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Justin Trudeau Takes Office With Canada's First-Ever Climate Change Minister

Trudeau’s cabinet, an equal mix of neophytes and old guard, will have the daunting task over the next four years of enacting the Liberal leader's promise of “real change”.

by Justin Ling
Nov 4 2015, 5:20pm

Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau was officially sworn in as the 23rd prime minister of Canada this morning, unveiling a slate of lieutenants that attempts to set him apart from his predecessor on climate change and indigenous issues.

Trudeau's cabinet, an equal mix of neophytes and old guard, will have the daunting task over the next four years of enacting the Liberal leader's promise of "real change" — his campaign slogan — but they will also need to deliver on Trudeau's commitments for his first 100 days in office, which includes the potentially-controversial pledge to hike taxes on Canada's richest one-percent.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Crown prosecutor and Regional Chief for the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, becomes Canada's first-ever Aboriginal justice minister, and may well become the point-person on the Liberal government's to legalize marijuana.

Trudeau also recommitted to two promises that became hallmarks of his election campaign: "to take real action on climate change," the statement reads — indeed, the new minister of environment, Catherine McKenna, has had her job title expanded for the first time to include "climate change" — and to adopt "a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous people."

Harjit Sajjan, Canada's first Sikh commander in the Canadian Armed Forces, becomes minister of national defense. He will oversee the withdrawal of Canadian Air Force assets from the fight against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Kent Hehr, as associate minister of defense, will likely oversee a number of procurement programs that began under the previous government to replace aging Canadian Forces assets, but which have been plagued by cost and time overruns — most notably, the F-35 strike fighter procurement program that Trudeau has promised to scrap. Hehr, who is quadriplegic, also represents the riding of Calgary Centre and a considerable breakthrough in Alberta, which is traditionally hostile to the Liberal Party.

Bill Morneau, a Bay Street executive, will be tasked with selling Trudeau's economic vision as minister of finance. He faces a weak Canadian dollar, stagnant growth, and deep job losses in Alberta's oil sector. With a promise of tax hikes on the horizon, he'll be faced with selling Trudeau's economic vision to his former finance colleagues.

Maryam Monsef, a newly-elected Afghan-born Toronto-area MP, will be tasked with overseeing reform of Canada's electoral system as minister of democratic institutions. Trudeau has promised that Canada will never again have an election held under the first-past-the-post electoral system.

Wednesday's announcement also marks the first time that a Canadian cabinet has been equally represented by men and women.

But the government will also be full of old hands.

Ralph Goodale, one of the party's most senior legislators, becomes minister of public safety — not, as was expected, former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, the controversial figure that presided over the harsh police crackdown of protesters following the G20 summit.

Stephane Dion, former leader of the party, becomes minister of foreign affairs in advance of a series of high-profile summits that will immediately put Trudeau's nascent government to the test. Trudeau and Dion will leave almost immediately for a G7 summit in Turkey, an APEC meeting in the Philippines, and the climate change summit in Paris.

John McCallum, a long-time member of parliament who has served in a number of key cabinet positions under previous Liberal governments, will replace Chris Alexander as the new immigration minister. This title has also changed, to now include refugees. McCallum's first order of business will be to carry out Trudeau's ambitious plan to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada over the next two months. That would add to the estimated 2,300 Syrians who have arrived since the conflict broke out. McCallum's predecessor was widely criticized for his fight against a Pakistani woman who wanted to wear a niqab during her citizenship ceremony and for his barbaric cultural practices legislation. He likely won't continue Alexander's push to revoke the Canadian citizenship of convicted terrorists with dual citizenship.

Non-indigenous former Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett was crowned minister of indigenous and northern affairs. Bennett's constituency is located in Toronto.

It was speculated that Robert Falcon Ouellette, the Winnipeg mayoral candidate who lost the municipal election only to win as Liberal MP for Winnipeg-Center, could be named to cabinet, however only two indigenous MPs were named to cabinet, Wilson-Raybould and Nunavut MP Hunter TooToo, who became minister for fisheries and oceans.

In a statement released along with the announcement, Trudeau highlighted the 15 women that would be taking positions in his 31-member cabinet, committed to openness and transparency in the handling of public money, and promised to kickstart the Canadian economy.

Rachel Browne and Hilary Beaumont contributed to this article.