Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his 30 new ministers started tackling thorny issues within hours of forming government, including two ambitious priorities by year-end: a shift of the tax burden from the middle class to the rich and the resettling of 25,000 Syrian refugees.
On a sunny day in Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau and his team walked up to the entrance of Rideau Hall to be sworn in, applauded by thousands of supporters who watched the ceremony on large screens set up outside. Mr. Trudeau promised a government that would “get things done,” pointing out his team includes representatives from all provinces and features members from a variety of ethnic origins.
“It’s an incredible pleasure for me to be here today, before you, to present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada,” Mr. Trudeau said to cheers from the crowd.
Read the full list of cabinet ministers here.
All ministers spoke to the media about their new portfolios, quickly setting a different tone than the previous Conservative government. There were few concrete details, but the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship vowed to meet the promise to welcome 25,000 asylum seekers displaced by the war in Syria in less than two months.
“It remains our firm objective,” John McCallum said, vowing to work with other federal departments, the provinces and various NGOs.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, whose department will screen the refugee claimants, added: “We are going to bend every effort to get this job done, get it done right and properly, and fulfill the commitment the Prime Minister made.”
Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc said Parliament will be recalled on Dec. 3, at which point the Liberal majority will be able to move on its legislative priorities. The first order of business will be reducing the tax rate on income between $45,000 and $90,000 and raising it on income of more than $200,000, to take effect Jan. 1 next year, he said.
Mr. LeBlanc and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains hinted Ottawa is positively inclined to support struggling Bombardier’s request for aid while it gets its long-delayed C Series jet out the door. Mr. LeBlanc said Bombardier’s request is “obviously a priority,” while Mr. Bains, who is heading a rebranded department of industry, pointed out his party “campaigned on growing the economy and creating jobs.”
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, said the government will bring a “very ambitious plan” to combat greenhouse gas emissions at a UN summit in Paris at the end of the month. Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion added the issue was “the most important of the century.… Canada will be part of the solution, to give this world a sustainable development.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr said he is aware of a Globe and Mail investigation that found more than 50 soldiers and veterans have killed themselves after serving in the Afghanistan war. While he did not make specific promises, Mr. Hehr said veterans can be assured that they will be treated with compassion by the new government and that the promises made to them during the election campaign will be kept.
The Prime Minister promised to give more power to his ministers to make decisions related to their departments.
“Government by cabinet is back. We’re going to sit down around the cabinet table and talk about the solutions that need to be put forward, what is in the best interest of Canadians, and how we are going to deliver on the promises that Canadians quite rightly expect us to keep,” he said.
Some of the top jobs went to rookie ministers, such as Toronto businessman Bill Morneau at Finance, Mélanie Joly at Canadian Heritage and Chrystia Freeland at International Trade. There are two aboriginal ministers, with Vancouver lawyer Jody Wilson-Raybould going to Justice and Nunavut’s Hunter Tootoo named at Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
There are four ministers who are Sikhs or of Sikh origin: Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains and Bardish Chagger at Small Business and Tourism.
Among the rookies, two ministers have disabilities. Lawyer Carla Qualtrough, who is the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, was born with a visual impairment and was a Paralympics swimmer. And Mr. Hehr was paralyzed after being hit in a drive-by shooting when he was 21.
Still, six former Liberal ministers returned to cabinet, bringing a dose of experience to the team. Former public works minister Scott Brison has been named Treasury Board President, and the new minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, served as junior minister of public health in the Paul Martin government. Stéphane Dion, a former Liberal leader who lost the 2008 election, is the new Foreign Affairs Minister.
Eddie Goldenberg, a senior adviser to former prime minister Jean Chrétien, said it’s not a coincidence that Mr. McCallum and Mr. Goodale are handling the Syrian refugees.
“He put his two most experienced ministers there,” Mr. Goldenberg said of the Prime Minister. “They know how to deal with deputy ministers, they know the constraints of government and they know how to cut the red tape.”
Ms. Bennett said her first priority is to reset the relationship with Canada’s indigenous peoples. “And that means adversaries no more,” she said in an interview, a play on the Idle No More movement in which First Nations activists protested against the policies of the previous Conservative government.
Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Ms. Bennett knows the issues facing his people. “I think it’s a really good choice.” He also applauded the nomination of Ms. Wilson-Raybould, the AFN’S former regional chief for British Columbia, at Justice.
“It sends the statement that First Nations people are doctors and lawyers and scientists and business people,” said Mr. Bellegarde. “You don’t have to pigeon-hole people into the Indian Affairs department.”
Mr. Trudeau has created 10 cabinet committees to deal with issues such as “inclusive growth,” Canada-U.S. relations and climate change. The top committee, called Agenda and Results, will be chaired by the Prime Minister and feature 10 ministers, including Mr. Goodale, Mr. LeBlanc, Mr. Morneau and Ms. Freeland.
DANIEL LEBLANC, STEVEN CHASE AND GLORIA GALLOWAY
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Nov. 04, 2015 9:44AM EST
Last updated Thursday, Nov. 05, 2015 8:01AM EST