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A new frontbench in Ottawa
In this edition: Trudeau unveils his new cabinet, the race for the Speakership heats up, Ontario's plan to lift public health restrictions
Happy Monday. Welcome to POLICORNER — your insider’s guide to Canadian politics, policy, and power. This newsletter is sponsored by the chocolates and candies we collected last night while trick-or-treating.
In this 7 minute read, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveils his new cabinet and the race for the Speaker’s chair heats up. Plus, Ontario unveils a plan to lift all public health restrictions and the Toronto District School Board prepares to “gradually implement” compliance measures for its COVID-19 vaccination policy.
There’s a new 38-member cabinet in Ottawa. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a major overhaul of his cabinet on Tuesday, demoting several senior ministers and elevating a number of rookies to the government’s frontbench as it works to deliver on an agenda focused on post-pandemic recovery, climate change, childcare, and reconciliation in the upcoming minority parliament.
Seven backbenchers move to the frontbench, eight ministers maintain their portfolios and one political rookie joins the executive council — Pascale St-Onge, who becomes responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency in Quebec. Fourteen ministers are from the GTA and ten are from Quebec.
Anita Anand — who Trudeau dubbed as the vaccine minister — becomes Minister of National Defence. Anand replaces newly-appointed international development minister Harjit Sajjan, who was widely criticized for his handling of sexual misconduct allegations within the military. In an interview with the Toronto Star’s Jacques Gallant, Anand said she “wanted to go over external reports that have been done on sexual misconduct and the military justice system.”
Mélanie Joly becomes the country’s fifth top diplomat in six years. Steven Guilbeault, a former climate activist takes over the environment portfolio, replacing Jonathan Wilkinson, who now oversees the environmentally-related natural resources ministry. Jean-Yves Duclos becomes Minister of Health, charged with overseeing the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mona Fortier replaces Duclos as President of the Treasury Board.
There are many new faces on the executive council. Marci Ien becomes Minister for Women, Gender Equality and Youth. Sean Fraser — who was Chrystia Freeland’s Parliamentary Secretary and Associate Minister of Finance gets the immigration gig. Kamal Khera becomes the Minister of Seniors, while Ontario’s former Minister of Health Helena Jaczek takes the reponsibility for the Federal Economic Development Agency in Southern Ontario.
Marc Garneau, Bardish Chagger and Jim Carr were shuffled out of cabinet. Garneau served as the Minister of Foriegn Affairs — and rumors are swirling in Ottawa that Garneau will become Canada's ambassador to France. Garneau’s office did not respond to a request for comment on his next steps. Chagger, who previously held the diversity and inclusion portfolio was the first Sikh woman to be named to Cabinet, and the first female Government House Leader. Carr served as the government’s Special Representative for the Prairies. Speaking to the Canadian Press, Carr said he feels “at ease” with the decision.
Opposition parties react to the new cabinet
Canada’s Conservatives were first to react. In a statement, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said the “largely inexperienced and ideologically driven” ministers represented a “real risk to our economic prosperity and our national unity.”
“Today’s changes to cabinet represent just another example of the Prime Minister continuing to reward Ministers who have consistently demonstrated incompetence and a lack of accountability.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh acknowledged “there is a lot of work to be done on issues that matter to Canadians.” “Regardless of who is serving in the new cabinet, Canadians want concrete action on priorities like housing affordability, the climate crisis, health care staff shortages and reconciliation,” Singh added.
The battle for the top job — Dalton and Godin are campaigning for the Speaker’s chair
The race for the Speakership of the House of Commons is heating up and two more MPs are campaigning for the job.
Conservative MP Marc Dalton (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge) is seeking the Speakership of the House of Commons, his office confirmed to newsBeyond. Dalton informed his colleagues of his decision to run via email, telling them that his experience as Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia could serve him as Speaker of the House of Commons. If elected, Dalton, who is part Métis, would be the first Indigenous speaker of the House of Commons.
newsBeyond first reported that Conservative MP Joel Godin (Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier) was considering a second run for the role. According to the Hill Times, Godin has entered the race, and is campaigning for the job. Godin’s office did not respond to a request for comment on his decision to run for Speaker.
