Toronto power in the Trudeau cabinet – and Bob Rae to Manhattan?
Toronto is shaping up to become the powerhouse in prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s cabinet and team.
With the bench strength he has from Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, rumours are rife that Torontonians are in line for some big portfolios when Mr. Trudeau names his cabinet next Wednesday – and for other positions.
First, there is speculation that Bob Rae – the former Ontario premier, former Liberal MP for Toronto Centre and interim federal leader – could take over as Canadian ambassador in Washington, replacing outgoing Gary Doer, who was appointed by Stephen Harper six years ago. But there are some observers who see Mr. Rae as being a better fit as the ambassador to the United Nations in New York.
Meanwhile, the water-cooler chatter in political circles is around who’s going into the cabinet. It will be a challenge, for sure, especially given that Mr. Trudeau has committed to a smaller cabinet – 25 to 30 members. In addition, he has promised that half of his cabinet will be women – and he must put them into senior positions to make that pledge meaningful.
Some MPs are shoo-ins – wily and proven veterans, including Saskatchewan’s Ralph Goodale, New Brunswick’s Dominic LeBlanc and Nova Scotia’s Scott Brison.
But the big question is: what to do about the stars from Toronto, some of whom were heavily courted and owed?
Here’s the smart speculation: Chrystia Freeland, the MP for University-Rosedale, comes with international cachet and profile. Some observers see her going to Foreign Affairs; others say she is too outspoken on Ukraine and that might be a liability.
Bill Morneau is the new MP for Toronto Centre and comes with a deep background in business and an expertise in pensions. He was part of Mr. Trudeau’s economic team in opposition, and there is speculation he gets an economic portfolio – Industry or Treasury Board.
Some have talked about him for Finance, but others feel he’s too much of a rookie to take that on immediately. Finance could go to either Mr. Goodale or Mr. Brison.
Adam Vaughan handily beat the NDP’s star candidate, Olivia Chow, in the downtown Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York. A former journalist, he’s a good communicator and powerful voice on cities, and especially housing policy. Does Mr. Trudeau create a “Cities” portfolio for him? Or does he give him Transport or Infrastructure?
The Conservatives courted former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, but the persuasive Gerry Butts, Mr. Trudeau’s closest adviser, landed him. Mr. Blair won a seat in Scarborough and could become public safety minister. Some insiders see him in Defence.
However, there is a big contender for the defence portfolio in Andrew Leslie, newly elected in Ottawa and another Liberal star. He is a retired lieutenant-general, and both his grandfathers served as defence minister. However, there is sometimes reluctance to appoint a former member of the military establishment to the defence post. Either way, Mr. Leslie is destined for something big, according to the speculation.
Then there are re-elected Toronto veteran Liberals Carolyn Bennett and Kirsty Duncan. Both are smart, capable women with strong backgrounds in health; Ms. Bennett served in Paul Martin’s cabinet. One of these women could be health minister.
Navdeep Bains from Mississauga-Malton is close to Mr. Trudeau and was co-chair of the Ontario campaign. Capable and a good organizer, he’s also destined for a top spot in cabinet. Will it be Citizenship and Immigration or Human Resources Development Canada?
The strength from Toronto and the GTA means some MPs will get left out of cabinet – the Liberals won 49 of 54 seats in the region. They won 80 of 121 seats in the province.
It happened in 1993, when the Chrétien Liberals won every seat in Ontario but one – 98 of 99 seats. And it resulted in extremely able MPs, including John Godfrey, Barry Campbell and Bill Graham, being left out initially.
The same could happen this time to experienced MPs, including Judy Sgro, John McCallum or Mark Holland, who beat Chris Alexander, the citizenship and immigration minister.
The three telephone calls Brad Wall made after the federal election
Like politicians do, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall placed calls to the three federal party leaders the day after the election to congratulate and commiserate.
The Justin Trudeau call: “We talked no policy and no politics. I just noted that he was about the same age as I was when I came into this job [Mr. Trudeau is 43] and our families, my family was young then as is his now. I just offered, for what it was worth, if that is the No. 1 priority, there will be greater clarity for all the other priorities.”
The Stephen Harper call: “I thanked him. We worked together on a number of issues and worked well. ... On the trade issue, TPP will be huge. I thanked him for that. But there were some other things – no prime minister in the history of this country has ever done more for our uranium industry. He took it upon himself to open up markets for civilian use of uranium in China and India. This is huge – 44 per cent of the front-line workers for Cameco, the uranium company, are First Nations and Métis. These are good jobs. And so that industry is huge for northern Saskatchewan, it’s huge for Canada ... .”
The Tom Mulcair call: “I think it’s important to find common ground and so we talked about the Senate. [Both leaders agree the Senate should be abolished.] I said we would have been a voice of support ... for the Senate piece.”