Political reporter Jane Taber takes an inside look at the week in politics.
Trudeau’s deputy PM, in all but name
It’s come full circle: Justin Trudeau and Dominic LeBlanc’s famous political fathers were close friends and supporters, and now the new Prime Minister has called on Mr. LeBlanc to serve as his de facto deputy prime minister.
Mr. LeBlanc, 47, whose father was the former governor-general and press aide to former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was named Government House Leader on Wednesday – a huge portfolio steering the ambitious Trudeau agenda through the Commons. But a look at the powerful cabinet committees reveals that Mr. LeBlanc is sitting on six of the 10 committees, two of which, Agenda and Results and Intelligence and Emergency Management, are chaired by Prime Minister Trudeau.
For Mr. Trudeau and Mr. LeBlanc the leadership question was decided several years ago. In the fall of 2012, as Mr. Trudeau was launching his bid to become federal Liberal leader, he travelled to Mr. LeBlanc’s New Brunswick riding of Beausejour.
The two men had both been thinking about running and had talked about it in the summer, when Mr. Trudeau and his family spent two weeks with Mr. LeBlanc and his family at the LeBlanc cottage overlooking the Northumberland Strait.
It was decided then – the two were drinking beers at Captain Dan’s, a pub in nearby Shediac, talking over their ideas for Canada and about their prospective leadership bids – that Mr. Trudeau would run and Mr. LeBlanc would be his key supporter.
“A lot focused on the country more than the candidacy,” Mr. LeBlanc told The Globe and Mail in an earlier interview. “It wasn’t a discussion of the mechanics [of trying to win the leadership] at all. … That conversation reminded me of times we have had here as family over the decades.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau was sworn in holding a French Roman Catholic Bible; Mr. LeBlanc held the Bible his father used when he became Governor-General and which he lent to Brian Gallant, who represents provincially part of Mr. LeBlanc’s federal riding, to use when he was sworn in as Premier of New Brunswick.
Toronto and Ontario came out big winners this week in the cabinet sweepstakes – 11 of the 31 ministers are from the province (compared with seven from Quebec). Most of them are in senior positions, including Toronto Centre rookie MP Bill Morneau, a successful and wealthy Bay Street businessman who is the Finance Minister, the second-most important job after prime minister.
But Mr. Trudeau didn’t stop there, appointing Ontarians into tops jobs, including International Trade, Immigration, Environment, Indigenous and Northern Affairs and Health.
For Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who campaigned aggressively for Mr. Trudeau, this is also a big win. Her major files, including climate change and pensions, are under the purview of Ontarians. Mr. Morneau has even advised the Ontario government in the past on pensions.
An added bonus for Ms. Wynne is that Mr. Trudeau is serving as Intergovernmental Affairs Minister as he tries to revitalize the relationship between the provinces and the federal government.
Left off the list, however, and a disappointment to some Liberals was Adam Vaughan, an effective advocate for housing policy and cities, from the new Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York. In addition, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair’s absence from cabinet raised eyebrows, given his expertise and how heavily courted he was to run.
The first order of business when Parliament returns Dec. 3 is to elect a speaker – it’s done by secret ballot. The whispers so far are that three Liberals are interested in the post: Mauril Bélanger, 60, a long-time MP from Ottawa; Newfoundland and Labrador MP Scott Simms, 46, who was elected in 1994 and was a radio reporter and weatherman; and Nova Scotia’s Geoff Regan. He was first elected in 1993 but lost in the 1997 election and then was re-elected in 2000; he was a minister in Paul Martin’s cabinet and is the son of former Nova Scotia premier Gerry Regan. The speaker’s job is perk-laden – a salary of more than $200,000, a farm in Gatineau Park, a private dining room and an apartment in the Centre Block.
Hot or not
Hot: Peter Harder. The former senior bureaucrat headed the transition team for Mr. Trudeau. He was at Mr. Trudeau’s celebration party on election night in Montreal and the swearing-in ceremony Wednesday along with other notables, including former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who had just flown in from Shanghai for the event. Rumours are that Mr. Harder can have his pick of positions – what about ambassador to Washington?
Hot: Ocean’s Eleven. The 11 Liberal MPs from Nova Scotia have adopted this new moniker – a reference to the Las Vegas caper movie – to describe their sweep of all the ridings in the province.
Hot: Stéphane Dion. An insider at the swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall says one of the most touching moments of the event was when Mr. Dion’s name was announced as Foreign Affairs Minister. There was audible muttering of agreement for the respect Mr. Trudeau showed to the former party leader. He was an effective minister, especially on the Clarity Act, but now the question is how diplomatic can he be? In addition, Mr. Trudeau appointed Mr. Dion to chair the cabinet committee on environment, climate change and energy. He is a former environment minister and as party leader he campaigned in the 2008 election on his carbon tax plan, which he called the “green shift.” It was difficult to explain and fell flat with voters.