Justin Trudeau will have to contend with the defeat of three female cabinet ministers as the Prime Minister crafts his senior leadership team in what’s expected to be a quick return to governing.
The three ministers failed to win their seats in Monday night’s election and Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna didn’t run in this campaign. The loss of four female ministers in total makes a significant cabinet shakeup likely. Mr. Trudeau has made gender parity a priority of his cabinets since his first victory in 2015.
Two senior government officials told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Trudeau will outline his government’s next steps once Elections Canada has finalized the seat counts, which could be as early as Thursday. Mr. Trudeau has not held a news conference since Monday’s election.
The officials suggested Parliament will resume fairly quickly and the government’s immediate focus will be on issues raised in the campaign, including climate change, child care, housing and Indigenous reconciliation.
The Globe is not disclosing the sources’ names because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the internal deliberations.
The government’s priorities could be overshadowed by a fourth wave of COVID-19 that is overwhelming Alberta’s health care system and prompted the introduction of vaccine certificates across much of Canada.
In the midst of the pandemic and in his third mandate as Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau shouldn’t expect a grace period from voters as he lays the groundwork for his new government, said Michele Cadario, the CEO of Vanguard Strategy and a former deputy chief of staff to prime minister Paul Martin.
Ms. Cadario said she expects the government to move quicker than normal to unveil the cabinet and deliver a Speech from the Throne. After the 2015 and ‘19 elections, the Liberals waited a little more than six weeks before recalling Parliament.
Given the pandemic, Ms. Cadario said, “there’s a greater expectation that nobody’s eye is off the ball of the issues that actually have to be dealt with and that there’s no kind of pause.”
The defeats this week of Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan in Nova Scotia and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef and Seniors Minister Deb Schulte in Ontario leave Mr. Trudeau with several openings in his cabinet. The new team will also need to reflect the growth in seats for the Liberals in B.C. and the party’s breakthrough in Alberta after being shut out in the 2019 election.
Mr. Trudeau’s last cabinet shuffle led to 37 ministers, including the Prime Minister, with 19 men and 18 women.
The Liberals won two seats in Alberta. Former Calgary city councillor George Chahal was victorious in Calgary Skyview and Randy Boissonnault won in Edmonton Centre. Mr. Boissonnault was elected in 2015 but lost in 2019.
In an interview Wednesday, Ms. McKenna said she expects the next cabinet will be diverse and gender balanced.
“I think gender balance is really important, not because, you know, you’ve got to go find some women; we have really great women. And you make better decisions when you have a cabinet that looks like your country,” she said.
The outgoing minister said the re-elected government will have to weigh the desire to get back to work with the need to absorb the election results.
“Obviously you’ve got to govern, but I think you need to take some time to reflect,” she said. “We didn’t get a majority. So, it’s [about] how are you going to work with other parties. … What are the things that you can deliver on in a minority?”
The country’s premiers are also looking to regroup after an election in which Quebec Premier François Legault advocated for a Conservative government. The premiers will meet by phone on Thursday and are expected to co-ordinate their funding requests for the re-elected Liberals. The premiers have long called for major increases to health care funding with no conditions on how the money is spent – something Mr. Trudeau has resisted.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Wednesday that Parliament should be recalled as soon as possible. He said he will take up the call of provincial premiers for a $28-billion increase in federal health transfers. Mr. Blanchet said he spoke with Mr. Legault and Ontario Premier Doug Ford about federal health spending.
“We are urging the Prime Minister to act quickly to call a summit on federal transfers to the provinces for health care,” Mr. Blanchet said. “This should start with an immediate increase of $28-billion.”
Mr. Blanchet said he expects the minority Parliament to work and suggested there is no reason why it can’t last a full four years.
While Mr. Trudeau can expect fights to continue with the premiers over health spending, support for his $10-a-day national child-care program appears to have grown. At a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday, Mr. Ford said he is prepared to reach a deal with Ottawa on child care. Eight premiers have already signed a deal with the federal government.
The Globe and Mail
With a report from Jeff Gray in Toronto
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