Nanos on the Numbers: Trudeau's political craftiness in his cabinet making
Making a cabinet is much more art than science. Of course, for any prime minister, it’s about managing and deploying the talent that voters give you with the goals you want to achieve.
It’s also an opportunity to set the groundwork for your political agenda to stay in power.
The post 2019 election cabinet effectively tips the hand of Trudeau and the Liberals on what they might hope to be their path to staying in power, and you might be surprised that it’s not managing western alienation and the wellness of the federation.
Right now, the Liberals and Conservatives remain tight in the national polling. The Liberals trail the Conservatives by 40 percentage points in the Prairies and are only marginally ahead of the Bloc Quebecois in the province of Quebec.
Unpacking the cabinet configuration points to a number signals from the Liberals.
First, the Alberta-Saskatchewan “Liberal gap” – where there are no elected Liberals, is being papered over with the appointment of Chrystia Freeland as the new deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs.
This both elevates one of Trudeau’s top performers as deputy PM and at the same time signals that the Liberals are serious about tackling the current stress in the federation.
Having steered Canada on the international stage and managed the relationship with the U.S., those same skills will now be deployed domestically. Born in Peace River, Alberta, but now the member for Toronto’s riding of University-Rosedale, count on her to play up her Albertan roots.
Second, the appointment of British Columbia MP Jonathan Wilkinson as the minister of environment and climate change sends a signal to the opposition NDP. Wilkinson is a former advisor to Saskatchewan NDP Premier Roy Romanow and former leader of the NDP youth wing in Saskatchewan. The point person on the environment in the Trudeau cabinet is a B.C. MP, who grew up in Saskatchewan and is a former New Democrat. Not much Jagmeet Singh cannot like in terms of a Liberal cabinet minister to deal with on the environment.
Third, the appointment of Catherine McKenna to infrastructure and communities suggests that the Liberals will be gearing up infrastructure spending but aligning those investments with a broader environmental and sustainability agenda.
This shift of focus for McKenna effectively makes her the minister responsible for good news investments in communities across the country.
The biggest news and political signals came from Quebec.
Quebec emerges from the cabinet shuffle with, one can argue, the greatest regional muscle in the federation with 10 cabinet ministers – many of them, like Marc Garneau, are senior players or now individuals with emerging new influence in the government.
Francois-Phillipe Champagne is elevated to foreign affairs, Melanie Joly heads up economic development and official languages, Jean-Yves Duclos becomes president of the treasury board and Pablo Rodriguez becomes House leader and the political minister for Quebec. The rise of Quebec as a powerhouse within cabinet is a signal to the Bloc Quebecois and Quebec voters.
Thinking of cabinet making – Trudeau has given a tip of the hat in his quest to manage western alienation, sent signals to the opposition parties needed to prop up the Liberal minority and effectively tipped his hand on his quest to stay in power.
Reading the cabinet tea leaves, the new political muscle in Quebec suggest today the Liberals think their path to staying in power is winning seats in Quebec.
Nik Nanos is the Chief Data Scientist at Nanos Research and the pollster of record for CTV News