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Trudeau unveils major cabinet changes with Freeland as deputy PM, new ministers for diversity, middle class

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a new cabinet on Wednesday. Here's what goes into the decision.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday unveiled major changes to the federal cabinet that saw Chrystia Freeland promoted to deputy prime minister and new posts created to promote diversity and the middle class — with roughly one-quarter of posts going to Quebeckers and almost half to Ontarians.

The new 36-member cabinet has two more positions than before and sees many familiar faces remaining around the table but in new positions, while several new members have been brought up to bat.

Wait, There’s More: Understanding Trudeau’s cabinet picks

Most notable is the shift of Freeland from foreign affairs to the post of deputy prime minister and minister for intergovernmental affairs, a position that sets her up to take a key leadership role in what have increasingly been contentious relations with provinces dominated by Conservative premiers.

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READ MORE: Western alienation, climate change questions loom as Ottawa awaits new Liberal cabinet

Speaking with reporters after the swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall, Trudeau cited his close work with Freeland on files such as the USMCA negotiations as part of the reason he is bringing her into the new position, which historically has seen a wide range its role and significance between various governments.

“I see it being very much a Freeland-ish role,” Trudeau said when pressed to explain how he views the role compared to examples in the past.

“Chrystia and I have worked very closely on some of the biggest files facing Canada … our ability to work well together on these issues — which, quite frankly, touch national unity, the environment, touch relations with all provinces and regions in this country — is going to be a very important thing at a time when we see a range of perspectives across the country that need to be brought together.”

Chrystia Freeland appointed deputy prime minister and minister in charge of Canadian unity
Chrystia Freeland appointed deputy prime minister and minister in charge of Canadian unity

Freeland told reporters as well she will still be responsible for getting the renegotiated NAFTA over the finish line, and that she will still broadly oversee Canada’s relations with the United States.

“It’s important to me and to the prime minister that I continue to be the minister responsible for those negotiations and in general, for our relationship with the United State which is so important for this country,” she said.

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She also expanded on how she views her role as deputy prime minister and what lessons she plans to bring to the position from her foreign affairs post.

“The real challenge today, I think, for our country is for our country to understand that we are facing such big issues in the world today that we really have to face them as Team Canada,” she said. “The strongest learning we came out of from the NAFTA negotiation is we have to face the big challenges united as a country, and that is what we have to do when it comes to confronting the big issues of our time.”

When pressed how she views her role as minister for intergovernmental affairs at the same time, Freeland said the first task for her will be taking the time to hear from those from the West about their key concerns.

“I think what we have to do as a federal government when it comes to the West, as with all our relationships, is really listen hard.”

“The election sent a message from the West to our party and now is a moment when we need to respond, to begin with, by listening really hard and effectively.”

Champagne takes over as foreign affairs minister as new Liberal cabinet announced
Champagne takes over as foreign affairs minister as new Liberal cabinet announced

Francois-Philippe Champagne, previously minister of infrastructure, gets what appears to be the largest promotion of the bunch in taking over Freeland’s role as minister of foreign affairs.

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Former border security and organized crime minister Bill Blair also takes on a significant new role as minister of public safety, where he will be the one tasked with shepherding in the Liberals’ promised gun reforms, including a ban on assault rifles and working with municipalities wanting to ban handguns.

Jonathan Wilkinson, who had been fisheries minister, also got a promotion to minister of the environment and climate change. He will take over from Catherine McKenna, who has been vocal about the abuse and harassment she has received over recent years linked to her work on that file.

McKenna becomes minister of infrastructure and communities.

READ MORE: Why roles like chief whip, house leader will be more important in Trudeau’s minority government

As had been rumoured, Quebec MP Pablo Rodriguez will also become the leader of the government in the House of Commons, a key role in the current minority scenario.

He had previously been minister of Canadian heritage, a post which now goes to Quebec environmentalist and star Liberal candidate Steven Guilbeault.

Trudeau was pressed over why he did not name Guilbeault to replace McKenna as environment minister given his background and advocacy.

Catherine McKenna out as environment minister, Wilkinson takes over
Catherine McKenna out as environment minister, Wilkinson takes over

Specifically, some reporters questioned whether Trudeau was concerned the appointment of such a vocal environmentalist to the portfolio could have further alienated people in Western Canada at a time when tensions over natural resource development are escalating.

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Trudeau said all of the new ministers will be tasked with addressing climate change and the environment within their portfolios but did not specify why the position went to Wilkinson rather than Guilbeault.

Trudeau reveals Cabinet amid growing frustration in Western Canada
Trudeau reveals Cabinet amid growing frustration in Western Canada

One of the key questions heading into the reveal was how the Liberals would seek to ensure representation for the West in cabinet given they were locked out of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Winnipeg MP Jim Carr, who had been minister of international trade and is battling cancer, will be taking on a new role as special representative to the Prairies, while Newfoundland MP Seamus O’Regan becomes the new minister of natural resources.

O’Regan has been criticized for his communication skills on contentious portfolios in the past: veterans advocates slammed him in 2018 for remarks he made comparing his experience leaving journalism to the mental health struggles faced by veterans adjusting to life after the military.

