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Trudeau taps prominent transition advisers in nod to Alberta, Quebec

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves the stage after speaking to the news media for the first time since winning a minority government in the federal election on Oct. 23, 2019. Stephane Mahe/Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is tapping two prominent women with deep roots in Alberta and Quebec to guide the formation of his new minority government.

The Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday confirmed that Trudeau has brought on Anne McLellan and Isabelle Hudon to serve as his transition advisers as the Liberals adjust to governing in a minority situation following an election campaign that rubbed raw fresh tensions between the West and the rest of the country.

READ MORE: With the Liberals’ new minority, Trudeau’s greatest challenge is healing divide with Western Canada

McLellan served as the Liberal member of Parliament for Edmonton Northwest from 1993 to 2006 and held the posts of minister of natural resources and minister of justice during her time in office. She most recently made headlines when Trudeau brought her on to conduct a review of whether the roles of minister of justice and attorney general should be separated in the wake of findings of improper political interference by his office in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

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Hudon is currently Canada’s ambassador to France and the first woman to hold that position.

She is a prominent figure in Quebec business and political circles, having held senior leadership roles as CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal along with others at Bombardier, the Canadian Space Agency and Sun Life Financial.

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News of their retention as advisers comes as Trudeau grapples with how to ensure representation for Alberta and Saskatchewan in his new minority government.

The Liberals were entirely locked out of those provinces as tensions have escalated over the ongoing economic challenges facing the oil and gas industry as well as challenges to natural resource development projects writ large that critics argue are posed by the Liberal overhaul of the approval process for such projects.

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Without elected members from those provinces that can be included in a federal cabinet, Trudeau will need to look at alternate options for ensuring voices from the regions are represented in his government.

He has already spoken with Western leaders including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi but the question remains about what non-cabinet posts he could look to fill with Westerners at a time when frustrations in those provinces are mounting.

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As prime minister in a minority government, Trudeau will need to rely on cooperation and support from other parties when the House of Commons returns.

One of those could be the Bloc Quebecois, which surged back to prominence federally in the election last week.

Both the Bloc and the NDP are potential kingmakers, and Trudeau will need to maintain support from at least one of them in order to hold onto power.

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But both Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have indicated they plan to place a high level of importance on efforts to combat climate change and pollution, something that could escalate already-tense relations with Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Trudeau met with Governor General Julie Payette at Rideau Hall on Tuesday morning to officially inform her he will try to form a minority government.

He will announce his new cabinet on Nov. 20 but there is no indication at this time for whether the House of Commons will return before the winter holidays.

With files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson.

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