Five things to know about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's new cabinet

·4 min read

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed the new makeup of his cabinet that included some additions, subtractions and a shakeup for others. Here are five things to know about the cabinet and what it all could mean.

In, out, and moving about: The prime minister expanded his cabinet to 38 ministers, not including Trudeau himself, which meant adding some new faces in Kamal Khera as seniors minister, Pascal St-Onge as sport minister (also the only rookie MP in cabinet), Marci Ien as gender equality minister, and Sean Fraser as immigration minister.

It also meant promotions for Mélanie Joly to Foreign Affairs, Mona Fortier as president of the Treasury Board, and Ginette Petitpas Taylor returning to cabinet as official languages minister.

Marc Garneau, who was foreign affairs minister, got dropped from cabinet altogether. Trudeau, in speaking to reporters, brushed aside questions speculating about Garneau's future, thanking him instead for his service. Out too are Jim Carr and Bardish Chagger. Seamus O'Regan got moved to labour, which looks on the surface like a demotion.

Countering COVID-19: The amicable Jean-Yves Duclos is the new health minister, and would deal with demands from provinces who want more money for their health-care systems. He'll get an assist from Carolyn Bennett, a former family doctor, as associate health minister and mental health and addictions minister. She'll be responsible for curbing the opioid crisis that modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada suggests could increase in terms of deaths through the end of the year.

Filomena Tassi moves to procurement, or the "minister of vaccines" as Trudeau titled the position on the campaign trail. Speaking of vaccines, Fortier will also be in charge of vaccination mandate for federal workers.

New places for new, and old, faces: It wasn't just ministers that got a shakeup, but ministries as well. Ahmed Hussen gets a new ministry that will involve addressing the rapidly rising cost of homes, which remains of high concern for many Canadians. Similarly, the prime minister hived off emergency preparedness from public safety: Bill Blair keeps the former, but Marco Mendicino takes the latter. The move had long been mulled to recognize the growing problem of cyber and natural disasters, such as floods and forest fires.

Steady hands on the economic wheel: But for all the change, some specific economic posts saw no change at all. Chrystia Freeland is still at Finance. Carla Qualtrough remains employment minister in charge of helping the labour market. François-Philippe Champagne keeps a hold of industry, and Mary Ng is still minister for trade and small businesses. It's a steady-as-she-goes signal in those portfolios.

What has changed is a bundle of new ministers in charge of regional development agencies, reversing a decision Trudeau made early on to centralize them under one ministerial roof that didn't sit well with some regions, particularly Atlantic Canada. That, along with a new tourism minister in Randy Boissonnault, could be part of the Liberals' economic strategy to target help at the sectors and areas of the country that need it the most.

Challenges in key files: If there were two files that have been recent challenges for Trudeau's government, it has been Indigenous-related portfolios and National Defence. Anita Anand, who joined Trudeau on the campaign trail multiple times, becomes the second woman in charge of the Department of National Defence. Former prime minister Kim Campbell served in the post in 1993. Anand replaces Harjit Sajjan and will be pressed to show better progress than her predecessor on addressing misconduct in the military.

Similarly, Marc Miller moves to Crown-Indigenous Relations where he'll have to use any goodwill built at Indigenous Services (now in the hands of Patty Hajdu) to further the government's commitment to reconciliation that took a hit after Trudeau's trip to Tofino on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a decision for which the prime minister later apologized. Indigenous leaders have said they're past talk and will look for the government to act, which will be left to Miller and Hajdu to prove.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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