Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued his ministerial mandate letters Thursday, outlining how he expects his cabinet to fulfill the Liberals’ federal election pledge to leading the country out of the COVID-19 crisis, and into a new era of considerable change.
The letters include emphasis on building “a more resilient future,” and prioritizing the need to address affordability, tackle the persisting threat of climate change, as well as promoting diversity and pursuing Indigenous reconciliation amid “profound systemic inequities.”
These letters are essentially marching orders for each minister, in which the prime minister spells out his expectations and priorities, calling on his front bench to act on certain campaign and throne speech commitments.
“As we work to finish the fight against COVID-19 and build a better Canada, our team will continue to put Canadians first and tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow,” said Trudeau in a statement marking the release of the 38 letters, one for each cabinet minister.
Among the highlights:
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland seems to have the most items on her to-do list, leading with the need to ensure continued COVID-19 supports are in place while also getting down to business on the big promise of making life more affordable. No mention explicitly of inflation, debt, or deficit in her letter, though. This was quickly called out by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos is being asked to work with the provinces and territories on improving the embattled public health system, the availability of long-term care, and work with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on continued support for and enforcement of vaccine mandates.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly is being asked to place human rights, the promotion of democracy and gender equity “at the core of Canada’s foreign policy,” and is being asked to work with Trudeau on improving the Canada-U.S. relationship, yet the ongoing tension with China is not mentioned at all.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller and Justice Minister David Lametti have been co-tasked with advancing supports and pursuing justice related to the continued searches of unmarked graves at former residential school sites, well as prioritizing the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
Minister of Housing Ahmed Hussen and Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould will be leading the key affordability commitments of pursuing housing policy changes aimed at making it easier for more Canadians to enter the market, and implementing the nearly cross-Canada childcare deals respectively.
Other ministers set for a busy year ahead include Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who has been tasked with moving forward on feedback-informed online harms legislation “as soon as possible” as well as reviving stalled and contentious Broadcasting Act updates, and Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault has to spell out by the end of March 2022 how Canada will meet its legislated 2030 climate goals.
The latest batch of mandate letters comes several weeks after Trudeau named his post-election federal cabinet.
Cabinet was sworn-in on Oct. 26, seeing Trudeau shake up his front bench, naming new ministers to key portfolios while adding in a handful of rookies. The 44th Parliament began on Nov. 22.
“Mandate letters outline the objectives that each minister will work to accomplish, as well as the pressing challenges they will address in their role,” reads the prime minister’s website where the letters for each minister have been posted.
The government also made the point of noting with Thursday’s release that the letters are “not an exhaustive list of all files a minister would work on.”
Since 2015, Trudeau has been making his mandate letters public. Following the 2019 election, ministerial mandate letters were released just under a month after the prime minister named his cabinet.
As has been the case with past Trudeau mandate letters, each minister’s specific responsibilities are listed under an identical preamble that includes stated expectations of each member of cabinet, such as using gender-based analysis in their work, aiming to collaborate with parliamentarians of all stripes, and acting in an ethical and transparent manner.
Hours after the mandate letters were issued, the House agreed to adjourned a day early for the holidays, meaning any future legislative priorities won’t be able to advance in earnest until Parliament resumes at the end of January.