Nearly a month to the day after the October 21st federal election, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presided over the swearing-in of the federal Cabinet.
Having lost only two ministers to electoral defeat – Ralph Goodale and Amarjeet Sohi, who were cast away in the Conservatives near-sweep of the prairies – many of the faces along Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s reconstructed front bench are familiar though many of them will be stewarding new portfolios and responsibilities.
Assembling a Cabinet requires careful consideration of experience, region, demographics and backgrounds to assure the government’s leadership both reflects the population it represents and assuredly implements its agenda. Adding only one additional seat to the Cabinet table, Trudeau has offered a gender-balanced ministry and chosen to illuminate members with genuine roots in Western Canada to offset the Liberals’ dearth of electoral representation in the West.
- Justin Trudeau | Prime Minister of Canada
- Chrystia Freeland | Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
- Bill Morneau | Minister of Finance
- François-Philippe Champagne | Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Jean-Yves Duclos | President of the Treasury Board
- David Lametti | Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
- Navdeep Bains | Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
- Bill Blair | Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- Harjit Sajjan | Minister of National Defence
- Marc Garneau | Minister of Transport
- Marie-Claude Bibeau | Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Seamus O’Regan | Minister of Natural Resources
- Jonathan Wilkinson | Minister of Environment and Climate Change
- Catherine McKenna | Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
- Anita Anand | Minister of Public Services and Procurement
- Filomena Tassi | Minister of Labour
- Carla Qualtrough | Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
- Patty Hajdu | Minister of Health
- Marco Mendicino | Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
- Stephen Guilbeault | Minister of Canadian Heritage
- Marc Miller | Minister of Indigenous Services
- Carolyn Bennett | Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
- Ahmed Hussen | Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
- Bernadette Jordan | Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
- Lawrence MacAulay | Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
- Diane Lebouthillier | Minister of National Revenue
- Karina Gould | Minister of International Development
- Bardish Chagger | Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
- Mélanie Joly | Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages
- Mona Fortier | Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance
- Mary Ng | Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade
- Deb Schulte | Minister of Seniors
- Dan Vandal | Minister of Northern Affairs
- Dominic Leblanc | President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
- Maryam Monsef | Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development
- Joyce Murray | Minister of Digital Government
- Pablo Rodriguez | Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Responding to Regional Tensions
With Canada/US relations mostly settled, Trudeau has rewarded Chrystia Freeland with the Deputy Prime Minister role and the government’s single toughest challenge; navigating an increasingly fractious provincial landscape, with western separatism on the rise and the rebirth of the Bloc Quebecois seeing the Liberals lose seats in Quebec and be completely shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan. From pharmacare to carbon pricing to addressing regional alienation in Quebec and Alberta, Freeland is in for some battles. She also retains responsibility to Canada-US relations.
Prime Minister Trudeau has tapped former minister Jim Carr, who hails from Manitoba, as his Special Representative for the Prairies. Carr’s time as Natural Resources Minister was well received by industry allowing him to become a trusted voice for the Prime Minister and Cabinet on Western and energy issues. As International Trade Minister, Carr was front and centre in response to the canola and pulse crop trade disputes, two issues that have hurt farmers in the region and gained a closer relationship with key stakeholders in those sectors.
A resurgent Bloc was the black swan of the 2019 campaign, a phenomenon that no strategist within the Liberal and Conservative parties anticipated. At one-point, Bloc Leader Yves Francois Blanchet’s momentum posed a serious threat to the Liberals’ prospects for re-election, not to mention the seats of some of Team Trudeau’s strong performers in Cabinet like Jean Yves Duclos. Some of that momentum abated in the last stage of the campaign, but Blanchet’s talents as an able communicator and his strong working rapport with Premier Legault and his CAQ Cabinet do not augur well for the minority parliament. As Quebec Lieutenant, Pablo Rodriguez will have his hands full.
Blanchet’s strong language about Alberta’s intentions to create “an oil state” has already set the tone for a challenging time for intergovernmental relations, given Premier Jason Kenney’s combativeness. He is fully willing to stoke the “Wexit” fires, and the next Council of the Federation meeting in Toronto on December 2nd will be one to watch, as the terms of engagement on Quebec and western co-operation will be established. If Chrystia Freeland imagined her skills as a negotiator were forged in the hottest fires during the worst of the CUSMA negotiations, they may be tested like never before in the months ahead.
