New federal cabinet: PM taps Freeland to deal with testy premiers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled a larger cabinet that aims to advance Liberal campaign promises to tackle climate change and promote middle-class prosperity, while attempting to soothe regional tensions exacerbated by last month’s election outcome.

The pivotal role in his new cabinet for a minority-government era goes to Chrystia Freeland, who moves from the prestigious Global Affairs portfolio to become deputy prime minister and minister in charge of intergovernmental affairs.

Freeland, whom Trudeau tapped to deal with mercurial U.S. President Donald Trump during the tense renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, will now be in charge of dealing with hostile conservative premiers across the country.

That will be particularly important in Canada’s oil and gas heartland, Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Liberals were shut out on Oct. 21.

The Toronto MP, who has family roots in Alberta, won praise as a tough, canny negotiator during the trade talks. Her diplomatic and negotiating skills will be put to the test in dealing with Alberta’s Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford.

In a further sign of outreach to the West, Trudeau has tapped Jonathan Wilkinson, formerly fisheries minister, to take on the environment portfolio.

It will be central to the government’s aim to take stronger measures to combat climate change while attempting to ensure Canada’s transition off fossil fuels does not tank the economy, particularly in the oil-producing western provinces.

Although Wilkinson represents a B.C. riding, he was born and raised in Saskatchewan and worked for the province’s former NDP government.

Winnipeg MP Jim Carr, one of Trudeau’s most reliable ministers who is now being treated for cancer, is no longer in cabinet. But Trudeau has appointed him to be his ”special representative for the Prairies .. (to) ensure that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a strong voice in cabinet.”

Seamus O’Regan moves from Indigenous Services to take on Natural Resources, a crucial file as the government attempts to square the circle of tackling climate change while simultaneously expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline to carry Alberta crude to the B.C. coast for export overseas.

He hails from Newfoundland and Labrador, the only other oil-producing province.

Trudeau’s new lineup also includes outreach to Quebec, in response to a resurgence of the separatist Bloc Quebecois in the election.

Montreal MP Pablo Rodriguez, formerly Canadian Heritage minister, takes on the crucial role of government House leader.

He will be responsible for charting a path for the Liberals, who hold only a minority of seats, to get their legislation through the House of Commons. Passage of legislation will require the support of at least one opposition party.

Rodriguez has also been named political minister for Quebec — a position Trudeau had resisted creating until now.

In all, Trudeau’s new team includes 36 ministers — an increase of two — including 17 from Ontario, the province that ensured the Liberals’ re-election, and 10 from Quebec.

It maintains Trudeau’s insistence on an equal number of men and women, adds two newly elected MPs and elevates five experienced MPs from the backbench.

In addition to Carr, Trudeau has dropped two others from cabinet — former health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, who will serve as deputy whip, and former science minister Kirsty Duncan, who will serve as deputy House leader.

Bill Morneau remains finance minister but he will now be bolstered by Ottawa MP Mona Fortier, who becomes minister of middle class prosperity and associate finance minister.

Other newcomers include Trudeau’s longtime friend, Montreal MP Marc Miller, who moves from the backbench to Indigenous Services, rookie Oakville MP Anita Anand, who takes over public services and procurement, and rookie Montreal MP Steven Guilbeault, a prominent environmentalist, who was given the heritage portfolio.

Other new additions include Toronto MP Marco Mendicino, who takes over immigration, Toronto-area MP Deb Schulte who takes over as seniors minister, and Manitoba MP Dan Vandal, who becomes minister of northern affairs.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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