The 2019 Federal Cabinet

The 2019 Federal Cabinet

The Federal Cabinet

In choosing the members of cabinet, prime ministers usually try to match the experience of ministers with the nature of the portfolio.  In a majority government, past experience that matches the assignment is “nice to have” but not necessarily essential.

In a minority, a different set of dynamics comes to the fore.  In an environment where the ability to calm difficult premiers and stakeholders and the political sensitivity to work across party lines may be the keys to success, such attributes as tact and diplomacy become highly-prized.

For the most part, today’s appointments suggest the prime minister went some distance in matching the background and skills of ministers not only with portfolio demands, but also the need to address regional tensions and electoral realities.

Key Ministerial Changes

Chrystia Freeland, formerly Minister of Foreign Affairs, becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The position of Deputy Prime Minister is conferred at the discretion of the prime minister; the last individual to occupy the position was Anne McLellan in the government of Jean Chrétien. Prime ministers have used different models in defining the role. Under the Mulroney government, Don Mazankowski was effectively the chief operating officer of the government with a large dedicated staff; in other cases, the deputy prime minister is simply the most senior minister in cabinet.

In her new role, Minister Freeland will play the lead role in managing the tensions and cross-currents in the federation resulting from western alienation, Quebec’s Bill 21 and provincial resistance to the federal climate change initiatives. Her proven diplomatic skills and the fact that she was born and raised in Alberta will be helpful in western Canada.  Her position as Deputy Prime Minister will also ease the pressure on the Prime Minister in cases where he might be a lightening rod for regional tensions.

It remains to be seen how Minister Freeland will develop this new role, and the extent to which she will involve herself in the day-to-day running of major files that effect federal/provincial/territorial relationships. Answers to these questions will over time determine the tools and staff she will have at her disposal.

François-Philippe Champagne, formerly Minister of International Trade Infrastructure Canada, becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs.  He brings international business experience to his new role, having worked abroad as an international lawyer and trade specialist.  Prior to politics, he worked in senior positions for ABB Canada, a global engineering firm.

In his new role, Mr. Champagne will have to handle the smoldering China file, in which he has some history. In 2017, when the prime minister’s attempts to start free trade negotiations with China went off the rails, Mr. Champagne was left behind to patch things up with the Chinese, after Mr. Trudeau and his entourage left Beijing.

In addition to managing the Canadian side of the ratification of the Canada-United States-Mexico trade agreement, he also inherits stewardship of Canada’s bid to secure election to the United Nations Security Council, an initiative that is apparently not going well.

Jonathan Wilkinson, formerly Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, becomes Minister of Environment and Climate Change. His low-key, business-like approach will be valuable to the government in pursuing the climate change agenda, which is central to the government’s second term.

Like Minister Freeland, he has deep western roots; he grew up in Saskatoon, worked as an advisor to Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow and served in the provincial civil service in the early 1990s.  He also has significant experience as an executive with several environmental technology companies in Vancouver before entering politics.

An early challenge for Mr. Wilkinson will to finalize the regulations for Bill C-69 (large resource project approvals) and Bill C-48 (west coast oil tanker ban), both which were vigorously opposed by energy-producing provinces and industry in the last Parliament. The prime minister recently committed to consult on the implementation of Bill C-69.

Pablo Rodriguez moves from Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism to Government House Leader.  He is also appointed Quebec Lieutenant. Mr. Rodriguez is an affable, experienced and highly political MP, skills he will need in the all-important role of House Leader in a minority Parliament.

Catherine McKenna, formerly Minister of Environment and Climate Change, becomes Minister of Infrastructure.  Ms. McKenna proved to be a somewhat controversial minister in her previous portfolio, and her relationships with several provinces were difficult.

Federal/provincial/territorial relations over infrastructure are generally more friendly, but her greatest challenge will be getting money out the door for a government with a likely lifespan of 18-24 months.  Successive reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General have suggested that federal infrastructure money is chronically slow in flowing to the provinces and territories.

Jean-Yves Duclos moves from Families, Children and Social Development to Treasury Board.  Virtually invisible in the former government, Mr. Duclos was Director of the Department of Economics and a tenured professor at l’Université Laval prior to entering politics.

Bill Blair moves from Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction to Public Safety.  A former Toronto Chief of Police, Mr. Blair earned plaudits in the previous government for his steady and low-key handling of difficult immigration and gun control files and will be a knowledgeable successor to Ralph Goodale in his new portfolio.

Patty Hajdu moves from Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to become Minister of Health, where she will be responsible for coordinating the national response to the fentanyl crisis and managing the government’s steps to bring in a national pharmacare program.

Mary Ng, formerly Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion is appointed Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade.

Carla Qualtrough, formerly Minister of Public Services and Procurement, is the new Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

Filomena Tassi moves from Seniors to Minister of Labour.  She will immediately be required to deal with the current CN Rail strike which is blocking the weekly shipment of 500,000 barrels of oil and 5,600 hopper cars of wheat to domestic and foreign markets.

Bardish Chagger moves Government House Leader to a new department, Diversity, and Inclusion and Youth.

Karina Gould, formerly Minister of Democratic Institutions, moves to Minister of International Development where she served previously as Parliamentary Secretary so she knows the files.

