Almost one month to the day the Liberals won a minority government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled his new cabinet. It still has gender parity, but there are some shakeups. Several ministers who played key roles in the first term of the Trudeau government have moved to new posts, including Jonathan Wilkinson (now environment minister), François-Philippe Champagne (foreign affairs minister), Seamus O'Regan (natural resources minister), Catherine McKenna (minister of infrastructure and communities), and Chrystia Freeland (now deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs). Other key players include Bill Morneau, who remains finance minister, and house leader Pablo Rodriguez.
In 2015, Trudeau’s cabinet was met with public fanfare and optimistic praise from political pundits. Last time around, Trudeau declared that he was “proud to present a cabinet that looks like Canada.” He also delivered the now-famous line responding to why his cabinet was gender-equal: “because it’s 2015.” Flanked by his new ministers (with former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in full view), Trudeau addressed a hopeful nation.
What a difference four years makes. This ceremony was more subdued and closed to the public. In 2019, Trudeau is facing a divided country, a definitively-more hostile House of Commons and growing threats of western separatism. Here's what you need to know about Trudeau’s new cabinet.
Chrystia Freeland Has A Critical New Role
While The Toronto Star says Freeland’s move from her global role as foreign affairs minister to a more domestic focus as minister of intergovernmental affairs and deputy prime minister is “the defining move” of Trudeau’s cabinet shakeup, a pundit during the livestream of the news on CTV called the shuffle a “significant demotion” for the Toronto MP, who has been a high-profile and successful diplomat for the Liberals.
So, is Freeland’s move a promotion or a demotion? It depends how you look at it. In the past, a move from foreign affairs to intergovernmental affairs would be seen as a step down, but in this current climate, when Trudeau is battling tensions with western provinces, moving Freeland is a show of faith from the PM. He wants Freeland (who is originally from Alberta) to help with national unity. Plus, the deputy prime minister title adds more prestige to the position. While the role has been mainly symbolic in the past, it will no doubt hold more responsibilities with Freeland at the helm. (Freeland is also rumoured to be next in line to succeed Trudeau as the Liberal Party leader.) The Globe And Mail reports that even in her new role, Freeland will still be in charge of legislation to ratify USMCA, Canada’s new trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. Freeland helped craft the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
François-Philippe Champagne Got A Promotion
Set to fill Freeland’s vacancy at the foreign affairs minister post is François-Philippe Champagne. Previously the minister of infrastructure and communities, Champagne's move is being touted as the biggest promotion among the ministers. The National Post says that what Champagne lacks in name recognition (what Freeland had), he makes up for in his “easy-going manner.” He’s got a good reputation and an “unfailingly upbeat” personality, which he’s going to need in his new post. He’s got some big challenges ahead such as trade talks with China (and repairing Canada-China relations), working with the U.S, and expanding Canada’s trade globally.
Climate Change Action Is Going To Determine Trudeau’s Next Four Years
Jonathan Wilkinson takes over the role of minister of environment and climate change from Catherine McKenna, who was shuffled to infrastructure and communities. Wilkinson was formerly the minister of fisheries and oceans so yeah, this tracks. Climate change and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion were major election topics and will continue to be defining issues for the Liberals. Wilkinson is the MP for North Vancouver so he’s in the know about the pipeline. He’ll also be in charge of the divisive carbon tax — opposed heavily by Saskatchewan and Alberta. Wilkinson has the high-pressure task of making sure the Liberals hit the climate promises they campaigned on while also keeping the provinces happy. Moving McKenna may also help placate Alberta premier Jason Kenney. The premier publicly suggested to The Globe and Mail weeks ago that Trudeau should find a new role for McKenna, alleging she is anti-pipeline.
Trudeau is Addressing Wexit Head-On
While there was some criticism of the lack of western representation in Trudeau’s newly appointed cabinet (which Trudeau blamed on the election results), there were two Manitoba MPs added to the PM’s inner circle. Dan Vandal is a brand-new cabinet minister and will be taking on the portfolio of northern affairs. The other is Jim Carr of Winnipeg South Centre. Carr, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, has served as the minister of international trade diversification and minister of natural resources, but his new role as a special advisor was created specifically to address relations between the government and Western Canada. It “ensure[s] that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a strong voice in Ottawa,” Trudeau said.