On continuing the new liberal era in Canada (with minority government sworn in at slightly less formal Tent Room?)

Nov 25th, 2019 | By | Category: In Brief
MP for Saint Boniface-Saint Vital in Manitoba, Dan Vandal, from “a Métis family in Winnipeg,” is sworn in as a new stand-alone Minister of Northern Affairs in Justin Trudeau’s latest cabinet, at the Tent Room in Rideau Hall, Ottawa, November 20, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.)

Just before the November 20, 2019 swearing-in of the new Trudeau Liberal minority cabinet – in the “Tent Room” at Rideau Hall in Ottawa – the counterweights editors brought a piece I did on the swearing-in of the first Justin Trudeau cabinet four years ago to my attention.

It was posted on November 7, 2015, under the headline : “On the new era in Canada .. Alexandre Trudeau, Mélanie Joly, Harjit Sajjan, and Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.”

I was asked : what are the big differences between now and then?

Others have of course been asked the same question by other editors, and replied more promptly. During the afternoon of November 20 I seem to have heard more than once on TV that 2015 was “cinematic” and 2019 is “pragmatic,” or words to that effect.

For slightly later reporting see, eg : “Who is in Justin Trudeau’s 2019 cabinet” ; “7 new faces at cabinet table as Trudeau unveils his inner circle” ; “Reaction and quotes about the new Liberal cabinet” ; and “How Trudeau’s cabinet has changed since his first trip to Rideau Hall.”

Canadian federal Cabinet appointed November 20, 2019 – “the strong, diverse, and experienced team that will work together to tackle the big issues that matter to people from coast to coast to coast … making life more affordable for the middle class, taking action on climate change … keeping our communities safe” (PM Justin Trudeau). PHOTO : ADAM SCOTTI.

For the official list in “order of precedence” (a complex concept that I wouldn’t try to explain myself) CLICK HERE. And note as well “Trudeau seeks to keep eyes on Prairies with new role for Winnipeg’s Jim Carr” – regarding a former minister with unfortunate health issues who nonetheless remains of if not exactly in the cabinet.

Same Trudeau II era with more seasoned realism?

My first thought of my own about my November 7, 2015 article and now is that there really was the start of a “new era” back then.

What follows in 2019 will certainly be different in other ways. But it will still be a continuation of the Justin Trudeau Liberal era in Canadian federal politics – even though in 2019 PM Justin Trudeau (like his father on his second election as Liberal leader in 1972) has managed only a minority government with an uncertain shelf life.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier of Ontario Doug Ford share a laugh after Ford spoke French during a meeting in Ottawa on Nov. 22, 2019.” ADRIAN WYLD/CANADIAN PRESS.

Some of the new-era “sunny ways” optimism of 2015 has no doubt been superceded by a more seasoned realism as well. Jody Wilson-Raybould may be the clearest case in point. She did win re-election in Vancouver Granville in 2019 (with just under a third of the vote in a six-candidate local race). But she is now the sole Independent in the new House, and no longer eligible to sit in a Liberal cabinet (having wittingly or otherwise done her best to harm her former party’s fortunes in the SNC-Lavalin affair, pushed so hard by the Scheer Conservatives).

I seem to have four further quick thoughts as what happened last Wednesday settles into mind several days hence (here in Canada’s present largest metropolis at least, far away from any thoughts of winning the Vanier or Grey Cups) :

(1) The most intriguing feature of the new cabinet is the elevation of Chrystia Freeland to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The prime minister and his new deputy, at her swearing-in on November 20, 2019 (and after she put her arm around his waist!). Governor General Julie Payette looks on. REUTERS/Blair Gable.

The Liberals won no seats at all in Alberta and Saskatchewan this time around, and the more populous Alberta especially (Canada’s Texas etc) has many grievances over the latest rumblings in its oil and gas economic base.

