available to Trudeau. She had been a minister in the Manitoba government under Gary Doer between 1999 and 2004. A geoscientist by training, she left the legislature to run for mayor of Winnipeg, a contest she lost to Sam Katz. She then left to work in the private sector for more than a decade — in Toronto and Winnipeg — before returning to politics as a federal Liberal.
Although she had been a member of the NDP provincially, Mihychuk said she felt the Liberals were a better fit for her at the federal level. However she was seen by many as an outsider and struggled to fit in.
She said leaving cabinet gives her more freedom.
"Today was the first day I sent out a tweet on my own," she said. Her Twitter account previously was in the hands of her staff.
She also said she has a detailed understanding of how the federal government works, knowledge she can put to work for her constituents as she fights for jobs, infrastructure and other issues in her riding.