Managing in a Minority Government
In a minority government, the parliamentary assignments of House leaders and whips are of heightened importance. These roles are critical to maintaining the government’s control and power and to keeping the legislative agenda moving.
Pablo Rodriguez will be pulling double duty by also quarterbacking the government’s parliamentary agenda and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
Rodriguez earned a strong reputation as a stable, knowledgeable force in the House during his time as Whip, beginning in 2017. He is known as a shrewd political strategist outside of Ottawa as well, working as a key organizer in the province – and notably, playing that role in Opposition for Ignatieff. He has had to contend with a resurgent Bloc once before. During his time at Heritage, he burnished his reputation as a strong team player within caucus, perceived as able and responsive on contentious files.
Imperative to a successful House Leader is an experience House leadership team. Rodriquez will be assisted by veteran MPs Mark Holland and Kevin Lamoureux and former Ministers Kirsty Duncan and Ginette Petitpas-Taylor.
- Mark Holland | Chief Government Whip
- Kirsty Duncan | Deputy House Leader
- Ginette Petitpas-Taylor | Deputy Government Whip
- Kevin Lamoureux | Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader
Streamlined Cabinet Committees
Along with a renewed front bench, the Prime Minister has also announced the restructuring of Cabinet committees:
- Cabinet Committee on Agenda, Results and Communications
- Treasury Board
- Cabinet Committee on Operations
- Cabinet Committee on Economy and the Environment
- Cabinet Committee on Reconciliation
- Cabinet Committee on Health and Social Affairs
- Cabinet Committee on Global Affairs and Public Security
Cabinet Mainstays and Minor Tweaks
Despite the extent of the Cabinet shakeup, The Prime Minister will rely on several Ministers to keep a steady hand on the helm of critical portfolios including Finance, National Revenue, Justice, Defence, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Agriculture and Agri-Food and Indigenous-Crown Relations.
A not-so-incidental development over the past three quarters in Canada is that, despite strong job numbers, there are worrying signs of an economic downturn that could lead to a recession. The global economy is now in what Kristalina Georgieva, the new head of the IMF describes as a “synchronized slowdown,” while here at home, high debt levels and struggles in the resource and manufacturing sectors continue. Bill Morneau’s return to Finance is about providing Bay Street a large measure of assurance that this is no time for on-the-job training in the most crucial portfolio in Cabinet. Morneau has also earned the trust of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues by establishing a reputation for strong collaborative skills with Planning and Priorities and ably righting his own ship after his near-death experience with the introduction of tax policy measures in his second year on the job. He has become a better communicator, and he’s proven he has the Prime Minister’s back with such bold measures as the purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the implementation of retaliatory tariffs with the US.
Navdeep Bains will continue to lead Innovation, Science and Industry but under a re-named and re-profiled department that fully reintegrates authority over science but will no longer manage economic development. Mary Ng gets a boosted role, assuming all International Trade responsibilities, while Joyce Murray retains Digital Government duties but will no longer lead the Treasury Board. Explicit responsibilities for science, sport and tourism have all been folded back into larger departments.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Champagne’s move to Global Affairs signals a recalibration of priorities inevitable in a minority parliament. An activist agenda on the world stage is less the focus than an able and diligent management style that lowers the tensions where possible. The fires this government needs to put out are not quite so intense in Washington, and establishing Canada’s place in the world through multilateral commitments is not as important as a more transactional, incrementalist approach – in particular with China, as tensions continue to simmer on a number of key trade fronts. Champagne earned his bona fides for this role as Minister of International Trade, where he became a tireless brand ambassador for Canadian enterprise, most notably in the ASEAN countries (where he had established strong ties from his time before government with AMEC, a large international player in the energy sector). Expect him to maintain that focus on bringing – and keeping – good Canadian jobs to those high growth communities that can benefit most from transnational entrepreneurial capital and access to rapidly developing supply chains.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Wilkinson was raised and educated in Saskatchewan and become politically involved while in the province, which included serving as an advisor to Premier Roy Romanov as well as working in the provincial civil service. He is likely to be relied upon to provide a Saskatchewan lens to Cabinet decisions amidst the lack of Liberal representation in the province. During his time as a Parliamentary Secretary to Catherine McKenna in the Environment portfolio, Wilkinson quickly became known for his deep understanding of policy. While Fisheries Minister, his strong working rapport with BC’s coastal communities only further enhanced his bona fides for leadership on what will arguably be the most important portfolio for the government, apart from Finance.
Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
To view McKenna’s new role in Cabinet as a demotion is a misread on the priorities of this Liberal government’s mandate. From the Trudeau team’s first platform, infrastructure has been central to their vision of how the federal government can drive regional economic development.
The Liberals have taken an activist approach to the portfolio on a number of fronts, from the National Housing Strategy to urban transit funding to the advent of the Infrastructure Bank. Each initiative has weathered significant challenges, and much of the criticism has been focused on a lack of leadership and vision at the Cabinet table itself.
François Philippe Champagne’s approach was to take on the Minister’s role as national brand ambassador and evangelist for P3 projects across the country and abroad, as he racked up air miles and leveraged his impressive network of international contacts to garner the political capital for large scale investments. McKenna will assuredly take a different approach, but she has been successful in winning over a significant number of champions around the Cabinet table and in caucus in her last role as Environment Minister. As a communicator, the PMO contends she has also improved considerably. This is her opportunity to get some large-scale projects green-lit and show she has the ability to work effectively and collaboratively with provincial and municipal partners and communities. You could say no Minister has had better training for this role.
(St. John’s South—Mount Pearl)
Minister of Natural Resources
Coming from an oil-producing province, O’Regan will provide a new lens to the Natural Resources portfolio to quell some concerns with the energy sector.
Serving previously as minister for the portfolios of Veterans’ Affairs and Indigenous Services, O’Regan, struggled in the Veterans’ Affairs role and held the Indigenous Services role for a short period. He is a former TV anchor for CTV, where he worked for nearly ten years. He also served as a senior policy advisor to a former Liberal Newfoundland and Labrador Premier and was a political staffer for the province’s Justice Minister.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
As Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in the first Liberal mandate, Hussen was considered a strong team player as he worked closely with Blair to manage the ongoing challenges from irregular migration. A noted community organizer brought into Dalton McGuinty’s team at Queen’s Park; he has strong ties to the Prime Minister’s team of key advisors within the PMO – including Katie Telford. His new role will allow him to focus on a mandate that gives him more good news to announce than difficult issues to manage.
Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages
Joly was promoted to the portfolio of economic development. The once embattled minister struggled in her first ministerial portfolio as Heritage Minister for failing to tax web giants and faltering because of her overall political inexperience. After being demoted to Minister of Tourism (keeping the Official Languages portfolio), she played a pivotal role in calling out the Ford government in Ontario over its decision to cut services to Ontario francophones. She was viewed as a very effective Tourism Minister.
The Montreal MP and long-time Trudeau confident is rewarded for her strong ground game during the federal election and popularity in Quebec. She was comfortably re-elected in her Montreal riding and will work to ensure Quebec is well represented.
Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
Chaggers’ appointment as Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth can be directly linked to the need to install a more experience House Leader to manage a minority parliament where the role of is much more critical to the government and its ability to maintain the confidence of the House. A well-liked and respected caucus colleague, she will bring a breath of fresh air and energy to files that touch youth, diversity and inclusion issues.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
Qualtrough has been appointed as Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. Before being elected in 2015, Qualtrough practiced human rights law at the federal and provincial levels. Qualtrough has served in a number of different roles under the Trudeau government and is regarded as a strong performer. After being named Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities in 2015, she was shuffled to Public Services and Procurement following the resignation of Judy Foote. Qualtrough was also the acting President of the Treasury Board after Jane Philpott resigned in reaction to the SNC-Lavalin Affair. Qualtrough – who has been visually impaired since birth maintains the role of overseeing accessibility and disability inclusion.
