Canada's New Science Minister Lacks Research Pedigree

OTTAWA—Former lawyer and nurse Greg Rickford has become Canada's science minister as Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his Cabinet on Monday. The move is an attempt to deflect attention from an expenses scandal that has rocked Harper's Conservative government and left pundits calling for a reboot prior to the expected national elections in 2015. It has left science associations scrambling to learn a bit about the new junior minister.

Rickford replaces chiropractor Gary Goodyear. The position reports to Industry Minister James Moore, who was promoted from the Canadian Heritage Ministry and whose new portfolio oversees all of Canada's science agencies with the exception of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which falls under the umbrella of the Health Ministry. Canada's new health minister will be former communications consultant Rona Ambrose, who was promoted from public works.

Harper, whose office is embroiled in a Senate expense scandal that resulted in the resignation of chief of staff Nigel Wright, flagged the Cabinet shuffle as "generational change" and the first step in a "renewed policy agenda" to be unveiled this fall. It includes eight new faces, four of them women. But he stressed that "the government will continue to focus on the economy, on job creation and on opening new markets."

The bilingual 45-year-old Rickford has kept a low profile since first being elected to Parliament in 2008. In 2011, he was appointed as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Rickford's parliamentary website indicates that he received degrees in common and civil law from McGill University in Montreal and an MBA from Laval University in Quebec City. It states that he was "[i]nstilled with the values of hard work and public service from a young age," which led him, in turn, "to the remote First Nations communities of Northern Ontario where he worked as a nurse and lawyer."

Goodyear remains in the Harper government as minister of state for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. His new job is widely viewed as a demotion.