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Shuffle demotes high-flyer who catapulted right into cabinet in 2008

OTTAWA - Lisa Raitt, catapulted into cabinet two weeks after she was first elected an MP in 2008, had her political wings clipped in Tuesday's shuffle.

OTTAWA - Lisa Raitt, catapulted into cabinet two weeks after she was first elected an MP in 2008, had her political wings clipped in Tuesday's shuffle.

She's been sent to Labour from Natural Resources, trading a high-profile portfolio for one definitely in the rear ranks.

Critics say Raitt is paying the price for loose lips, and the handling of the medical isotopes issue.

Last summer, she got into trouble when it was learned that she or an aide had left confidential documents behind after a TV interview.

Before that dust settled, she was pilloried over unguarded comments that came to light when an aide's tape recorder was misplaced.

Raitt was heard saying the isotope issue was "sexy" because it dealt with radiation leaks and cancer. She was also caught disparaging Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq as being overwhelmed by the rough-and-tumble of the Commons.

The opposition had a field day. Raitt apologized to Aglukkaq privately and offered a tearful, public contrition over the cancer remarks.

There have since been complaints about her tenure as head of the Toronto Port Authority.

And the isotope situation, caused by a pinpoint leak of heavy water from the Chalk River reactor, dragged on. The reactor, which had been producing a third of the world's medical isotopes, remains closed and might not be running until April.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff welcomed what he called Raitt's overdue demotion.

"I wish the government had admitted nine months earlier that she wasn't up to the job," he said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton was irked that Raitt would be demoted to Labour right now.

"Jobs, job-creation and the issue of our labour force should be a top priority, not seen as some kind of penalty box for a misbehaving minister," he said.

Raitt, a 42-year-old lawyer, left the port authority before she ran in the October 2008 election and knocked off maverick MP Garth Turner.

She was young, brash and photogenic, the ideal cabinet candidate for a government looking to woo suburban soccer moms and shed its image as a collection of dour white men.

Now, although she's the biggest loser in the cabinet shuffle and may have to serve time in the penalty box, as Layton put it, things could be worse.

She remains in cabinet. And the example of Rona Ambrose, the outgoing labour minister, must give her hope of a political recovery.

Ambrose was another high-flyer who was brought low and rebounded. She was given the Environment portfolio in Harper's first government, a job which thrust her into the limelight. After less than a year she was demoted to a series of lesser posts

On Tuesday, she was promoted to run the huge Public Works Department.