President of the Treasury Board
Duclos, an economist and MP from Québec City, will take over as President of the Treasury Board after serving as Vice-Chair during Trudeau’s first mandate. He was previously Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. Duclos is seen as a policy wonk and less of a communicator, and it is likely he will stay in the background during this mandate.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Blair’s strong law and order background as the former Chief of Toronto Police Services served him well as he took on, as Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, the groundwork for the cannabis legislation. His promotion to Cabinet with the Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction portfolio cemented his reputation as a reliable and able communicator on difficult files, further burnished by his talent for community relations as a Scarborough MP. He is the clear, logical choice for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, filling large shoes in caucus, given Ralph Goodale’s strong work here.
(Thunder Bay-Superior North)
Minister of Health
Hajdu will take over the role of Minister of Health where she will lean upon her previous experiences, specifically her time spent on drug policy, having served as the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy Coordinator. Hajdu was first appointed to Cabinet as a rookie MP in 2015, taking the role of Minister of Status of Women. Having garnered a reputation as a competent Minister and good team player, she was promoted to Employment, Workforce Development and Labour in 2017.
Minister of Labour
Tassi earned strong bona fides as a community activist in Hamilton and was a key figure behind the scenes during the steel crisis caused by the Section 232 tariffs from the US. She was viewed as a Cabinet member with strong EQ who worked well with stakeholders in her former role with the Seniors file. Tassi’s first real test with be managing the current CN Rail strike, which comes at a critical time for western grain farmers.
Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development
As a rookie MP in 2015, Maryam Monsef was immediately vaulted to Cabinet as Minister of Democratic Institutions, becoming one of the youngest Canadians, and first Muslim, to ever be appointed to Cabinet. As Minister of Democratic Institutions, Monsef came under scrutiny for her handling of the Electoral Reform File. Monsef was shuffled to Minister of Status of Women in 2017, where she introduced Canada’s first-ever Strategy to Prevent Gender-Based Violence and lead the transformation of Status of Women from a federal agency to a full-fledged government department. Monsef now adds to her responsibilities the Rural Economic Development portfolio, where she will be a key spokesperson for the Government’s rollout of rural broadband.
Minister of International Development
Gould has been named the Minister of International Development. The youngest woman to ever serve in a Canadian Cabinet, she previously served as the Minister of Democratic Institutions and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. Trilingual in English, French and Spanish, in her pre-politics career, Gould worked for the Mexican Trade Commission, the Migration and Development Program at the Organization of American States and volunteered for a year at an orphanage in Mexico.
President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
Leblanc keeps his position as President for the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada but has been moved from Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade. He has also been appointed Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Operations. Leblanc, who serves as MP for Beauséjour in New Brunswick, stepped back from politics in April 2019 to focus on his medical treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He underwent a stem cell transplant on September 18, 2019, and was released from the hospital on November 5, 2019. The President of the Privy Council is in charge of the Privy Council Office and has the ceremonial duty of presiding over state meetings. Leblanc has held a number of roles since the Liberals won government in 2015, including Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
First elected to Parliament in 2015, Jordan was appointed to Trudeau’s Cabinet as Minister of Rural Economic Development in 2019 after proving that she can be relied upon. Prior to being appointed Minister, she was elected by her peers to serve as Chair of the Atlantic Liberal Caucus. More importantly, she is no stranger to her new file; Jordan also served as Chair of the House Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. A female Member of Parliament representing Nova Scotia with her experience made Jordan a no-brainer for her new file.
Minister of Public Services and Procurement
Anand will take on the unenviable task of replacing the Phoenix pay system and will oversee all major federal procurements, which includes all defence acquisitions. Furthermore, Anand will be responsible for overseeing the viability of establishing a standalone Defence Procurement Agency as the Liberals alluded to over the course of the campaign.
A Law Professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, Anand was a star candidate for the liberals in the GTA, successfully holding the riding of Oakville. In her time at University of Toronto, she held the role of J.R. Kimber Chair in Investor Protection and Corporate Governance, was a Senior Fellow and member of the Governing Board of Massey College, and was the Director of Policy and Research at the Capital Markets Research Institute.
