The Morning Brief – 10.21.21

By Bruce Carson


Sir John A. Macdonald –Cabinet Maker; this is how Macdonald modestly described his role. He is also famously quoted as saying to the effect if I was sent better wood; I would make a better cabinet.

At this stage we only have two positions confirmed in the cabinet to be sworn in next Tuesday; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains as prime minister and Chrystia Freeland as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

However, we generally know the tasks or positions that will be filled, if not the names of those who will occupy them. And for those appointed, they should know that nothing should be taken as permanent as they serve at the pleasure of the prime minister.

There is no question that this government has a large and extensive agenda in front of it, but unlike the previous six years, action, progress and implementation will be demanded and expected by Canadians.

On September 28, Trudeau accompanied by newly confirmed Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Freeland in a media availability outlined the main elements of his government’s agenda.

Topping this list were five priorities for vaccines. The first was to ensure that all members of the federal public service are fully vaccinated. Will those who disobey be released? Anyone 12 or older who wants to get on a plane, train or ferry must be fully vaccinated. The government has been working on an international proof of vaccination which may be announced later today.

At this point it seems that the first major disagreement in this new parliament will involve the question of whether Members should all be fully vaccinated and reveal this publically. This week Speaker Rota announced the decision of the Board of Internal Economy that anyone entering the Commons precinct, with exceptions for medical reasons, must be fully vaccinated. This was a wide ranging statement coving virtually all those entering the precinct.

This announcement whether it has legal authority or not, that is one of the disputes taking place at present, puts the Commons in line with what will be the law for all other federal institutions. If the decision is regarded as a Speaker’s Ruling, it should be noted, those rulings are not subject to appeal.

Now the Conservative Party is arguing that the Board has no authority to make such a decision. And on it will go; same for whether the Commons meets in hybrid session or with all members present.

Surely an argument over process is not what Canadians want to hear from newly elected Members, sent to Ottawa after dealing with COVID-19 and a campaign over very little. They want them to deal with issues that directly affect Canadians. And surely this is not a hill Conservative Party Leader O’Toole wants to die on so early in this new Parliament!

Completing the government’s Early Learning and Childcare agenda focussing on $10 per day childcare across the country should be looked upon as a legacy item for Trudeau and his government. The implementation of this commitment will require diligence, not usually seen from this government.

For this to be a truly national program Canada’s largest province must be included and if reworking the funding formula is all that is required, then, within limits, that should be possible.

The major challenge facing the Trudeau government on childcare will be landing it successfully so that it is up and running as scheduled. The minister with the most experience dealing with the provinces is Dominic LeBlanc; this is a natural fit.

Other priorities listed by Trudeau included ten days of paid sick leave for federally regulated employees, moving forward on housing and support for people regarding affordability and growing the economy, preparing for COP 26 and transition to a “cleaner, greener economy.”

With regard to Environment and Climate Change, while there are rumours that Stephen Guilbeault really wants to become the new minister, Jonathan Wilkinson has done a creditable job and has promised that the detailed plan for emission reduction will be published in the coming days.

The above is an ambitious list, but it doesn’t cover many of the issues that the government will be dealing with. Its legislative agenda will see a revival of changes to the Broadcasting Act, Hate Speech and banning conversion therapy. Passage of these bills before Christmas would provide the government with some early wins.

On the economy, the Bank of Canada will be dealing with interest rates and tabling its Monetary Policy Report on October 27 and this should provide some clues as to where the Bank sees inflation going and how the Bank will react with interest rates. Right now inflation will have to be addressed by both Freeland and Macklem and may result in interest rates hikes being brought forward.

Decisions will have to be made on foreign policy issues, particularly China, now that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been safely returned to Canada. It is difficult to see Trudeau moving Marc Garneau out of that position but thought should be given to assembling an informal group of advisors on various subject areas; Guy Saint-Jacques and David Mulroney would be excellent candidates for such positions,

Trudeau has said a decision is coming soon on Huawei and that he realizes Canadian telecommunication firms are moving forward without Huawei technology.

A federal-provincial-territorial meeting on health care funding has been promised for this fall.

The mess at the Canadian Armed Forces needs to be cleaned up and that involves the removal of the present minister. A number of commentators have suggested that either Minister Qualtrough or Anand would be excellent in that position. If Saggan remains in place, next Tuesday will not be seen as a true cabinet shuffle.

It is hard to believe that trust can be completely rebuilt between this government and particularly with Prime Minister Trudeau and Canada’s Indigenous People. After the Trudeau September 30 travel to Tofino and then Trudeau providing false information this week on turning over government documents.

If there is to be any notion of credibility, followed by action, it should be led by Marc Miller who has established some bona fides on these matters. Crown-Indigenous Minister Bennett should be retired to the back bench.

At the end of the media event on September 28, Marika Walsh of the Globe asked Trudeau “why are you staying on as leader?” The answer was “Canadians returned a parliament with a mandate to do big, ambitious, progressive things for Canadians and I can’t wait to get into it.”

We will see, as there is presently no sense of urgency.

To Come

  • Announcement expected on the possible extension of COVID-19 financial supports
  • Announcement expected on international proof of vaccination documentation
October 26
  • New federal cabinet to be sworn in
October 27
  • The Bank of Canada will deal with interest rates and present its Monetary Policy Report
October 29
  • GDP numbers for August to be released

Next week, The Morning Brief will deal with the new cabinet as well as the announcement by the Bank of Canada.