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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau swore in his new cabinet today, striking for its number of political rookies. In our Parliamentary system, the Cabinet is usually picked from a small set of politicians (imagine if America’s cabinet had to be made up only of congressmen, and you get the idea).
Usually, seniority is a primary consideration, but Trudeau picked a collection of political rookies. He seemed to match his MPs based on strangely superficial grounds: Hey, an astronaut, let’s put him in Transport; look, a Paralympian, let’s put her in charge of sport and the disability departments; the quadriplegic should get Veterans’ Affairs! Trudeau’s remarks and ceremony consciously echoed Obama’s.
I have to admit, though, he has attracted some pretty impressive resumes — people who committed to a run back when the Liberal Party had fewer than 10 percent of the seats in the House of Commons and was fighting for its life. That indicates Trudeau has developed some powers of persuasion (he sure didn’t have them when I met him in 2005).
Of note for the American conservative:
- Finance Minister Bill Morneau is, unusually, a rookie but with an impressive résumé building one of Canada’s largest HR firms. Most people have never heard of him but he’s getting good reviews in the financial press. Market is ambivalent so far. He will spend on infrastructure (per election promises) but is a reassuring pick to conservatives.
- Foreign affairs is Stephane Dion, a disastrous former Liberal leader who may be well suited. In the 1990s he was intergovernmental affairs, which means corralling unruly provinces (an important job in Canada). Americans will be shocked by his shaky English. He’s single-minded and stubborn, and faceplants about as often as he shines. English Canadians like him because he outmaneuvered the separatists in 1997 with what has turned out to be a permanent wound. He’s also a hard-left environmentalist, which may shine through in this post.
- Our new Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, is a hero of the Afghan war. Again, a turban-wearing Canadian may look surprising to Americans, but Indo-Canadians have a strong history in law enforcement and the Canadian forces, and by all accounts he’s a pretty good guy. Another political rookie, though — it’s not clear that he has the sophistication required to deal with America on its military priorities. My bet: Americans can look for cooperation from him on North American issues, but Canada will refrain from most international military deployments. He was born in India but was raised in Canada.
- You normally wouldn’t care about the Environment Minister, but with upcoming climate change conferences, it matters. A human rights and “social justice” lawyer, I have no doubt Catherine McKenna is a leftie, but she’s also a political rookie. The appointment is notable in that she is not an accomplished environmentalist, like some of those who were passed over. Look for Canada to take a green turn, but more in platitudes than policies that matter. The Federal government will stop pushing so hard for Keystone, but the company is likely to still cautiously pursue it.