Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer scoffed at the composition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new federal cabinet Wednesday, saying the presence of many of the same faces will lead the government to repeat the errors of its firm term.
“The cabinet he unveiled today is a bigger and more bloated version of the same one that helped create an affordability crisis for Canadian families, attacked our energy sector and put thousands of Canadians out of work, and set the stage for a national unity crisis,” Scheer said in a statement.
The Conservative leader said Trudeau had learned nothing from the election that saw his majority government reduced to a minority. The evidence for that, Scheer said, was Trudeau’s decision to elevate “a known anti-pipeline activist” to cabinet.
Scheer did not name the “activist” but it appears he was referring to Steven Guilbeault, one of seven new appointments to cabinet. Guilbeault was director of the Quebec arm of Greenpeace for ten years and is a founding member of Équiterre, a Quebec environmental group.
Trudeau’s cabinet stood at 35 members, including himself, when Parliament was dissolved. That number now sits at 37, including the prime minister. Two former ministers lost their seats — Ralph Goodale of Saskatchewan and Amarjeet Sohi of Alberta — and Jim Carr of Manitoba is remaining out of cabinet so he can focus in on his battle with cancer.
Former science minister Kirsty Duncan, from Ontario, was shuffled out of cabinet and becomes deputy House leader, while Ginette Petitpas Taylor, from New Brunswick, is being moved from the health ministry to serve as the new deputy whip.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Trudeau “lacked the necessary courage” to give Guilbeault a strategic role in environmental policy, opting instead to appoint him minister of heritage.
“I believe that Mr. Guilbeault was not offered the minister of the environment because Mr. Trudeau dare not face Alberta and did not want to raise any more animosity between Alberta and his government,” said Blanchet.
Appointments like Guilbeault’s, Scheer said, will “further stoke” regional divisions following an election campaign that saw the Liberals shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Today, Trudeau wasted an opportunity to begin a new approach. Instead, he’s doubling down on the same failures of the last four years,” he said.
Welcoming the new cabinet
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s reaction to the new cabinet lineup was far more positive. He congratulated the new cabinet ministers on Twitter and said he hopes to work with them to create jobs and spur economic growth.
“In particular, I look forward to working with [Jim Carr] in his new role as Special Representative for the Prairies, [Chrystia Freeland] as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs [and Seamus O’Regan] as the Minister of Natural Resources,” Kenney wrote.
Congratulations to all of those sworn into the federal Cabinet today.<br><br>The Government of Alberta hopes to find common ground with the federal government to create jobs & growth, in part through responsible resource development, and to ensure fairness in the Canadian federation.
Conservative Ontario Premier Doug Ford also congratulated those appointed to the new cabinet, saying that his team is looking forward to working with Ottawa to “build a stronger, more prosperous Ontario and Canada.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that while Trudeau made some changes, the presence of new faces around the cabinet table does not give him confidence in his government.
“What would give me confidence is a clear indication of the policies that this government will enact that are going to benefit people,” he said.
Blanchet said that Freeland, now deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs, is capable but unlikely to soothe regional divisions because “no one could make a coherent or relevant country of this Canada.”
“I think Ms. Freeland has shown in the past that she is, how shall I put it, very talented, she has experience now,” he said. “However … the apparent division in Canada is a natural state for an artificial country [like] Canada.”