In a whirlwind set of events for Justin Trudeau’s government, cabinet has been shuffled following the resignation of Bill Morneau on Monday as both Minister of Finance and MP for Toronto Centre.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he asked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to prorogue government, which puts an end to this parliamentary session. Trudeau indicated the government will present a speech from the throne on Sept. 23, the same week the House of Commons was previously set to return.
If Trudeau just wants to have a throne speech, he can wait until mid-September to formally prorogue.— pierrepoilievre (@PierrePoilievre) August 18, 2020
If he wants to shut down WE investigations, he will prorogue this week.
As the prorogation of parliament is occurring while questions are still being raised about the WE Charity scandal, critics including Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre have suggested it is a way to put an end to this particular investigation.
“We now have a government of corruption, coverups and chaos at a time of a deadly pandemic, and the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression,” Poilievre said at a press conference on Tuesday morning. “His biggest priority was to flow a half a billion dollars to a group that had paid his family a half a million dollars.”
Documents related to the WE Charity scandal will still be released to the finance committee but Trudeau maintained that the government will spend the coming weeks establishing a “long-term plan for recovery.”
The prime minister explicitly stated he does not want this prorogation to lead to the opposition triggering an election.
Previously, Trudeau had been a vocal critic of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper after his prorogation of parliament in 2008, avoiding a confidence vote. Harper also prorogued parliament in 2009, which halted a committee investigation into Afghan detainees.
“Stephen Harper and the Conservatives prorogued parliament in order to shut it down and avoid a confidence vote,” Trudeau said on Tuesday. “We are proroguing parliament to bring it back on exactly the same week it was supposed to come back anyway, and force a confidence vote.”
“We are taking a moment to recognize that the throne speech we delivered eight months ago had no mention of COVID-19, had no conception of the reality we find ourselves in right now. We need to reset the approach of this government for a recovery to build back better.”
The prime minister went on to reassure Canadians who are collecting funds through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), EI or the wage subsidy, those program would not be impacted by this prorogation.
“This will be our roadmap out of the pandemic,” Trudeau said.
Looking to the new structure of Trudeau’s cabinet, these are changes that you need to know about in Canada.
Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Chrystia Freeland is the first woman to hold to position of Canada’s Minister of Finance, while she maintains her position as Deputy Prime Minister of Canada as well.
“I am conscious of the fact that I’m Canada’s first woman finance minister,” Freeland said. “It’s about time that we broke that glass ceiling and I’d like to say to all the Canadian women across our amazing country who are breaking glass ceilings, keep going we are 100 per cent with you.”
“One of the hallmarks of our government has been an explicitly and proudly feminist agenda that has always been a part of our work I have taken particular pride in.”
She added that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic women have been falling out of Canada’s workforce “particularly sharply” and Freeland stressed that she will use her experience as a woman, as a mother to address this challenge.
Freeland has been praised recently for her work with provincial and territorial leaders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly from Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
“There’s no secret, I think the world of Chrystia, I sent her a message this morning,” Ford said at a press conference on Tuesday. “She was swamped as Deputy Prime Minister and if there was one person to have confidence in, it’s Chrystia Freeland.”
All eyes will be on Freeland as the Canadian economy works through the recovery of the pandemic. Although she did not provide thorough details on her economic plan for the country, Freeland said Canada’s economic recovery “needs to be green, it also needs to be equitable, it needs to be inclusive.”
“We need to focus very much on jobs and growth,” she said.
The Deputy Prime Minister and newly appoint Minister of Finance is also Canada’s key figure in negotiations with the U.S. administration. This includes border restrictions during the pandemic, the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement and retaliatory tariffs after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would reinstate a 10 per cent tariff on Canadian aluminum.
Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen's Privy Council
In his new position as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc will take over Freeland’s previous task of overseeing relations with the provinces and territories.
This role has been particularly important during COVID-19 as the federal government continues to negotiate with provincial and territorial leaders about keeping Canadians safe during the pandemic and resource allocation for the recovery of the economy.
LeBlanc, an MP in the New Brunswick riding of Beausejour, was originally named president of the Queen’s Privy Council after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
He previously held the role of minister for intergovernmental affairs and northern affairs before he took a step back from cabinet to focus on his health.