In 2015, Anita was appointed by Ontario’s then Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa, to sit on the Ontario government’s Expert Committee to Consider Financial Planning Policy Alternatives and has written opinion pieces of financial corporate governance. Though she has a legal background, she comes from a family of medical practitioners with her mother and father as a surgeon, and anaesthesiologist while her sister as a medical practitioner.
Minister of Canadian Heritage
High profile environmentalist and political neophyte. The co-founder of Équiterre, a well-esteemed and influential environmental organization, is popular in Quebec and among politicians for his devotion to the environment and considerable communication skills. The Montreal MP faced intense scrutiny from environmentalists and progressive voters during the campaign over his decision to run for a party that purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline but was also viewed as too radical to Western Canadians for his anti-pipeline outbursts.
Facing calls of Western alienation on one side of the country and a resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois on the other side, assigning Guilbeault to a ministry, bolsters Trudeau’s Quebec inner circle while keeping provincial tensions at bay.
Minister of Indigenous Services
Back in June of 2017, when Miller, the Prime Minister’s boyhood friend and MP for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs delivered a speech in the House in the Mohawk language, it was clear that he took engagement with Indigenous communities very seriously. A high achiever who has both a law career and time as an infantry commander also earned a great deal of respect from his caucus colleagues for being a quick study. The Prime Minister trusts him and considers him a close confidant; they went to high school and university together, and prior to their time in office, travelled to Africa together. Many key stakeholders will view this as a well-deserved promotion that also comes with the strategic advantage of providing Quebec greater representation around the Cabinet table.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Re-elected in the diverse riding of Eglinton-Lawrence in Toronto, Mendicino will now oversee the Liberal government’s immigration increases. Mendicino previously served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Justice and Infrastructure ministers and has been deployed as a public communicator for the government’s policies regularly and is well-liked by his caucus.
Mendicino was a federal prosecutor for nearly ten years and fought against organized crime and put terrorists – including members of the ‘Toronto 18” – behind bars. Mendicino is seen as a hyper-partisan Liberal through years of grassroots work with the party.
Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance
First elected in a 2017 by-election following the passing of long-time Liberal Mauril Belanger, Mona’s assent to Cabinet comes on the heels of her stickhandling the 2019 Liberal Election Platform as Co-Chair with Ralph Goodale. Mona is seen as a team player, after having been a staunch defender of the Prime Minister as a Member of the Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics throughout the SNC Lavalin scandal. She is being rewarded for these efforts by having a hand in the crafting of the federal budget and ensuring that the primary Liberal narrative of helping the middle class is reflected.
Minister of Seniors
Schulte will use her experience as Chair of the Liberal Seniors’ Caucus to oversee the government’s rollout for further support for one of the most vulnerable groups in Canada. First elected in 2015, she was the Chair of the House Environment Committee and then promoted to Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. She held her seat in the Greater Toronto Area. She is a former York Region councillor and holds a mechanical engineering degree from Princeton University. Schulte spent 20 years working at Bombardier Aerospace.
(Saint Boniface—Saint Vital)
Minister of Northern Affairs
One of the four remaining Prairie Liberal MPs, Vandal, will now also represent the interests of Canada’s North. His appointment to Cabinet is an important nod to Indigenous Canadians and is a testament to his strong work as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services in the last Parliament. Vandal is a former Winnipeg City Councillor and Deputy Mayor and was Chair of the Board of Directors for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
A Government in Transition
In the coming weeks, Ministers will meet with their Deputies and other departmental officials to review their mandates, be briefed on key policy areas and begin charting a course for delivering on their priorities. Mandate letters authored by the Prime Minister are in hand, but they will be released publicly at a later date, presumably with the return of Parliament and the delivery of the Speech from the Throne on December 5.
It is understood that a lineup of Chiefs of Staff has been selected and affirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office and will be matched with Ministers over the coming week while other senior roles in those offices will fall into place shortly thereafter. Next up, the Prime Minister will draw from his remaining MPs to appoint Parliamentary Secretaries who will help their Ministers and, while Bloc Québécois Leader has gotten a jump on his caucus responsibilities, Opposition Leaders will unveil their critic roster to shadow Cabinet positions.