Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled Wednesday a larger cabinet with local ministers taking a bigger role on infrastructure and finances in the Liberals’ minority government.
Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, who held the high-profile environment and climate change portfolio in the previous government, will now become minister of infrastructure and community.
Only eight ministers were not moved, the most important being Bill Morneau who remains finance minister. But he will now be bolstered by Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier, who takes on the newly created post of minister of middle-class prosperity and associate finance minister.
The pivotal role in his new cabinet for a minority-government era went to Chrystia Freeland, who moved from the prestigious Global Affairs portfolio to become deputy prime minister and minister in charge of intergovernmental affairs.
Freeland, whom Trudeau tapped to deal with mercurial U.S. President Donald Trump during the tense renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, will now be in charge of dealing with hostile conservative premiers across the country.
That will be particularly important in Canada’s oil and gas heartland, Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Liberals were shut out on Oct. 21.
The Toronto MP, who has family roots in Alberta, won praise as a tough, canny negotiator during the trade talks. Her diplomatic and negotiating skills will be put to the test in dealing with Alberta’s Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford.
In a further sign of outreach to the West, Trudeau tapped Jonathan Wilkinson, formerly fisheries minister, to take on the environment portfolio.
The post will be central to the government’s aim to take stronger measures to combat climate change while attempting to ensure Canada’s transition off fossil fuels does not tank the economy, particularly in the oil-producing western provinces where separatist talk has escalated in the wake of the election.
Although Wilkinson represents a British Columbia riding, he was born and raised in Saskatchewan and worked for the province’s former NDP government.
Winnipeg MP Jim Carr, one of Trudeau’s most reliable ministers who received a diagnosis of cancer the day after the election, is no longer in cabinet. But Trudeau has appointed him to be his “special representative for the Prairies … (to) ensure that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a strong voice in Ottawa.”
Another of his most reliable ministers who is also battling cancer, New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, remains in cabinet in a reduced role as president of the Queen’s Privy Council. A bald LeBlanc, who recently received a stem cell transplant after rounds of chemotherapy, showed up for Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony wearing a face mask, which he removed briefly while taking the oath.
Seamus O’Regan was moved from Indigenous Services to take on Natural Resources, a crucial file as the government attempts to square the circle of tackling climate change while simultaneously expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline to carry Alberta crude to the B.C. coast for export overseas.
He hails from Newfoundland and Labrador, the only other oil-producing province.
Trudeau’s new lineup also includes outreach to Quebec, in response to a resurgence of the separatist Bloc Quebecois in the election.
Montreal MP Pablo Rodriguez, formerly Canadian Heritage minister, takes on the crucial role of government House leader.
He will be responsible for charting a path for the Liberals, who hold only a minority of seats, to get their legislation through the House of Commons. Passage of legislation will require the support of at least one opposition party.
Rodriguez has also been named political minister for Quebec – a position Trudeau had resisted creating until now.
In all, Trudeau’s new team includes 36 ministers – an increase of two – including 17 from Ontario, the province that ensured the Liberals’ re-election, and 10 from Quebec.
It maintains Trudeau’s insistence on an equal number of men and women, adds two newly elected MPs and elevates five experienced MPs from the backbench.
In addition to Carr, Trudeau has dropped two others from cabinet – former health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, who will serve as deputy whip, and former science minister Kirsty Duncan, who will serve as deputy House leader.
Other newcomers include Trudeau’s long-time friend, Montreal MP Marc Miller, who moves from the backbench to Indigenous Services, rookie Oakville MP Anita Anand, who takes over public services and procurement, and rookie Montreal MP Steven Guilbeault, a prominent environmentalist, who was given the heritage portfolio.
Other new additions include Toronto MP Marco Mendicino, who takes over immigration, Toronto-area MP Deb Schulte who takes over as seniors minister, and Manitoba MP Dan Vandal, who becomes minister of northern affairs.
Trudeau has created a number of new portfolios, including one which appears to be an attempt to repair the damage done during the campaign by the disclosure of mortifying, long-ago photos showing Trudeau in blackface – a scandal that tarnished his image as a champion of diversity and inclusion.
He has now named Bardish Chagger, previously House leader, to be minister of the newly created post of diversity, inclusion and youth.
Other moves include Francois-Philippe Champagne to Foreign Affairs; Patti Hajdu to Health; Jean-Yves Duclos to Treasury Board; Karina Gould to International Development; Ahmed Hussen to Families, Children and Social Development; Bernadette Jordan to Fisheries; Joyce Murray to the newly created post of Digital Government; Carla Qualtrough to Employment; Melanie Joly to Economic Development; and Filomena Tassi to Labour.
Among the few who were not moved were Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Justice Minister David Lametti, National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer blasted Trudeau’s new cabinet line-up, accusing the prime minister of doubling down on “the same faces and the same failures.”
“The cabinet he unveiled today is a bigger and more bloated version of the same one that helped create an affordability crisis for Canadian families, attacked our energy sector and put thousands of Canadians out of work and set the stage for a national unity crisis,” Scheer said in a statement.
He added that the appointment of Guilbeault, a long-time anti-pipeline activist, will “only further stoke divisions” Trudeau has created in the country.
New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said he is more concerned with what the cabinet ministers do than who they are.
“What this government needs more than new ministers is a new commitment to working with us to deliver for Canadians,” Singh said in a statement.
“When they’re ready to work to protect and create jobs, make life more affordable, invest in the services people need, and ensure real steps are taken to fight the climate crisis – New Democrats will work with the prime minister and his new cabinet.”
– With files from OBJ staff