Thursday November 21, 2019
Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen, right, is leaving the immigration file behind to focus on children and families. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled a reconfigured cabinet that has been expanded with the intent of addressing pressing issues raised during last month’s federal election. With additional emphasis on middle class and regional prosperity and a new approach to representation, a dozen current ministers are taking on new portfolios and seven rookies are now in cabinet, two of whom were elected for the first time in 2019.
“I’m very excited today to be able to get down to work the way Canadians asked us to in this last election. To pull together the country, focus on issues of economic growth for the middle class, to fight climate change, and to keep Canadians and their communities safe. That is our focus, and this is the team to do that,” Trudeau said during a post-ceremony media availability.
Trudeau has reshaped the lineup of ministries, with several new titles, and consolidations of some cabinet responsibilities. The majority of the 37-member cabinet are MPs from Ontario and Quebec, four from British Columbia, one from Manitoba, and one from each of the Atlantic provinces.
Gender balance has been maintained, a standard Trudeau set when his first cabinet was sworn-in in 2015. On their way inside, several ministers expressed their optimism about the next chapter for the Liberal government and the new challenges their roles will bring.
The full lineup of the 29th federal ministry was announced at a Rideau Hall swearing-in ceremony overseen by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette. The group will hold their first cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon.
Notably, Trudeau has named Chrystia Freeland to be his deputy prime minister, the first time someone has held that role in cabinet since 2006.
"I see it very much being a Freeland-ish role,” Trudeau said when asked about the expectations of the title.
“Chrystia and I have worked very closely on some of the biggest files facing Canada… And our ability to work together on these issues that, quite frankly, touch on national unity, touch on energy and the environment, touch relations with all provinces in all regions of this country, is going to be an extremely important thing at a time where we see some very different perspectives across the country that need to be brought together," Trudeau said.
Born in Alberta, Freeland is also taking on the intergovernmental affairs role, putting her at the helm of tackling the regional divide that the fall federal election exposed, with the Liberals being shut out of Saskatchewan and Alberta, where alienation sentiment is on the rise. She’s now the point person on addressing the tensions between the provinces and the federal government, that some say were aggravated during the election campaign when Trudeau framed his party as the antidote to leaders like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Freeland told reporters Wednesday evening in a series of brief media availabilities with each new cabinet minister that she intends to draw on her experience from her previous role which also centred on how great it is to be a Canadian.
Freeland is also holding onto the Canada-U.S. file to see through the ratification of the new NAFTA deal.
Most ministers in new positions
While most of the faces around the cabinet table stay the same as they were before the fall federal election, the majority are taking on new portfolios.
The new Liberal minority cabinet pose for a family photo following their swearing in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
Francois-Philippe Champagne is taking over for Freeland as minister of foreign affairs, he was all smiles as he approached Rideau Hall on Wednesday, though he’ll quickly be put to the test navigating some hot diplomatic files, including Canada’s strained relationship with China.
He said that he intends to raise the issue of the two detained Canadians with Chinese officials in the next few days as he heads to a G20 meeting in Japan.
Despite some early speculation, there remains just one ministry focused on the environment and climate change, and that’s being headed up by Jonathan Wilkinson. While he represents a British Columbia riding, where opposition is strong against the Liberals’ support of Trans Mountain, he has roots in Saskatchewan and will likely be called on to help respond to the discontent about the Liberal’s plan to meet the Paris climate targets, hit net-zero emissions by 2050, all while still supporting Canada’s natural resource sector.
In his role as public safety and emergency preparedness minister, Bill Blair will also be in charge of preparing for threats related to climate-related emergencies. Blair’s focus on border and organized crime is being folded back into his new public safety role, which will include executing the promised gun control reforms.
Catherine McKenna’s new role as minister of infrastructure and communities will also have an environmental focus, when it comes to public transit and green infrastructure. During her four-year tenure in the environmental portfolio, McKenna faced considerable backlash online and real security threats.
Asked whether she thought the online attacks played a role in moving her into a different ministry, McKenna said that it was the privilege of her life to be the environment minister, but it is an honour to take on a new position. She said she did not ask to be moved, and will not stop advocating for the need to tackle climate change.
The slate of regional development agencies have all been assigned to Melanie Joly, who will assume responsibility for them in her job as minister of economic development but she will be supported by six dedicated parliamentary secretaries that have yet to be named. She maintains her official languages portfolio as well. Tourism has been folded into her responsibilities as well.
Trudeau is no longer the minister for youth, that’s been given to Bardish Chagger, as part of her a brand new “minister of diversity, inclusion and youth” role. This includes advancing LGBTQ policies, as there is no longer a special adviser with that role.
There is also no longer a minister for democratic institutions, the person in that role was Karina Gould who becomes minister of international development.