As we reported in our previous edition, NDP MP Carol Hughes and Liberal MP Alexandra Mendès are also vying for the role. In a letter obtained by newsBeyond, Mendès told her colleagues that the decision to run for the Speakership “became apparent over the sixteen months” she served as Assisstant Deputy Speaker. In a letter to her colleagues, Hughes said she understands that “running from the fourth party position can be considered a long-shot,” but she believes that choosing a Speaker from a smaller party send a clear signal that “we are prepared to do things differently.” Read our exclusive interviews with Hughes and Mendès here.
Ontario has unveiled a plan to lift all public health restrictions by March. In two weeks, the provine plans to lift capacity limits in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required. By mid-January and “in the absence of concerning public health trends,” the province will begin gradually lifting capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is not required. By early-February, the Ford government aims to gradually lift proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk settings. By late-March, “it is intended that remaining public health and workplace safety measures will be lifted,” per the province.
Toronto District School Board will “gradually implement” compliance measures for its COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff. Staff who do not report their vaccination status by today will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence starting tomorrow. In a statement, a board spokesperson told newsBeyond the decision to extend the deadline was to “address any shortfalls” and that an occasional teacher would be assigned to a classroom who's teacher is placed on leave. More from the Globe and Mail’s Caroline Alphonso.
Ontario will not add COVID-19 vaccines to the list of mandatory vaccines for children, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health says. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Dr. Kieran Moore says the policy will be revisited if COVID-19 becomes persistent yearly virus on a long-term basis.
Ottawa has agreed to pause litigation on a federal court ruling on Indigenous child welfare to focus on reaching an agreement “outside of court and at the table” with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and Assembly of First Nations. In a statement, Minister Marc Miller said “providing the space to reach agreement on compensation and finding for future reforms will help us reach the best outcome. The government says it hopes to reach a deal by December.
MPP Lindsey Park has resigned from the Ontario PC caucus. Park was removed as Attorney General Doug Downey’s parliamentary assisstant after she “misrepresented her vaccination status,” per the government. In a statement, Park says she wrote a letter to the Premier regarding her vaccination status and that she was "shocked and horrified" at the suggestion that she had misled the government. Government House Leader and newly-appointed Minister of Legislative Affairs Paul Calandra said Park left an “unmarked envelop on an unstaffed desk in the Premier’s Office that was left undiscovered for nearly a month.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has unveiled the party’s critics. All caucus members were appointed, except NDP MP Carol Hughes, who is running for Speaker. Alexandre Boulerice maintains the role of Deputy Leader, while Peter Julian stays as the party’s House Leader. More from the party.
WHAT WE’RE READING
CBC NEWS: “Impatience growing as Liberal MPs wait for 1st post-election caucus meeting” by Louis Blouin
QP BRIEFING: “Paul Calandra will oversee Queen's Park renovations — and gets a $27,000 pay bump for doing so” by Jack Hauen
TORONTO STAR: “‘I put my hand to his throat’: Newly released video gives first glimpse of serial killer Bruce McArthur” by Wendy Gillis
THE CANADIAN PRESS: “Green Party to drop legal action against Annamie Paul as discussions drag on” by Christopher Reynolds
GLOBAL NEWS: “Here Comes the Sun: How a massive solar storm could put Canada at risk” by Carol McGrath
In our last edition, we asked for the name of the five MPs who ran for Speaker of the House at the start of the previous Parliament. They are Geoff Regan, Anthony Rota, Bruce Stanton, Joel Godin and Carol Hughes. Regan, who did not seek re-election in the last election was the incumbent Speaker and was defeated by Rota.
ANSWER THIS: The land-border between the United States and Canada will reopen to non-essential travel for the first time since the start of the pandemic next week. When did the border first close to non-essential travel? Send your answer to email@example.com.