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PM Trudeau Announces New Cabinet

Published on
November 20, 2019

This afternoon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Liberal Cabinet for his second term in office.  Mr. Trudeau and his advisors chose to expand the number of Cabinet Ministers by two from 35 to 37. He maintains gender parity.  

Now operating within a minority parliament, the Government faces new hurdles in implementing its agenda. It must maintain the confidence of at least one opposition party for all major votes; with three potential partners - the NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives - this may be the least of the Liberal’s challenges. At least equally pressing is the need to heal growing regional divides, following a clear message from Saskatchewan and Alberta where the Liberals failed to win a single seat, and in fact, lost two Cabinet Minister in Ralph Goodale and Armajeet Sohi. In Quebec, where the Liberals expected sizeable gains, the party instead lost five seats, going from 40 to 35 MPs. Showing that the Liberals govern for all of Canada has become the #1 job for the Prime Minister and his colleagues.

The need to show empathy with regional concerns must be balanced by the drive to implement campaign commitments, including around climate action, social programs and infrastructure investment.

Top-line changes that reflect the Government's pressing priorities include:

  • Hon. Chrystia Freeland moves from Foreign Affairs to Intergovernmental Affairs. She has also been named Deputy Prime Minister. Minister Freeland, viewed as a star performer in her previous role, will be asked to address regional concerns, negotiate with provinces (many of which are led by Conservative Premiers), and ensure that her colleagues across Government are pulling in the same direction to heal a divided Canada. Minister Freeland was born in Alberta, which may give her a measure of credibility in that province; more likely, her strength will come from her success at navigating the renegotiation of NAFTA with challenging counterparties in Washington. It is worth noting that despite the change in portfolio, Minister Freeland has been asked to continue to contribute to ensuring strong Canada-U.S. relations.
  • Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson moves from Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to Environment and Climate Change. Minister Wilkinson served as the Parliamentary Secretary to then Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, so he knows the files well. He is a sitting MP in Vancouver, was born in Saskatchewan, and worked as an executive in the cleantech space before entering politics.
  • Hon. Seamus O’Regan moves from Indigenous Services to Natural Resources. Minister O’Regan hails from Newfoundland and has been a long-time friend and ally of the Prime Minister. He will be tasked with getting the Transmountain Pipeline built while supporting the development and deployment of clean energy across Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador is rich with both renewables and hydrocarbon resources, making Minister O’Regan an attractive choice. It remains to be seen, however, if he can convince Albertans that he is indeed working for them.
  • Hon. Catherine McKenna moves from Environment and Climate Change to Infrastructure and Communities. To help ease the transition off of fossil fuels, the Liberals have committed $180 billion over 12 years in federal infrastructure investments, to be deployed through mechanisms like bilateral agreements with each province and territory and a national infrastructure bank. In the first mandate the money was slow to move. Minister McKenna will be charged with accelerating allocations into projects that are both supported by other levels of government and that support the Liberal Government's progressive agenda.
  • Hon. Pablo Rodriguez moves from Canadian Heritage to Government House Leader. Minister Rodriguez will be core to negotiating support for Liberal legislation and budgets with the opposition parties. He is well liked across party lines and, as a Quebecker, is well-placed to negotiate with the Bloc.

Other high-profile decisions include:

  • Hon. Bill Morneau stays at Finance. Minister Morneau has been in the job of Finance Minister for the past four years and evidently the Prime Minister felt that continuity was both earned and advisable. There were no obvious successors and amidst regional tensions and a wobbly economy the Prime Minister kept a steady hand on the tiller.
  • Hon. François-Philippe Champagne moves from Infrastructure and Communities to Global Affairs. This is a significant promotion for an energetic and effective Minister who first entered Cabinet as the Minister of International Trade.
  • Hon. Navdeep Bains stays at Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Minister Bains did a credible job at ISED and has retained the position. However, he has lost oversight of the Regional Economic Development Agencies to Minister Melanie Joly.  
  • Hon. Patty Hajdu moves from Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to Minister of Health. This is a promotion for Minister Hajdu who will be responsible for designing and implementing a national pharmacare system.  
  • Hon. Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs replaces Hon. Jim Carr as a Minister from Manitoba. This is a significant promotion from his previous role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services. Minister Vandal is Métis.
  • Quebec picked up two additional Cabinet positions while Ontario picked up three additional Cabinet positions. Another change of note is that New Brunswick lost one Ministerial position.

There were also a few notable surprises and rearranged portfolio responsibilities:

  • Hon. Melanie Joly gets Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages. She will now be responsible for Regional Economic Development, and will oversee a team of six parliamentary secretaries, one for each of the regional agencies.
  • Hon. Dominic Leblanc has been given the position of President of the Privy Council, a surprise given his recent health difficulties. As there will be no Minister of Democratic Institutions, responsibilities under the portfolio will fall under Minister Leblanc.
  • Hon. Mary Ng retains her position and absorbs International Trade into her role as Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will keep responsibilities for negotiating Free Trade Agreements, whereas Minister Ng will focus on expanding market opportunities for small businesses.
  • Hon. Jim Carr will serve as Mr. Trudeau's special representative for the Prairies. He was recently diagnosed with an illness, which explains his absence from the Cabinet.
  • Hon. Kirsty Duncan will no longer serve in Cabinet. Instead, she will assume the position of Deputy House Leader. The role of the Ministry of Science is absorbed by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Minister of Sport is absorbed back by Heritage.
  • Hon. Ginette Petitpas-Taylor will also no longer serve in Cabinet. Instead, she will serve as Deputy Government Whip, with Mark Holland retaining the position of Chief Government Whip.

The Sussex Strategy Group team will closely monitor and inform clients of relevant staff changes that result from today’s shuffle. Ministerial Mandate Letters are expected in the coming week or so, which will set out priorities for each Minister and may provide good hooks for engagement on files.

As always, if you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you!