Dominic Leblanc’s new role as “president of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada” will see him back in cabinet full time, after taking a step back for cancer treatment. His new job includes supporting the government’s engagement with the Senate, which Trudeau is looking to cement in legislation as independent. It’s expected that the democratic institutions files will now be part of LeBlanc’s portfolio.
Bald and wearing a medical mask during the swearing in, this new role is likely to be less intensive as he continues to recover. When he read his oath he received a standing ovation from his colleagues.
Other shakeups to the front bench include making the new President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos; Patty Hajdu is now taking on health and will be the lead on implementing a national pharmacare program and will likely play a role when the government reveals how it intends to respond to the September court ruling on the physician-assisted dying legislation being too restrictive.
“This is a conversation that we’ll be taking very seriously at the table, as we did the first time,” Hajdu said.
The minister of families, children and social development is now Ahmed Hussen; Minister of fisheries and oceans and Canadian Coast Guard is Bernadette Jordan; Seamus O’Regan takes on the natural resources file and has been pitched as a good fit because he is from an oil-producing province. In defending his new title, O’Reagan said that while he may not be from the west, he represents oil and gas workers, including those from Newfoundland who have left for jobs in Alberta.
The minister of families, children and social development is now Ahmed Hussen; Minister of fisheries and oceans and Canadian Coast Guard is Bernadette Jordan; Seamus O’Regan takes on the natural resources file and has been pitched as a good fit because he is from an oil-producing province; Filomena Tassi is now the minister of labour, and Carla Qualtrough has been appointed as the next minister of employment, workforce development. She adds on the accessibility file which she has maintained throughout her tenure in cabinet.
Rookies, former backbenchers promoted
Five MPs who were part of the last government but were not in cabinet got promotions. Prominent face on political panels, Marco Mendicino has been tapped as the new minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship; the new minister of seniors is Deb Schulte; and Dan Vandal takes on the northern affairs role, which was previously connected to intergovernmental affairs.
Marc Miller, one of a few close personal friends of Trudeau in the cabinet, takes in the Indigenous services role, which has seen shakeups a few times since it was created in the Liberals last mandate. While he is not Indigenous, he made headlines after delivering a statement entirely in Mohawk in the House of Commons back in 2017, in homage to the traditional land on which his riding is situated, he said at the time.
He spoke again in Mohawk on Wednesday evening in his first post-appointment media availability, saying that he’s been studying the language for about an hour a day.
Speaking about his new role, working alongside a minister he used to be the parliamentary secretary for, Miller said that he knows it’s not a file you can just hop in and out of. One of his key responsibilities will be to finalize the plan to eradicate all long-term drinking water advisories by next year.
“We owe it to ourselves as Canadians to get this relationship right. It is an exceedingly complex one but it defines us as a nation, it defines us as a people and it’s not something that is going to be done on Twitter, it’s not something that’s going to be done on cameras. It’s something that’s going to be done with hard work in the background,” Miller said.
Mona Fortier has been appointed as the “minister of middle-class prosperity” and associate minister of finance. She will be focused on the central election issue of affordability and ensuring cross-government policy for the middle class are consistent.
Rookie Oakville, Ont. MP and former law professor at the University of Toronto Anita Anand is the new minister of public services and procurement. She’ll be taking on the troubled Phoenix pay system and federal procurements. Responsibility for the National Capital Commission is under her purview as well.
She and Steven Guilbeault are the two newcomers to cabinet who were elected for the first time on Oct. 21. He takes on the role as minister of canadian heritage. He entered politics with the reputation as a prominent environmentalist, but as an opponent to pipelines he has been given a portfolio that doesn’t touch that file, which the government he is a part of, supports.
Guilbeault will take on the sport portfolio, no longer a role on its own and he will be looking at ways to strengthen Canada’s creative economy.
“Only six months ago, the idea that I would be in politics was just that, an idea,” Guilbeault said. “And now I'm a member of Canada's cabinet. I'm very proud and humbled to be here and I'm going to serve as heritage minister with the same determination, energy and dedication that I have the environment for the last two decades.”
Minister of digital government is a new position, and it’s held by Joyce Murray, who will be focused on the digital strategy of the federal government.
Less than a third stay in roles
Just 11 ministers are maintaining the portfolios they had going into the election, though three of those have slightly different responsibilities.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains has added on the industry aspect and folds in the minister of science role. He will be in charge of focusing on consumer choice and competition.
Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion Mary Ng has been given the added responsibility of the International Trade Ministry.
Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef adds on the rural economic development ministry to her title.
David Lametti will continue to serve as the minister of justice and attorney general, though when he was sworn in he read a revised oath, one that emphasized prosecutorial independence, an apparent nod to the fact that his two roles remain together in the aftermath of the SNC-Lavalin scandal that his predecessor Jody Wilson-Raybould—now an independent MP—was at the centre of.
