Justin Trudeau has to attend summits and deliver on a laundry list of promises to revamp the way Ottawa is run. But on Wednesday, he will give a handful of new cabinet ministers hot files that are crucial if the new Liberal government wants to live up to its own billing.
Mr. Trudeau has promised his first legislation will bring in promised middle-class tax cuts, but that has been spelled out so explicitly that the new finance minister's main task is preparing a budget for the New Year. Mr. Trudeau, more than the new foreign affairs minister, will lead the summiteering this fall. But some cabinet members will be very important in the government's early days.
The immigration minister will be key because he or she will have to quarterback the effort to fulfill Mr. Trudeau's high-profile pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian immigrants in Canada by the end of the year.
That plan is already being drawn up, but it will be the biggest resettlement in Canada since 1980. Organizations are raising concerns the pace is too fast, arguing proper housing and services will be lacking. There are also the logistical puzzle to arrange transportation and policy decisions to expedite processing. Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the new minister should use temporary resident permits to bring in people with Canadian relatives, which is much quicker than processing them as refugees.
And if the specific deadline is not crucial to refugees, the symbolism is for the government. Canadians do not seem to want to delay: Chris Friesen of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. said he took flak from the public after he suggested the timeline is too short.
The new defence minister will probably have to play a part in the resettlement, but will have another immediate task in organizing the withdrawal of Canada's CF-18 fighters from air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq – without riling allies, notably the United States.
When and how are important. Mr. Trudeau has said he will withdraw the fighters from air strikes responsibly – a delay of months could avoid the picture of a sudden Canadian pullout, which might annoy allies who don't want an image of declining international support. The new minister will be under pressure to unveil plans to renew or expand the part of the mission the Liberals do support, Canadian Forces training for ground forces in Iraq.
Some priorities the government did not choose. The new justice minister faces a ticking clock to rewrite legislation to allow assisted suicide, at least in some cases, after the Supreme Court stuck down restrictions and gave the government until February to pass a new law. The new government is expected to apply for an extension, but even so, it is a delicate, rush job.
Most politicians prefer to avoid the topic, but the new minister must take the still-incomplete work of a committee of academic experts the outgoing Conservatives appointed, and a panel set up by Ontario, and possibly more consultations, then draft a law that is bound to be controversial.
The summit agenda also adds time pressure. Mr. Trudeau's environment minister must organize an approach to greenhouse-gas emissions for the international summit on climate change in Paris in December. And the new minister must start talking to provinces right away about hammering out a federal-provincial approach to meet targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Canadian governments have not even started those talks before – but Mr. Trudeau has promised not only to have premiers with him in Paris, but to hold a first ministers conference within 90 days of the summit on a federal-provincial deal to reduce emissions.
And there's the main theme of the Liberal platform, economic growth. The new infrastructure minister will face a rush to design the bigger, better infrastructure programs Mr. Trudeau promised.
That means writing new criteria for projects – the Liberals promised expanded funds for transit, social and green infrastructure, and transparent rules – as well as organizing projects with provinces and cities. Those projects are typically complex and take years, but the government is under pressure to demonstrate it is delivering, fast.