Who’s in, who’s out, and what does it all mean? As the new Liberal cabinet assumes its portfolios in Canada’s 44th Parliament, one thing is clear: this government is about big government. It’s also about shoring up support in places the Liberals want to win more votes next time around, such as Quebec, while strengthening the party’s regional connections across the country. It not only maintains gender parity, but puts women in powerful positions, responds to national policy priorities, and advances the ambitions of some potential future Liberal leadership contenders.
Both the ministries and the faces tell the story. Gone is the ministry of middle class prosperity; these days, all Canadians are watching their pocketbooks and many are looking to Ottawa for a helping hand. No surprise, then, that key players include spend-friendly Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, who just announced an additional $7 billion in pandemic supports. Meanwhile, the new housing ministry, to be helmed by former immigration minister Ahmed Hussen, promises an interventionist agenda that includes $1 billion in loans and grants to turn renters into owners.
Another key player on the affordability agenda is François-Philippe Champagne as minister for innovation, science and commerce, a critical portfolio as the government focuses on the post-pandemic economic recovery. Tourism, one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, gets its own standalone ministry, led by Albertan Randy Boissonnault, a choice that does double duty as outreach to the West. In light of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s terribly unpopular pandemic performance and the recent election of former Liberal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi as mayor of Edmonton, Liberals sense opportunity to eat away at Conservative fortunes in Alberta in the next federal vote.