A Shuffle In The House Of Cards

A Shuffle In The House Of Cards

Photo Credit: Adrian Wyid The Canadian Press

A cabinet shuffle following the federal election brings about some questionable new changes and confirms the Liberal Party’s previous cabinet staffing trends.

Sulaiman Hashim Khan, The Mike Contributor

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle following the federal election has brought the number of ministers to 39‎—and ‎it’s going to be hard to squeeze all those people into a single little cabinet.

To begin with, it’d only be right to give credit where credit is due. The Prime Minister appointed women to the three most powerful ministerial positions in the country: Finance, Defence, and Foreign Affairs. This is a commendable move by Trudeau‎—‎if it comes from a place of sincerity. Chrystia Freeland will continue to be the Minister of Finance; Anita Anand will now lead the Ministry of National Defence; and Mélanie Joly will head Foreign Affairs.

Another interesting appointment is that of Steven Guilbeault as the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Guilbeault is best known as a climate activist who made a name for himself in 2001 by scaling the CN Tower. Another member of Greenpeace Canada—of which he was the Québec bureau chief‎—‎joined him, and they are notable for hanging up a banner that read, “Canada and Bush Climate Killers.”  His antics over the past two decades have brought him both praise and skepticism—‎rightfully so. First elected to parliament in 2019, Guilbeault was made Minister of Heritage despite having no prior experience as an elected official and having only sat as an advisor on a few Québécois climate change advisory committees. It’s probably best to refrain from making quick judgments about how Guilbeault will fare in the position. However, his persistence on government regulation of the internet through Bill C-10 during his time as the Minister of Heritage and his reputation as a radical warrant caution and raise questions about his motives.

Earlier this year, Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan was accused of incompetently mishandling ‎multiple incidents of sexual assault within our armed forces, among senior commanders as well ‎as overseeing the hiring of Major Greg McCullough in 2020‎—‎who had already been found guilty of ‎sexual misconduct in his relationship with Constable Nicole Chan, which led to her suicide in 2019. Sajjan’s ineptitude was severely ‎punished by… appointing him as Minister of International Development? Quite the slap on the ‎wrist, I must say.  

There was also the noticeable expulsion of Maryam Monsef after she failed to win re-election. Monsef is the former Minister of ‎International Development, and she was most recently the Minister of Women and Gender Equality. In the summer, in a press conference following the Taliban coup in Afghanistan, ‎she referred to the terror group as, “our brothers, the Taliban.” Yikes.‎

The bold moves and interesting characters aside, I’d also like to point out the growing presence of the “Laurentian Elite” within the cabinet. As the Liberal Party has grown so wont to do, the cabinet houses a strikingly large number of well-connected Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal-based lawyers and other generationally wealthy and privileged “aristocrats.” While it is true that much of the country’s population lives in and around these cities, and that it is much easier to get elected to Parliament if one has the free time and money to support a campaign, there is much to be desired in terms of powerful representation from the 11 other provinces and territories. People from those 11 places make up only 12 out of the 39 appointed ministers. Ergo, that leaves 16 million Canadians outside of Ontario and Québec without much of a voice in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

It is also important to note that in recent years, a greater east–west disconnect has also arisen in the country. Although tensions between the Prairies, Maritimes, and metropolitan areas have always existed and will exist perennially, the rise of the separatist Maverick Party and growing interest in “Wexit” have made Trudeau feel the need to appoint a Special Representative to the Prairies in the form of Jim Carr. Out of the 62 federal seats between the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the Liberals only managed to secure six, with zero seats in Saskatchewan. The few seats won were all in the downtown areas of Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg‎—and won ‎by margins as small as 600 votes. Rural voters seem appropriately disgruntled, and the hostility toward the oil, lumber, and fishing industries found in the rhetoric of many Liberals and New Democrats seems to be a cause for concern.

Overall, there remains much to say about the state of Canadian politics. The Conservative Party is continually split between moderates and a small but consistent group of radical right-wingers who may feel more at home in the fringe joke that is the People’s Party. The New Democrats are making no steady progress under the juvenile and at times delusional leadership of Jagmeet Singh, who spends his time screeching about billionaires and federal oil subsidies that don’t exist and skateboarding to Parliament while filming TikToks. All things considered, the new Liberal cabinet signifies a stagnant, but hopefully safe and smooth way forward in Canada’s leadership.