Five things to watch for in cabi­net shuffle

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World -

OT­TAWA — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is set to un­veil his new cabi­net Wed­nes­day, set­ting the stage for the open­ing of Par­lia­ment on Dec. 5.

Here are five things to watch for:

How many cabi­net min­is­ters are there:

When Par­lia­ment was dis­solved for the elec­tion, Justin Trudeau had 34 cabi­net min­is­ters. He also had dozens of par­lia­men­tary sec­re­taries. But there are fewer MPs to choose from this time around, and a dif­fer­ent set of is­sues per­co­lat­ing on the burner than he had when first elected. A large cabi­net brings with it the need for a large num­ber of par­lia­men­tary sec­re­taries, but Trudeau needs to leave some power on the benches for par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees, and also the im­por­tant roles of gov­ern­ment house leader and whip.

What jobs does he give them: Over his four years of ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment, Trudeau tin­kered around with cabi­net port­fo­lios. One high-pro­file change in­cluded the cre­ation of two sep­a­rate min­istries fo­cused on In­dige­nous is­sues — one specif­i­cally tasked with Crown-In­dige­nous re­la­tions, and the other on In­dige­nous Ser­vices. An­other was to vest in him­self the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs port­fo­lio, but in 2018 he hived that one off to some­one else. With fed­er­al­provin­cial re­la­tions still tem­pes­tu­ous, that po­si­tion could be quite high pro­file. He’d also set up a po­si­tion specif­i­cally to tackle bor­der se­cu­rity and or­ga­nized crime, par­tially in re­sponse to an in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers at the bor­der. That is­sue is still live, but tak­ing up less en­ergy th­ese days, while top­ics like cli­mate re­siliency are be­com­ing more press­ing.

How he makes up for the losses:

Two cabi­net min­is­ters lost their seats on Oct. 21: long­time cabi­net mem­ber Ralph Goodale from Regina and rel­a­tive rookie Amar­jeet Sohi from Ed­mon­ton. With no mem­bers of Par­lia­ment from ei­ther Saskatchew­an or Al­berta, Trudeau will be look­ing to find a so­lu­tion for how to have rep­re­sen­ta­tion from those two prov­inces around the cabi­net ta­ble. He also needs to grap­ple with the health chal­lenges fac­ing two other min­is­ters, Jim Carr and Do­minic LeBlanc, both of whom are un­der­go­ing treat­ment for cancer.

Gen­der — and racial — bal­ance:

The world out­side Canada rarely pays at­ten­tion to the machi­na­tions of the gov­ern­ment, but in 2015 a quip Trudeau made on his de­ci­sion to have a gen­der­bal­anced cabi­net pushed him into the global spot­light. “Be­cause it’s 2015,” he replied, when asked why gen­der bal­ance was im­por­tant. In the 2015 elec­tion, the Lib­er­als elected 50 women, and in­creased that by two in 2019. But while Trudeau’s gen­der-bal­anced cabi­net drew ac­co­lades, he was ac­cused at the time of not go­ing far enough to en­sure it re­flected the racial diversity of Canada as well. After an elec­tion where rev­e­la­tions that Trudeau wore black and brown face as a younger man brought at­ten­tion to is­sues of racism at the na­tional level, pres­sure is on Trudeau to en­sure his cabi­net in­cludes di­verse eth­nic back­grounds.

Who stays and who goes: Many eyes are on whether For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land re­mains in that post or is re­tasked with an­other press­ing port­fo­lio. En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna — who has been out­spo­ken about the ha­rass­ment and threats of vi­o­lence she has re­ceived in her role — is po­ten­tially also up for a shuffle. Trudeau will look to his ros­ter of newly elected MPs to see if any merit a seat around the ta­ble.


Some ob­servers ex­pect For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land to be handed a dif­fer­ent cabi­net post.

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