Cabinet Building

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On Wednesday, Justin Trudeau will name his Cabinet. He has a wealth of talent to choose from – far more than he likely expected going into the final weekend of the campaign. He had promised a smaller Cabinet than the last Harper government (as had Tom Mulcair) but that was when everyone expected a minority government. It will almost certainly be smaller; Harper had 40 Ministers in his final year so smaller is not a hard thing to achieve.

However I don’t believe the number will be as low as 25 as much of the media seems to think. In addition to his promise of gender parity, Trudeau has to create some level of regional balance, reward veteran MPs, include some star candidates, ensure that the front bench is ethnically diverse and, most of all, make sure that the people he appoints are squeaky clean and up for the job. Expectations are high for the new government and he needs quick learners and hard workers to come close to meeting them.

It’s a bit of a mug’s game trying to second-guess the Prime minister and his advisors but I’m always up for a challenge. Looking at the caucus he has to work with, one might make a few educated guesses as to who might make the final cut.

Some seem like fairly sure bets. Among the veteran MPs and returning MPs (there are a number who lost in 2011 and are now back), Marc Garneau – a former leadership rival who dropped out of the race to support Trudeau – is an obvious choice. An ex-astronaut and solid if not spectacular performer as a critic, he seems likely to get a job. Stephane Dion and Christian Paradis are also veteran Quebecers who may wind up back in Cabinet. Ralph Goodale as a former finance minister and the only Liberal MP from Saskatchewan is likely in as well though not at as senior a job. Among the returning women MPs Carolyn Bennet and Joyce Murray seem the most likely candidates for a Cabinet job. Of the rest of the class of 2011, Scott Brison and John McCallum are probably leading the pack. And Chrystia Freeland who won a by-election last year is another likely Cabinet minister.

One has to suspect that the rest of the Cabinet will be drawn from the 150 new Liberal MPs coming to Ottawa. However, that hardly means that Trudeau will have a Cabinet with no legislative or government experience. There are former provincial Cabinet ministers MLAs, mayors, aboriginal leaders and men and women who headed up significant businesses or national organizations from a whole range of occupations. Among that group, he might pick Kent Hehr, one of two Calgary MPs who was a former MLA in Alberta and is a bit of local legend as well. From BC, Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former vice-chief of the AFN is almost certainly going to make the cut. Look for Harjit Sajjan and Pamela Goldsmith-Jones or possibly Terry Beech to also be on the list from BC – or at least named as Parliamentary secretaries. I think we will also see more than one Aboriginal Cabinet minister with Hunter Tootoo, Yvonne Jones, or the impressive Robert-Falcon Oullette all having a shot.

Because regional balance is important – it is likely that a 29 member Cabinet (Trudeau and 28 others) will have 5 from Atlantic Canada, 6 from Quebec, 4 from BC, 4 from the Prairies and 9 from Ontario – with half of those coming from Toronto. Here are a few of the most likely: Andrew Leslie. Catherine McKenna, Emmanuel Dubourg, Kirsty Duncan and Jim Carr but expect a few surprises too. Trudeau will want to show that talent – rather simply political history is the key factor. What about Bill Casey and Iqra Khalid? Not likely — but expect at least one Minister not on anyone’s list of predictions.

And that’s a little more than ten minutes.

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