In his oath as attorney general Lametti vowed to: "uphold the Constitution, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and of the prosecutorial function."
Finance Minister Bill Morneau stays on in the role he has held for four years, though he is getting some backup in Fortier. His first budget will be key for this government, and potentially another test of the Liberal’s ability to stay in power and maintain the confidence of the House of Commons.
Also keeping the portfolios they had heading into the 2019 federal election are: Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett; Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau; Minister of Transport Marc Garneau; Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier; Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan; and Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay.
House leadership team revealed
In addition to the cabinet roster, Trudeau has announced the makeup of his house leadership team. It is being led by Minister Pablo Rodriguez as leader of the government in the House of Commons. He has additionally been named Trudeau’s Quebec Lieutenant, which may come into play as he navigates the relationship with the reinvigorated Bloc Quebecois that now holds third-party status in the House of Commons.
“I've recognized that we have an opportunity and a need to ensure a clearer, stronger voice amongst our great team of MPs from Quebec and cabinet ministers from Quebec to ensure that the messages that we're hearing from and the engagement with Quebecers is done in the strongest possible way,” Trudeau said.
Kristy Duncan will take on the role as deputy house leader, meaning she is no longer in cabinet. Mark Holland will stay on as chief government whip, and Ginette Petitpas Taylor is resuming a role she had before entering cabinet: deputy government whip, another move out of cabinet.
Kevin Lamoureux will continue as parliamentary secretary to the government house leader.
“Canadians sent us a clear message... They also said to us at the same time that ‘we need you guys to speak to each other a bit more, to collaborate a bit more,’ and this is what we’ll be doing,” said Rodriguez, who was a Liberal MP during past minority parliaments and was the whip for part of the last parliament.
The Liberals are 13 members short of a majority, meaning in order to pass votes and advance their agenda the Liberals are going to need to gain the support of opposition MPs.
“I’m pretty confident that we can find allies depending on the subject, because we all have the same purpose, which is to improve our society,” he said.
In a minority parliament these roles will have an increased importance.
Now, related decisions will have to be made about who gets appointed as parliamentary secretaries and who will be elected as chairs of House committees.
With the 43rd Parliament kicking off on Dec. 5, the new ministers have two weeks to get briefed on their files and departmental responsibilities.
Jim Carr to be western adviser
And, Manitoba MP Jim Carr, who was in cabinet but announced after the election that he is being treated for a form of blood cancer, has been asked to serve as a “special representative for the Prairies.”
On Oct. 21, the Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan and the government has since said that it was listening and would factor in ways to still ensure those provinces, where a sense of alienation has been bubbling, are represented.
“He will ensure that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have a strong voice in Ottawa,” reads a press release announcing the new cabinet lineup.
Trudeau has also rejigged the structure and mandates of cabinet committees. There are now cabinet committees for: Agenda, Results and Communications; Operations; Global Affairs and Public Security; Reconciliation; Economy and Environment; Health and Social Affairs; and Treasury Board.
While not in cabinet, Carr will be involved with the cabinet committee work, Trudeau said.
“It is something that we have chosen to make sure that we have a strong voice reporting directly to me and to cabinet on the concerns faced by the Prairies and we will continue to work every day as an active group of Ministers who will engage right across the country,” Trudeau said.
Opposition parties react
Quickly after the new cabinet was named the opposition parties pounced on what they saw as shortcomings in the new roster.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in a statement criticized the size of the cabinet, calling it a “more bloated version of the same one that helped create an affordability crisis.”
“Trudeau wasted an opportunity to begin a new approach. Instead, he’s doubling down on the same failures of the last four years,” Scheer said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that the lineup doesn’t give him any more or less confidence in this government, and he’s waiting to see what change they make. "What this government needs more than new ministers is a new commitment to working with us to deliver for Canadians," said Singh in a press release titled “Trudeau shuffles cabinet, changes little.”
Both Scheer and Singh have yet to unveil their critic rosters, the lineups of their caucus members who will focus on each of the government’s portfolios and lead on related issues in the House of Commons and at committees.
Interim Green Party Leader Jo-Ann Roberts and parliamentary leader Elizabeth May said in a statement that their party has a “mixed reaction” to the cabinet, saying that while they welcome some appointments, it’s disappointing that other files have been folded into other portfolios.
“I’m very disappointed that Science and Democratic Institutions are no longer stand-alone departments,” said May. “I had hoped that Mr. Trudeau would heed our call for a climate cabinet and also embrace the possibility of electoral reform, but neither of those options seem to be on the table.”
In a series of tweets, Wilson-Raybould congratulated the new cabinet, saying that “the country needs and deserves leadership that unifies the country, upholds truth, justice, and ethics, as well as being a real voice of change and action on behalf of those who elected them.” She said she hopes the new cabinet will be “more collaborative.”