Toronto Star

Insiders say gender parity is a priority as Justin Trudeau builds cabinet to implement an ambitious ‘progressive’ agenda

Orignally published on 2021-10-13 22:48:55 by

OTTAWA —A renewed pledge to ensure the next Liberal cabinet has an even gender split will see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau name several new ministers and shift some veterans aside as the government eyes swift action on climate action, child care and housing.

Last week, Trudeau hinted at the broader revamp of his third cabinet, which sources have told the Star is expected to be unveiled in the fourth week of October.

“I can assure you there is serious reflection going into every single role in cabinet,” Trudeau said.

Of the 160 MPs in the Liberal caucus, 24 are new or new-ish (if you count the return of previously defeated Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault).

However Trudeau’s cabinet-making job is complicated by the loss of three female ministers who failed to win their seats and a fourth, Catherine McKenna, who didn’t run again.

Trudeau has publicly acknowledged that challenge, saying he will try “to ensure that there is a proper regional distribution, that there is a range of skills and diversity around the table, but it is a base starting point that we have gender parity in any cabinet I put together.”

But in challenges, there are also opportunities.

To fill the gender gaps, insiders say Toronto’s Marci Ien, who was re-elected in Toronto Centre after her 2020 byelection entry to Parliament, is expected to be at the top of the list, along with women who have experience in provincial governments.

Those could include Lina Metlege Diab, a former provincial cabinet minister from Nova Scotia who is bilingual and a likely replacement for Bernadette Jordan, the fisheries minister who lost her seat; Ottawa-area MP Marie France Lalonde, who held two posts in Ontario as minister for francophone affairs, and government and consumer services; and Markham-Stouffville MP Helena Jaczek, who served as Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care and as minister of community and social services. The latter two were first elected federally in 2019, and have held parliamentary secretary or committee roles and could be up for promotion. Other rookie names floated include Quebec’s Pascal St-Onge who headed a communications union.

Trudeau may also take advantage of the opportunity to now do what he wasn’t keen to do before the election: demote cabinet underperformers like Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan or Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Trudeau will also want to address regional representation, and will likely look to Alberta, which delivered two MPs, breaking the party’s drought in the West. Boissonault, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, and Calgary MP George Chahal, might find cabinet seats, but Chahal’s prospects are dimmed by his cameo appearance on a doorbell-cam taking an opponent’s flyer out of a voter’s mailbox.

Trudeau believes the election delivered him a mandate “to go even faster to fight climate change and transform our economy.” He has also emphasized $10-a-day daycare, and the need to “go further and faster on major priorities.”

Those, insiders say, start with finishing the fight against COVID-19, including: tougher vaccination mandates for workers and travellers; money for provinces to produce vaccination certificates that meet a national standard and can work for international travel or domestic purposes; federal sick pay legislation; and greater protections for health workers. Movement is also expected on measures to address housing affordability and to aid the transition for workers to a greener economy.

And while Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh have suggested voters sent MPs back to a very similar Parliament to work better together, the Trudeau government has interpreted its third victory, and second minority mandate, as a reason to push full steam ahead on new programs.

“The vast majority of Canadians elected progressive ideas, or progressive parties, or parties that share some of our priorities, so with that mandate, then we can go ahead and do really important meaningful things,” a senior government official said.

“Advancing, accelerating the fight against climate change, that’s not kind of a question as to whether Canadians support that or not. Canadians want that. They want an accelerated fight against climate change.”

Whether that means former environmental activist Steven Guilbeault shifts from Heritage to Environment, or whether the current minister Jonathan Wilkinson carries on that job, remains to be seen. Whether it means changes to what Ottawa mandarins call “the machinery of government” — creating new ministries or agencies or amalgamating departments into a bigger more powerful office — is also up in the air.

Immediately looming, however, is the international conference to address climate change taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. Wilkinson is carrying out preliminary work on that, and this week signed a pledge to slash Canada’s methane emissions by at least 75 per cent below 2012 levels by 2030.

The Trudeau government says Canada is the first and only country to support the 75 per cent goal, and promised regulations to reach the target. Methane accounts for about 13 per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions, Ottawa says.

Other climate action will include the rising price on carbon pollution, the investments in renewables and transition for big companies that we’re decarbonizing,” an official said. “We campaigned on some ideas and we have the mandate to implement those ideas. And I think most parliamentarians ostensibly support those things.”


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Orignally published on 2021-10-13 22:48:55 by

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