Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks towards his cabinet to speak to reporters following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

What’s the president of the Privy Council do? Five things about Trudeau’s new cabinet

A breakdown of the role switches, demotions, promotions and new positions

Five things to note about the new federal cabinet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Wednesday:

He has a deputy prime minister

Besides being intergovernmental-affairs minister, in charge of dealing with Canada’s restive provincial premiers, Chrystia Freeland has the title of deputy prime minister. It’s a symbolic appointment meant to indicate that a minister is especially important but it has not historically come with any particular authority. Trudeau’s father, Pierre, named Canada’s first deputy prime minister in 1977; that was Allan MacEachen, a veteran cabinet minister who was also the Liberals’ House leader.

Jean Chretien named trusted loyalists Herb Gray, Sheila Copps and John Manley as deputy prime minister at different times. Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney turned to Don Mazankowski, who was essentially the government’s powerful chief operating officer. Other prime ministers have named deputies to give elevated status to leaders of rival factions in their parties. Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper never had one and neither did Trudeau in his first term.

“I see it being very much a Freelandish role,” Trudeau joked when asked which type of deputy prime minister he sees Freeland being. “Chrystia and I have worked very closely together on some of the very biggest files.”

Dominic LeBlanc is president of the Privy Council (and nothing else)

The New Brunswick MP is a lifelong friend of Trudeau’s and was House leader, fisheries minister, intergovernmental-affairs minister and northern-affairs minister at various times in the last Parliament. He is also fighting cancer and is recovering from a stem-cell transplant. He appeared at Wednesday’s swearing-in looking gaunt and bald and wore a mask over his mouth and nose through most of the event.

The president of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada is formally responsible for the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic department that supports the prime minister, but in practice the prime minister handles it.

READ MORE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveils new Liberal cabinet

The Privy Council itself is a large ceremonial body made up of dozens of current and former cabinet ministers, Speakers of the House of Commons and Senate, governors general and Supreme Court judges and other similar figures — membership on the council is what the title “The Honourable” indicates. It meets very rarely, sometimes not for decades, to do things like approve royal marriages.

LeBlanc’s position keeps him as a cabinet minister but without putting consequential demands on him while his health is poor.

Gender parity

Consistent with his practice since forming a government in 2015, Trudeau named equal numbers of men and women to ministerial posts — 18 of each, plus himself. Freeland is clearly his No. 2 as deputy prime minister but many other key posts are held by men: Bill Morneau at Finance, Francois-Philippe Champagne at Foreign Affairs, Harjit Sajjan at Defence, Bill Blair at Public Safety, David Lametti at Justice, Ahmed Hussen at Social Development, Seamus O’Regan at Natural Resources and Jonathan Wilkinson at Environment.

Women do have other important portfolios: Anita Anand at Public Services and Procurement, Marie-Claude Bibeau at Agriculture, Patty Hajdu at Health, Catherine McKenna at Infrastructure and Carla Qualtrough at Employment, for instance. But women are also more likely than male ministers to have cabinet posts that don’t come with leadership of distinct departments, such as Bardish Chagger’s job as minister of diversity, inclusion and youth and Mona Fortier’s as minister of middle-class prosperity.

Beefing up the House-management operation

Making sure the Liberals can get government legislation through a House of Commons where they don’t hold a majority could be difficult and Trudeau has assigned some potent players to it.

Pablo Rodriguez is the Liberals’ new House leader. The Montreal MP was heritage minister until Wednesday, was previously chief whip (in charge of making sure the Liberals were never caught short of votes in the Commons) and was an MP during the fractious minority Parliaments of the 2000s. He’ll work with counterparts in the other parties to gauge their support for Liberal proposals and try to keep the House of Commons moving.

Another Toronto-area MP, Mark Holland, is staying on as chief whip.

Demotions

Rodriguez’s deputy is Kirsty Duncan, a Toronto MP who was formerly minister of science and of amateur sport. Holland’s deputy whip is now former health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor. Both are taking on jobs that will be important for the Liberals but they’re also losing a lot of formal status along the way.

Petitpas Taylor, in particular, is leaving a multibillion-dollar portfolio to support Holland in a post she held when Trudeau’s Liberals first took office in 2015. The fluently bilingual New Brunswicker has experience and close connections among the Liberals’ many Atlantic MPs.

Joyce Murray of Vancouver is leaving her job as president of the Treasury Board, the body that deals with the nuts and bolts of the federal government as an employer and buyer of goods, to be minister of digital government, which used to be only part of her job.

Catherine McKenna’s move from Environment and Climate Change to Infrastructure means leaving one of the highest-profile jobs in the Liberal government but also will make her less of a lightning rod for anger about carbon taxes and stiffer regulations.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Hagensborg Water District ratepayers vote to dissolve district

In a close vote of 68 to 63, ratepayers have chosen to dissolve the water district

Bella Coola residents rely on food bank support

Your volunteers at the food bank work year-round, but are especially busy at Christmas

Nations coming together: Haida pole raised at opening of Heiltsuk Big House

‘Haida/Heiltsuk Peace Pole’ part of ceremony marking return of spiritual centre in Bella Bella

Nimpkish back in service while NSW undergoes repairs

The Northern Sea Wolf sustained damage to its propellers from a log strike in November

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

B.C. Transit finds 28 used fareboxes online, saves $300,000

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Most Read