Ms Freeland has been a star of the 2015 Trudeau cabinet, much applauded for her role in renegotiating the NAFTA trade agreement with Donald Trump’s volatile USA today. This past October 21, 2019 she won 51.7% of the local vote in the upscale Toronto riding of University—Rosedale in Ontario. But she grew up in Alberta, where her father is still a “retired lawyer” who “drives a combine and harvests Barley on a 6,000-acre farm in Peace River.”

What will happen on this front remains a matter of great fascination. For the time being see, eg : “Deputy PM Freeland to oversee relations with US and provinces in Trudeau’s new cabinet” ; “Don Martin: Freeland wins a waiver from PMO control” ; “Alberta wants a champion, Trudeau needs a saviour. Can Chrystia Freeland be both?” ; and “Has Justin Trudeau set up Chrystia Freeland to fail?” Stay tuned here, of course, of course … much much more to come …

(2) A new dynamic duo in search of some energy and environment symbiosis – Jonathan Wilkinson and Catherine McKenna

“Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna speaks at the G7 meetings in Halifax on Sept. 20, 2018 while Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson listens. Photo by Alex Tétreault.”

One of Justin Trudeau’s main policy themes seems to be the need for some fresh creative symbiosis on the frequently warring energy and environment issues. It’s like love and marriage in the old song : you can’t have one without the other.

To this end he has now put a kind of energy industry guy – Jonathan Wilkinson from North Vancouver, BC – in charge of the environment as Minister of Environment and Climate Change. (See “Jonathan Wilkinson and a stick of dynamite … Shannon Proudfoot: The new minister of environment and climate change has a very hard job–and an intriguing background well suited to it.”)

On the other side of the symbiosis PM Trudeau II has put former environment minister and green policy activist Catherine McKenna – from Ottawa Centre, Ontario – in charge of (presumably) such things as building oil and gas pipelines (in some degree at least?) as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

Who knows where all this will lead, of course? But it could prove interesting down the road. (Or like Jody Wilson-Raybould last time around, it may just not work out. But hey … “Justin” is at least trying to do something new and relevant on two difficult but increasingly urgent issues!)

(3) New kinds of cabinet ministers for new times? Two (or even three) 2019 appointments have been understandably enough mocked in some quarters, but nonetheless reflect another interest in and willingness to try something different in new and increasingly challenging times :

The Tent Room at Rideau Hall, unoccupied, with copy of state portrait of Queen Victoria in centre of wall.

Former Liberal House leader Bardish Chagger from Waterloo, Ontario as Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth ; Joyce Murray from Vancouver Quadra, BC as Minister of Digital Government ; and Mona Fortier, from Ottawa–Vanier, Ontario, as Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance.

It will no doubt take a while to see how and if these appointments work out, and whether they actually do bring some fresh weight and heft to new kinds of key current issues in Canada’s present free and democratic society (and in the federal bureaucracy in Ottawa).

Meanwhile, at least someone is trying etc. (And for too easy if understandable scepticism see “New Minister of Middle Class Prosperity declines to provide clear definition of middle class.”)

(4) Why the Tent Room in 2019 etc? According to Wikipedia the Tent Room at Rideau Hall, where the 2019 cabinet was sworn in, is typically “used for slightly less formal gatherings” than the Ballroom.

“Fans gathered at the Blue Bombers street party at Portage and Main following the team’s Grey Cup win. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press).”

The Ballroom is “the centre of state life at Rideau Hall” where “honours and awards ceremonies take place, members of the Cabinet are sworn in, ambassadors present their diplomatic credentials, and large-scale state dinners are held.”

Back in 2015 the Ballroom was where the new Trudeau Liberal cabinet was sworn in. And maybe the difference between 2015 and 2019 is finally summarized by the switch to the slightly less formal Tent Room in 2019! That at any rate is the note on which I’m concluding this slightly less formal report – from the grass roots of the present largest far northern metropolis.

(With big congrats to Calgary on winning the Vanier Cup in Canadian university football, and to Winnipeg on its first Grey Cup in 29 years in the Canadian Football League. Does this mean the present bout of Western alienation is starting to fade? Probably not … but … we are still jealous back here in the wilderness of Central Canada, if that’s any help at all.)

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