Justin Trudeau’s big reveal
POLITICO is partnering with the Coalition for a Better Future to bring a special edition of the POLITICO’s Ottawa Playbook to the Better Future Summit. The newsletter takes readers inside the two-day gathering of innovators, problem-solvers and thought-leaders from Canada and beyond to help point the way toward a more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous future.
WELCOME TO OTTAWA PLAYBOOK. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey. It’s Wednesday, which means the Hill is in full recovery mode from Tuesday’s Cabinet Day. We guide you through the promotions, snubs and shocks — and read between the lines on the challenges ahead for key ministers. Also, everything you need to know about the Coalition for a Better Future summit. And, of course, trivia.
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IN THE FLESH — Look, we’re fine with virtual meetings. At first they were clunky, necessary evils when the whole world was staying home. Then they were standard operating procedure because most white-collar geeks cautiously stayed home after the worst of the crisis. They’re frustrating because technology fails. But they kept us employed. It was complicated, okay?
This morning, the POLITICO Canada team is in for a real thrill. We’re heading to a conference. In real life. In Ottawa. At a convention centre. With other people. To talk about policy. In real life. We had FOMO watching the Banff Forum. But now our time has come.
— Wait, what conference? You’ve seen the promos in recent Playbooks. The Summit of the Coalition for a Better Future is going down at the Ottawa Convention Centre today — don’t worry, it’s also virtual and you can register here — is a two-day festival of ideas on how to build consensus among a bevy of stakeholders on Canada’s economic future.
— The chairs: You know it’s serious because LISA RAITT and ANNE MCLELLAN are co-chairs. One is proudly Conservative. The other is unmistakably Liberal. Raitt works as vice-chair of global investment banking at CIBC. McLellan is a senior adviser at Bennett Jones. Both served in major Cabinet portfolios. Both were key members of their party establishment. And now they’re teaming up to talk about the future.
Before we really get into the conference, we need to reflect on Tuesday’s biggest news. There was a cabinet shuffle, y’know.
SOGGY WAYS — It’s just nicer when it’s sunny outside. A rainy Rideau Hall is no place to swear-in a new Cabinet if that front bench wants to escape nasty symbolism about how all that hope and optimism that brought JUSTIN TRUDEAU‘s Liberals to power in 2015 has been swallowed whole by successive scandals and hyper-efficient election machines that ignore wide swaths of Canada.
— But let’s not be downers: A minister widely regarded as an all-star performer during the pandemic was promoted to a crucial file. ANITA ANAND, the minister of securing vaccines for every one of us, is the new defense minister. HARJIT SAJJAN is demoted to international development. Anand is now responsible for vanquishing a misogynistic military culture that Sajjan utterly failed to address.
Anand is no stranger to national security issues. She testified at a 2015 Senate committee about federal laws meant to prevent terrorist financing. (She had harsh words.)
One correspondent in our DMs quipped that given the enormity of the task at hand, the defense portfolio is “a punishment, not a promotion.” Another pointed out that Anand’s most stressful days on the job haven’t so far included sustained in-person barrages in question period. Yelling at a minister in real life adds a certain tenacity to the exercise. But there’s your price of success in politics. The best problem-solvers get the biggest problems.
— The peanut gallery: Another Playbook correspondent texted us a certain irony. “Funny, Sajjan couldn’t handle issues of sexual misconduct at DND, but now he’s at international development and tasked with delivering on the government’s feminist foreign policy.”
— Wernick’s advice: Which brings us to that handy toolkit on governance written by MICHAEL WERNICK, the former clerk of the Privy Council. In A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics, Wernick advises prime ministers to “ignore the conventional wisdoms about the pecking order and focus instead on what projects are too important to fail.”
