Explained: What each minister has been mandated to do
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen behind members of his cabinet as he arrives to speak to reporters following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has released each of his ministerial mandate letters that will guide his cabinet’s work through the 43rd Parliamentary session. Below is a brief rundown of the top priorities of each portfolio.
Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will take an across-the-board broad picture view of government priorities; lead the conclusion of the renegotiated NAFTA deal; and work on strengthening health agreements with the provinces; help with the implementation of the government’s plan to get to net-zero emissions; work on eliminating interprovincial trade barriers; and planning a First Ministers’ Meeting in early 2020.
Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti’s mandate letter is quite expansive. In addition to the reminder about the separation needed between his two roles and adopting all relevant recommendations on how to do so, it includes moving quickly on responding to the recent physician-assisted dying ruling meaning the federal legislation will be amended. It also includes requirements to implement mandatory sexual assault training for judges; amend the Criminal Code to address elder abuse and ban conversion therapy; and make drug treatment courts the default option for first-time non-violent drug possession offences.
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc will be updating the Parliament of Canada Act to put into law the Senate’s new independent approach; will pick up as the lead on the Canada Elections Act, since there is no longer a minister for democratic Institutions; and will work on research and policy related to online disinformation. LeBlanc is also going to lead a review of the cyber threat measures put in place in time for the last federal election, and will evaluate the effectiveness of the much maligned leaders’ debates commission.
Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez is the point-person navigating the Liberals through the minority Parliament. He will look into carving out more time for private members’ business and work on introducing “new technology and other institutional changes” focused on connecting MPs with their constituents. The mandate letter also indicates Trudeau wants to see the elimination of government control over who speaks and when they speak in the House.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is being asked to expand Canada’s diplomacy and footprint on the world stage including leading Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat. He is also being asked to build on the Magnitsky sanctions and also back Freeland up on the Canada-U.S. file.
Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan’s mandate letter makes specific mention of restoring the country’s standing in NATO and NORAD. The letter notes increased attention paid to safeguarding Canada’s artic region. Sajjan has also been tasked with creating a tax-free benefit for relocating military families and achieving a 25 per cent female presence in the military by 2026.
Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna is expected to use her experience as minister of environment to help guide her work in this new portfolio. McKenna will continue the government’s implementation of spending on green transportation and infrastructure projects. McKenna will also be required to work with provinces and cities to identify major long-term infrastructure projects by 2021.
Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan will be required to find a balance between securing good jobs in the natural resources sector and completing the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline as well as helping Canadian companies and cities transition to clean power and renewable fuels. He’ll also oversee the government’s campaign promise of planting two billion trees over the next 10 years.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is being asked to bring in additional greenhouse gas reducing measures in order to see the Liberals hit their climate change reduction commitments; start planning how they’ll meet net-zero emissions by 2050; work with O’Regan on flood maps and the plan to plant two billion trees over the next decade; and roll out the plan to ban single-use plastics.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s letter states that she will be the lead on strengthening the Canadian health-care system. This includes ensuring greater access to doctors, setting standards for mental health access, and implementing a national universal pharmacare plan. Hajdu will also be tackling the rising rates of teen vaping, and “analyze the possibility” of a national dental care program.
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair will be the lead on the Liberal’s promised gun control measures, including a ban on military-style assault rifles. He’ll also continue monitoring the legalized cannabis file and work towards modernizing the Safe Third Country Agreement. He’ll also bring back legislation to create CBSA oversight, and create of the Director of Terrorism Prosecutions.
International Development Minister Karina Gould will be held accountable for delivering on Canada’s international development assistance targets that increase each year until 2030. Connected to this is the implementation of the Feminist International Assistance Policy which prioritizes global aid that improves opportunities for women and girls. The prime minister has also put an emphasis on the significance of expanding international education.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand, a newly-elected MP, will support the Treasury Board and continue to modernize Canada’s procurement process – central to this is the e-Procurement solution. Anand will work with different ministries, including the Ministry of Defence, to streamline the procurement process. Notably, the minister will work to replace the failed Phoenix pay system.
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau‘s mandate letter includes a specific reference to recent trade disputes that jeopardized Canada’s agriculture industry. Bibeau will be charged with preventing a similar situation by strengthening export protections and providing more immediate financial support when necessary.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino is new to the cabinet table and will oversee the arrival of more than a million immigrants to Canada between 2020-2022. Tied to that, the minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship will ensure all immigrants are successfully integrated and application processing times are reduced. Mendicino will be tasked with introducing a specific refugee stream to settle as many as 250 people per year. Notably, the ministry will work alongside Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to reform the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.
President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos will oversee the implementation and delivery of all cabinet-approved initiatives. The prime minister has put a good deal of weight on the importance of recruiting “talented people” with “at least five years of experience” in the public service. Duclos has also been tasked with making financial reporting of tax payer dollars more transparent.
Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger is taking on a new portfolio that does not have its own department. She will instead be leaning on a few departments to execute her responsibilities, which includes tackling racism and unconscious bias, and implementing a first-ever youth policy. She is also picking up the file from the LGBTQ2 secretariat which includes eliminating the blood ban for gay men.
Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Minister Mary Ng will take on seeing through the implementation of the CPTPP and CETA trade deals, bringing in new supports for small businesses and back up Freeland on the Canada-U.S. file.
Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains will be in charge of cutting the cost of cell phone bills by 25 per cent; preparing for the 2021 census; will be tabling legislation by the end of 2020 to ensure content providers have “meaningful levels of Canadian content” on offer; and to establish new rights around data and privacy protections.
Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay will be creating a new “rapid-response service” with social workers and counsellors for Canadian veterans; build more affordable housing units for veterans, and work on improving the government’s transparency and ability to communicate with veterans about the services and benefits available to them.
Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Minister Maryam Monsef will be in charge of the gender lens put on all government policy; develop a national action plan on gender-based-violence prevention; and will assist in the implementation of the National MMIW Inquiry’s Calls to Justice. In the rural affairs capacity, she will roll out a rural economic development strategy.
Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, the only Indigenous voice around the cabinet table, will be asked to provide a necessary perspective for a government who continuously touts the relationship with Indigenous people as their most important. He will work to lower travelling costs for Northerners, improving living conditions and communication infrastructure, and implementing land claim agreements.
Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Melanie Joly will assume the role of overseeing the success of Canada’s Regional Development Agencies, enhance Canada’s tourism industry, and build out “worker transition centres” to help displaced workers – particularly those in Western and Eastern Canada – find jobs. Joly has six parliamentary secretaries, the most of any minister, to achieve this mandate.
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen will be the point-person on rolling out the promised Liberal first-time home buyer incentives; develop a guaranteed paid family leave program; create more childcare spaces; and support other ministers on several other social development-related commitments.
National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier is being asked to beef up tax avoidance and whistleblower programs; simplify federal and provincial tax forms; and continue to work on making the Canada Revenue Agency more client-friendly
Minister of Transport Marc Garneau will be tasked with continuing on with the implementation of the “Transportation 2030” strategic plan which includes increasing global market access to Canadian goods, improving rail transportation, and moving towards zero-emission vehicle targets. The minister will also be responsible for making Canada’s ports more efficient.
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan will “protect and promote” Canada’s waterways while enhancing economic growth in coastal communities. Jordan will take on the implementation of the recently modernized Fisheries Act. This coincides with her additional responsibility of establishing an Oceans Protection Plan to preserve Canada’s coastline.
Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray has a cross-ministerial mandate to enhance digital services across the government. Murray will oversee the offices of the Chief Information Officer and the Canadian Digital Service and ensure the safe and ethical use of data retention and artificial intelligence
Minister of Seniors Deb Schulte has been assigned the responsibility of increasing the Old Age Security pension by 10 per cent. Schulte will work side-by-side with the ministry of justice to tackle elder abuse, the ministry of families, children and social development to increase access to seniors housing, and the ministry of finance and intergovernmental affairs in the implementation of a national universal pharmacare plan.
Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault will oversee the Heritage portfolio, which includes new regulations for social media platforms, including the removal of “illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours” or risk facing penalties. Guilbeault will co-lead movements to modernize the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts to better support Canadian content, which includes specific content requirements to be applied by 2020.The minister will continue to oversee the review of Canada’s Copyright Act as well as prioritize Canadian sports and preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, now in his second term, has a long list of to-dos for the 43rd Parliament. Among the most notable: introduce legislation reflecting the government’s middle-class tax break campaign promise on the first $15,000 of income, cut tax rates by 50 per cent for companies that introduce zero-emissions technology, uphold the Gender-based Analysis Plus in any future budgets, and produce a report listing federal fossil fuel subsidies which will be made public each year.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relation Carolyn Bennett will seek to improve the relationship between the government and Indigenous communities. The minister is expected to introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of 2020. Following on the government’s promises last Parliamentary session, the ministry will also establish a national action plan to respond to the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Carla Qualtrough will introduce a 15-week leave for adoptive parents, including LGBTQ2 families; ensure tax-free employment insurance for maternity and parental benefits; strengthen the Canada Student Loans and Grants System; invest in skills training; and improve on the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.
Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi has been tasked with making changes to the Canada Labour Code; increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour; incorporating mental health as a key component of occupational health and safety; and a federal “right to disconnect” provision. Tassi will also be accountable for ratifying the International Labour Organization Violence and Harassment Convention, and breaking down interprovincial trade barriers so Canadians can more easily work from province-to-province.
Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance Mona Fortier, who’s new to the cabinet table, will primarily be focused on supporting the Ministry of Finance. In doing so, Fortier will enhance analytical and advisory capabilities within the department, boost international contributions in major alliances, and attempt to improve financial literacy among Canadians.
Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, a new MP and presence at the cabinet table, is accountable for eliminating all long-term water advisories on reserves by 2021. The minister will also continue to implement Jordan’s Principle, improve social housing access, and help transition Indigenous communities from diesel-fueled power to reliable energy by 2030.