Opinion | Justin Trudeau’s cabinet elections reveal how he would like to be remembered

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent several strong signals Tuesday with the appointment of his new cabinet. First, its political approach. Gone are the middle class ministers of digital government and prosperity (drawing less attention to failed benchmarks), replaced in their place by ministers of mental health, housing and tourism. Former Équiterre founder Steven Guilbeault becomes the country’s Environment Minister, while top artists Jonathan Wilkinson, Jean-Yves Duclos and Marc Miller switch roles to highlight the government’s attention to climate change. , health and reconciliation.

Second, more personal signals. Trudeau wants to be recognized for elevating capable women to positions of power. Despite the prime minister’s emphatic response that he intends to bring the Liberals to the next election, he wants the race to replace him as leader of the Liberal Party to be a fair fight. He is willing to reward performance and offer a chance at redemption. At the same time, Trudeau shows that he can be insensitive and has chosen to surround himself with friends, even the lowest achievers, who are close to him, or his chief of staff, Katie Telford.

Aside from Chrystia Freeland, who was reconfirmed as his deputy and the country’s finance minister in September, the appointment of Anita Anand from Oakville to national defense and Mélanie Joly from Montreal to the prestigious foreign affairs portfolio is significant.

As Canada’s procurement minister, Anand oversaw billions of dollars in vaccine contracts with suppliers and the purchase of PPE. She was brought to the campaign this summer to show the government’s handling of the pandemic. She will become the first defense minister since Kim Campbell to lead the department, at a time when the forces are rocked by seemingly endless sexual assault and harassment allegations involving the country’s top brass. Campbell served in the defense post for six months in 1993 before becoming prime minister, a feat Anand can hope to reflect (albeit in a longer timeline).

Joly may be less known in English Canada. A former attorney, who was in her early thirties to be mayor of Montreal and came in a surprising second place, was part of Trudeau’s leadership team. In 2015, after winning a seat in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, she was quickly appointed minister of wealth. It seemed to embody everything the Trudeau government wanted to do: youth and ambition. But after spoiling a $ 500 million investment deal with Netflix, which didn’t include specific guarantees for French programming or a streaming service tax to help fund local content, Joly was demoted in a 2018 cabinet change to minister of tourism, official languages. and the Francophonie. She was later slightly promoted to minister of economic development and maintained the official language portfolio, navigating a difficult balance with the Quebec government over imposing French laws on federally regulated businesses. Joly, a strong organizer, co-chaired the Liberals’ national campaign committee for the 2021 elections. Now, she will be Trudeau’s fifth foreign minister. It is no easy task when Ottawa must reestablish its relationship with its southern neighbor and redefine its relationship with China.

The appointments of Joly and Anand are one more indication that Trudeau is thinking about who will replace him. The prime minister must be aware that there are rumors that he is showing too much favor towards Freeland. Leaving the outgoing, competent and ambitious François-Philippe Champagne in the innovation, science and industry portfolio can also be seen through that leadership lens. Champagne previously served as foreign minister and was transferred to the innovation portfolio last January after Navdeep Bains announced his retirement from politics.

The gratifying performance explains Trudeau’s decision to return Pablo Rodríguez to the equity portfolio. Rodríguez wanted to get this job back; he previously held it in 2018, after which he was called in to replace Bardish Chagger, who was fighting for the House Leader position. Rodríguez demonstrated that he could skillfully negotiate with different parts of the House, especially during the pandemic when he found consensus on some thorny issues. Now, you will have to demonstrate those skills as you navigate what are expected to be controversial bills on online hate and broadcasting law reforms.

Mark Holland, the former government whip, is another seasoned liberal who waited patiently for his turn for cabinet, handling (cleaning) difficult files that landed on his desk, such as the electoral reform mess when he was parliamentary secretary and, more recently, deputy. personal / personnel matters. Now, he replaces Rodríguez.

The intergovernmental minister Dominic LeBlanc is a trusted friend of Trudeau, he is also an experienced politician who knows how to catch flies with honey. There may be no one in the cabinet in a better or worse position to distribute federal cash than LeBlanc as minister of infrastructure.

While Joly’s story is one of redemption, so is Ginette Petitpas Taylor of New Brunswick, the new minister for official languages ​​and minister in charge of Canada’s Atlantic Opportunity Agency. In 2015, Petitpas Taylor was appointed deputy whip of the government, and later in 2017, she was promoted to Minister of Health, replacing Jane Philpott. Two years later, she was demoted again to deputy whip.

While there are promotions, there are also demotions.

Former Public Safety Minister Bill Blair loses half his portfolio and is left with only the less attractive part of emergency preparedness. Blair, the former Toronto city police chief, spent much of the election campaign playing good soldier, delivering successful anti-gun ads targeting swing ridings. You see little reward for your actions.

Chagger of Waterloo, most recently the minister responsible for diversity, inclusion and youth, has been fired entirely from the cabinet. So has Jim Carr of Winnipeg, although he is battling blood cancer.

No one can be hurt more than former Foreign Minister Marc Garneau. According to two liberal sources, Garneau was not told before the election that he might not be re-elected to the cabinet. The former astronaut is proud and being ousted in such a public way, without any effort to preposition the message, is no way you expect a prime minister to thank his former leadership rival or someone who has never been anything but publicly loyal. .

Althia Raj is a national policy columnist for the Star in Ottawa. Follow her on Twitter: @althiaraj


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