Ahmed Hussen, formerly Minister of Immigration, is appointed Minister of Families, Children and Social development.

Melanie Joly, formerly Minister of Tourism and Official Languages becomes Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages. The Economic Development part of her portfolio includes responsibility for the regional development agencies.

Bernadette Jordan, formerly Minister of Rural Economic Development is appointed Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coastguard.

Maryam Monsef, formerly Minister for Women and Gender Equality, becomes Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.

Staying in place

Bill Morneau remains at Finance Canada. He faces the unenviable task of managing the country’s finances in a period when his cabinet colleagues will be anxious to spend money to fulfill the government’s mandate in a reduced minority government timeframe.  He will also need to keep an eye out for deteriorating global economic conditions, as most forecasters anticipate a downturn in the medium-term future.

Navdeep Bains will continue as Minister of Innovation and Science.

Harjit Sajjan continues as Minister of National Defence.

David Lametti returns as Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

Marc Garneau continues as Minister of Transport.

Marie-Claude Bibeau continues as Minister of Agriculture and Food.

Seamus O’Regan moves from Indigenous Services to Minister of Natural Resources.

Dominic Leblanc, who early stepped out of cabinet due to illness, becomes President of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada.

Carolyn Bennett is returned as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

Diane Lebouthillier retains National Revenue.

Lawrence MacAulay continues at Veterans Affairs and as Associate Minister of National Defence.

Joyce Murray moves from Treasury Board to the new Department of Digital Government.

New Ministers

Steven Guilbeault is appointed Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, having been just elected on October 21.  He has a strong background on the climate change front.  A founding member of Équiterre, a Quebec environmental organization, he was also director and campaign manager for the Quebec chapter of Greenpeace for ten years.

Deb Schulte is appointed Minister for Seniors.  She was first elected in the 2015 Canadian federal election. She is a graduate of Princeton University, with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Mona Fortier is appointed Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance. Ms. Fortier was recently the Liberals’ Platform Co-Chair along with Ralph Goodale.

Anita Anand joins cabinet as Minister of Public Services and Procurement, which includes responsibility for the National Capital Commission.  Just elected on October 21, she was the J.R. Kimber Chair in Investor Protection and Corporate Governance at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law and Scholar-in-Residence at the law firm Torys LLP.

Dan Vandal is appointed as Minister of Northern Affairs.  This department has been split off from Crown-Indigenous Relations, where it formerly resided.

Marco Mendicino is appointed Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. He is a former President of the Association of Justice Counsel when he was a Department of Justice lawyer.

Marc Miller joins cabinet as Minister of Indigenous Services, succeeding Seamus O’Regan in that role.

Not returning

Two ministers who were in the pre-election cabinet were not included in today’s appointments.  Ginette Petitpas Taylor was Minister of Health and Kirsty Duncan was Minister of Science.

Special Representative for the Prairies

The Prime Minister has asked Jim Carr, who is battling cancer, to serve as his special representative for the Prairies. His mandate is to “ensure that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have a strong voice in Ottawa.” He will attend cabinet committee meetings.

House Leader’s team
  • Kirsty Duncan will serve as Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons;
  • Mark Holland will serve as Chief Government Whip;
  • Ginette Petitpas Taylor will serve as Deputy Government Whip; and
  • Kevin Lamoureux will serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Key Structural Changes

There are several structural changes and new divisions of labour signaled by today’s appointment of cabinet, some of which will require significant machinery changes. There is also some overlap that will have to be sorted out.

  • ISED changes substantially. Economic development is stripped out; Industry is once again part of its name, presumably to restore a sectoral focus; and Science is no longer separate.
  • This means policy continuity is the controversial dynamic around telecommunications, and less separation between innovation and science.
  • Economic development and the regional development agencies now rest formally with Melanie Joly, with rural development going to Maryam Monsef. However, the agencies will still be housed within the new ISI (formerly ISED) where Navdeep Bains is the senior minister.
  • Two reconfigured economic portfolios likely fall under departmental umbrellas rather than standing alone including:
    • Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance — Mona Fortier—which will fall under Finance.
    • Small business, export promotion and international trade – Mary Ng – which will go to Global Affairs and essentially grafts small business onto the trade role.
  • There has been a significant change at Employment and Social Development Canada. It will be split into two:
    • Families, Children and Social Development – Ahmed Hussen
    • Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion – Carla Qualtrough.  Presumably Labour – Filomena Tassi – continues to report here.
  • There is a new ministerial combination whose role is a mix of social and economic but has an unclear reporting line: Women, Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development – Maryam Monsef
  • It is a big surprise that a new MP with no political experience takes over Public Services and Procurement. Anita Anand comes with a very strong CV but faces some very difficult challenges including the Phoenix pay system and the broken jumble that is government procurement.
  • There will be a separate minister for Digital Services – Joyce Murray. Until now, digital transformation had rested with Treasury Board. It is not clear where Murray will be housed with all the recent changes around this file.

Cabinet committees have been streamlined somewhat and revert to traditional patterns, including the resurrection of the inner Operations Committee which will be chaired by Dominic LeBlanc. This is to respond to criticism that the committee system had been too cumbersome, was consuming time better spent engaging with stakeholders and that there was no venue for the PM to talk to senior ministers.