Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet was sworn in Wednesday. It features 15 women out of a 30-member cabinet, and includes a large number of ministers with no previous experience in Parliament.
The inexperience is what jumped out for John Courtney, senior policy fellow at the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.
“There are 18 new MPs in the cabinet, which is quite extraordinary out of 30 cabinet members,” he said.
Courtney suggested that at least part of the reason for the influx of new members was likely the sheer number of new seats the Liberals picked up in their election win. He noted they came into the campaign with less than 40 seats, gaining about 150 after the election.
Whether cabinet freshman or seasoned political veterans, Courtney said many of them will need to hit the ground running in their portfolios.
He pointed to new Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland, who will be tasked with implementing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal signed by the previous government. He also singled out Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum, who will need to co-ordinate a response to the Syrian refugee crisis in light of the Liberals’ campaign promise to bring in 25,000 refugees.
But Courtney said the toughest task of all falls to new Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
“With a fairly flat economy right now, there’s big questions about infrastructure spending — where’s the money going to come from? How much are we going to go into debt for it? And so on,” he said.
Saskatchewan will also be represented at the cabinet table by a familiar face. Longtime MP Ralph Goodale will return to the front benches on the government side, this time as public safety minister, having previously served as finance minister from 2003 to 2006.
Acknowledging that the position flies somewhat under the radar, Courtney pointed out that the portfolio will see Goodale managing a wide swatch of Canadian institutions, including the RCMP, CSIS and Canada Border Services.
“It’s certainly not one of the biggest, like foreign affairs or finance. But on the other hand, it certainly can’t be disregarded,” he said.