It’s possible the Liberals think there are positive optics to naming a minister to the post who comes from an oil-producing province that has struggled with its own economic hardships.

But it’s not yet clear how the appointment of O’Regan, a close friend of Trudeau, will go over in the Prairies where there is strong opposition to the Trudeau brand, and that was one of the questions aimed at Trudeau by reporters.

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“I am incredibly proud to have Seamus O’Regan, a strong Newfoundlander, as our natural resources minister,” he said. “There are Newfoundlanders who work right across the country in natural resources and Newfoundland itself is a place not just of oil resources but other natural resources.”

Trudeau added he wants to “lean on” the kind of innovation shown by provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan in the oilsands, and use that in the shift towards clean energy and technology.

“We recognize that the people who work in the oilsands have been providing energy and resources to Canada for many decades in a way that has created tremendous prosperity,” he said, stressing the provinces are an “essential element in moving forward in a way that brings all Canadians along.”

Marc Miller, a Quebec MP who learned the Mohawk language and made history by giving the first speech in it in the House of Commons, becomes the new minister of Indigenous services.

Lametti stays on as Attorney General and minister of justice
Lametti stays on as Attorney General and minister of justice

Montreal MP David Lametti remains as minister of justice and attorney general.

He has not ruled out giving a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec engineering giant facing criminal trial on corruption and bribery charges.

Ethics commissioner Mario Dion ruled earlier this year that Trudeau broke federal ethics rules by inappropriately pressuring his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to give the company a deal to escape criminal prosecution.

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Along with those posts comes the creation of several new positions in the federal cabinet in addition to those that appear to send signals about where the federal focus will be during the minority mandate.

Bardish Chagger moves from being House leader, the role tasked with the business of the House of Commons, to a new role as minister of diversity, inclusion and youth.

Mona Fortier, a new addition to cabinet, will now be the minister for middle-class prosperity as well as associate minister of finance, while Bill Morneau remains in the chief role.

READ MORE: In Mohawk speech, Liberal MP Marc Miller says learning language helped him learn ‘my place on earth’

The Liberals are axing the portfolio of minister of democratic institutions, and Karina Gould, who had held that role, will now be minister of international development.

The new health minister will be Patty Hajdu, who had been minister of employment and spearheaded the overhaul of the Canada Summer Jobs funding to ensure public dollars do not go to groups advocating the restriction of rights such as access to abortion or same-sex marriage.

Her appointment comes as Trudeau faces pressure to do more to ensure Canadian women have equal access to abortion and reproductive health services across the country.

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Here is the full list of cabinet appointments:

  • Chrystia Freeland becomes deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs
  • Anita Anand becomes minister of public services and procurement
  • Navdeep Bains becomes minister of innovation, science and industry
  • Carolyn Bennett remains minister of Crown-Indigenous relations
  • Marie-Claude Bibeau remains minister of agriculture and agri-food
  • Bill Blair becomes minister of public safety and emergency preparedness
  • Bardish Chagger becomes minister of diversity, inclusion and youth
  • François-Philippe Champagne becomes minister of foreign affairs
  • Jean-Yves Duclos becomes president of the Treasury Board
  • Mona Fortier becomes minister of middle-class prosperity and associate minister of finance
  • Marc Garneau remains minister of transport
  • Karina Gould becomes minister of international development
  • Steven Guilbeault becomes minister of Canadian heritage
  • Patty Hajdu becomes minister of health
  • Ahmed Hussen becomes minister of families, children and social development
  • Mélanie Joly becomes minister of economic development and official languages
  • Bernadette Jordan becomes minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
  • David Lametti remains minister of justice and attorney general of Canada
  • Dominic LeBlanc becomes president of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
  • Diane Lebouthillier remains minister of national revenue
  • Lawrence MacAulay remains minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence
  • Catherine McKenna becomes minister of infrastructure and communities
  • Marco E. L. Mendicino becomes minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship
  • Marc Miller becomes minister of Indigenous services
  • Maryam Monsef becomes minister of women and gender equality and rural economic development
  • Bill Morneau remains minister of finance
  • Joyce Murray becomes minister of digital government
  • Mary Ng becomes minister of small business, export promotion and international trade
  • Seamus O’Regan becomes minister of natural resources
  • Carla Qualtrough becomes minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion
  • Pablo Rodriguez becomes leader of the government in the House of Commons
  • Harjit Sajjan remains minister of national defence
  • Deb Schulte becomes minister of seniors
  • Filomena Tassi becomes minister of labour
  • Dan Vandal becomes minister of northern affairs
  • Jonathan Wilkinson becomes minister of environment and climate change
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Trudeau also named several other appointments that are not technically part of the cabinet.

  • Pablo Rodriguez becomes Quebec lieutenant
  • Jim Carr becomes special adviser for the Prairies
  • Kirsty Duncan becomes deputy leader of the government in the House of Commons
  • Mark Holland remains chief government whip
  • Ginette Petitpas Taylor becomes deputy government whip
  • Kevin Lamoureux becomes parliamentary secretary to the leader of the government in the House of Commons