Canada PM shuffles cabinet amid plunging polls

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed eight new ministers in a cabinet shuffle Monday, hoping to reanimate a Conservative government sagging in polls after seven years in power.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will remain at their posts, steering Canada's export-driven economy through global headwinds and shifting its foreign policy toward rising nations in Asia and South America.

But Harper said in a Twitter message that he was "welcoming 8 new faces to the ministry this morning" and was "proud to be naming four new strong, capable women to the ministry."

The cabinet increased in size by one to 38.

"This fall (they) will carry our new agenda forward," Harper said.

With two years to go in its first majority mandate, Harper's government is at its lowest polling levels since sweeping to power in 2006.

The governing party currently trails the Liberals, who were relegated in the last election to third-ranked in Parliament after ruling for most of the past century.

In the weeks prior to the announcement, a half-dozen ministers announced they were stepping down, including Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Environment Minister Peter Kent.

This created openings for "younger members of Parliament ready for new opportunities," said Harper, who maintained his core team of what he called "steady hands that will continue to deliver strong leadership in key portfolios."

Harper insisted the government remained focused on "creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity."

The main opposition New Democrats and the Liberals both rapped the cabinet changes as gloss.

"It's like moving around the chairs on the deck of the Titanic," the New Democrats said in a Twitter message.

"Today's cabinet shuffle will not provide Canadians with the real change they want to see," said Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

"Mr. Harper is clearly satisfied with his government's performance. We are not. We think that the worst record on economic growth since the 1930s is nothing to be happy about."

Finance Minister Flaherty brushed aside the criticisms and renewed his promise to balance the federal budget in 2015.

He will now be helped by Kerry Lynne Find, who was named minister of national revenue, and Kevin Sorenson, the new minister of state for finance.

John Duncan and Peter Van Loan, meanwhile, will shepherd the government's legislative agenda as whip and House leader, respectively.

In other shuffling, former minister for the Francophonie, Stephen Blaney, replaces Toews as Canada's top anti-terrorism official, while attorney general Rob Nicholson swaps jobs with defense minister Peter MacKay.

James Moore will take over the industry portfolio and Bernard Valcourt will become minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development.

Both are expected to play vital roles, alongside returning Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, during a period of consolidation in key sectors and intense resource development in the Arctic.

Two of the most powerful women in the cabinet will stay on, with Leona Aglukkaq moving to the environment ministry and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose taking on Aglukkaq's previous job at the health ministry.

They will be joined by former cop Shelly Glover, who was named minister of Canadian heritage and official languages, rising star Michelle Rempel, who becomes minister of state for Western economic diversification, and Candice Bergen as minister of state for social development.

Orthopedic surgeon Kellie Leitch was named labor minister.