New Government Begins to Take Shape
Since the results of the election were announced in October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been busy adapting to the new minority government situation. One of the biggest stories arising from the election was the shutout of the Liberal Party of Canada from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Longtime Minister and Liberal Member of Parliament Ralph Goodale from Saskatchewan was defeated, despite having sat in the House of Commons when the party had only around 30 seats. To deal with this divide in Canada, as well as with a successful Bloc Québécois, the prime minister announced the appointment of two experienced advisors, Anne McLellan and Isabelle Hudon, to help him and his office put together a Cabinet to respond to the growing tensions.
On November 20, experienced ministers and rookie Members of Parliament alike walked down the drive to Rideau Hall in Ottawa to be sworn in as this government’s new Cabinet. The most important announcement of the day was the appointment of Chrystia Freeland as deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs. Freeland has been seen as one of Trudeau’s most influential ministers, first because of her work to complete the Canada–Europe Trade Agreement and also because of her efforts to renegotiate NAFTA. She continues to carry responsibility for the Canada–U.S. relationship, though, as the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) continues to filter through the American legislature.
However, Freeland’s primary role over the coming months and years will be to mend the divide between the provinces in Canada, in particular Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec. The government has already stated that it would be open to amending Bill C-69, which has been dubbed the “no pipeline bill” by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. This was a complete change in tone from before the election when the government was unwilling even to discuss C-69 or other legislation that has received a negative reception in oil-producing provinces.
Other appointments were also indicative of a more serious approach to the issues facing Canada in the coming years includes the appointments of Jonathan Wilkinson from British Columbia as minister of environment and climate change, François-Philippe Champagne as minister of foreign affairs, and Jim Carr as the prime minister’s special representative for the Prairie provinces. For the most part, the industry has applauded the composition of the new Cabinet, which is seen by many as being more business-friendly. This is especially important at a time when there are signals that the Canadian economy is slowing and the global competition continues to grow. The months ahead will reveal whether the new government can work alongside the other political parties and mend the current divide in Canada.