The Liberals campaigned hard on climate change, housing affordability, child care and reconciliation, which means the ministers on those files are the ones Trudeau trusts most. STEVEN GUILBEAULT, a climate activist who got famous climbing the CN Tower, scored the environment gig. The oil patch will roll its eyes, but the Liberals are clearly drawing a line in the sand — plus, new Natural Resources Minister JONATHAN WILKINSON, a former cleantech exec respected by industry, didn’t stray too far.
AHMED HUSSEN gets housing, a new standalone portfolio with a lengthy post-election to-do list. (Hussen’s mandate letter will be sprawling.) KARINA GOULD replaces Hussen as social development minister, a job that requires hard negotiations with holdout provinces on a five-year, C$30-billion childcare promise.
MARC MILLER shifts from Indigenous services to Crown-Indigenous Relations, a lateral move but one that signals Miller has built a foundation of trust with Indigenous communities. He replaces CAROLYN BENNETT, the new minister for mental health and addictions — a demotion on paper, but a crucial file. PATTY HAJDU takes over for Miller.
Guilbeault, Wilkinson, Hussen, Gould, Miller and Hajdu: Wernick’s rubric suggests those are the ministers whose success is most crucial to a government that wants to wedge a bold agenda into a fraught minority Parliament.
— Oh yeah, the shocker: Playbook heard a rumor Monday that MARC GARNEAU would be shuffled out of foreign affairs. La Presse broke the news a few hours before the swearing-in that he’d actually be dumped from Cabinet — and eventually sent to a vacant diplomatic posting in Paris, according to every single person in town. At least the first part came to be. Garneau was not on the list of ministers (which, by the way, the PMO published online in violation of their own embargo, but we digress).
Canada has its fifth foreign minister in six years, and 11th in the last 15: MÉLANIE JOLY, the well-liked Montrealer who co-chaired the Liberals’ national campaign that netted 159 seats — not exactly a result to boast about, but apparently one that merits a promotion that raised eyebrows in the capital. (PABLO RODRIGUEZ, the co-chair in Quebec, was shuffled from House leader to heritage. Any bets on which gig produces more headaches? We call it a wash.)
Joly will face an astounding array of questions almost immediately. For instance, what is her government’s policy on China? At her opening presser, Joly waxed nostalgic about LESTER B. PEARSON‘s worldview, though acknowledged the world had changed since the 1960s. She summarized Canada’s strategy as a mixture of “humility and audacity.” An army of lobbyists and allies asks in reply: What does that mean?
— Economic development: Trudeau has appointed seven ministers with “economic development” portfolios. MARY NG, who’s still trade minister, gets the generic ED title. Newfoundland newcomer GUDIE HUTCHINGS gets rural economic development. Five other ministers — Sajjan, Hajdu, Manitoban DAN VANDAL, rural Quebecer PASCAL ST-ONGE and Cabinet returnee GINETTE PETITPAS TAYLOR — split regional development agencies that used to be overseen by one minister. (First, NAVDEEP BAINS. Later, Joly.)
Two competing theories emerge about this phalanx of front-benchers. The first is this: Finally, regional folks are back in charge of funding agencies. “A wharf in the Maritimes that needs help doesn’t need to call Melanie Joly,” quipped one observer. The second is this: Exactly how will this all be structured? Who reports to whom? Who’s keeping an eye on the billions of dollars flying out the door?
— The also-rans: In our copious cabinet speculation, Playbook floated several names who didn’t pass the final cuts. Halifax’s LENA DIAB is on the outside looking in. Her fellow Nova Scotians might see a little red, since neighboring New Brunswick and nearby Newfoundland and Labrador each have two seats at the table.
The nation’s capital only has MONA FORTIER. A gaggle of contenders — YASIR NAQVI, ANITA VANDENBELD, MARIE-FRANCE LALONDE and JENNA SUDDS — will all have to wait their turn. Across the river in Gatineau, GREG FERGUS and STEVEN MACKINNON can look forward to another round of sub-cabinet appointments.
In Toronto, former provincial minister MICHAEL COTEAU didn’t check exactly the right boxes. And then there’s BARDISH CHAGGER,…
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