Trudeau spells out to-do list for cabinet

Trudeau Team
Governor General David Johnston (third from right) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (third from left) pose with members of the Liberal cabinet following a swearing-in ceremony, Wednesday Nov.4, 2015 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau has instructed Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to review federal court cases and end any appeals or positions that run contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Liberal commitments or values.

That direction is among the formal guidance the new Liberal prime minister spelled out Friday in detailed mandate letters to the 30 members of his cabinet.

The letters include key elements of the Liberal campaign platform, such as ending Canada’s combat commitment against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; holding an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women; rewriting the Conservatives’ omnibus security bill; and initiating a process that will lead to the legalization of marijuana.

But the missives also contain specific new commitments or provide a time frame to pre-existing promises.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau, for instance, is instructed to immediately formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast.

The ban effectively ends the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which would see Alberta crude oil flow to westward to the B.C. coast, said Karen Mahon, director of the group ForestEthics Advocacy. “Without tankers, crude oil has no place to go.”

Wilson-Raybould, meanwhile, is expected to begin overhauling federal litigation Monday by abandoning the previous Conservative government’s planned — and highly controversial — challenge in a case involving the niqab.

The Conservatives had asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal of a ruling that said it was unlawful to prohibit women from wearing a face covering at a citizenship ceremony.

Stephen Harper’s government argued it was important for new citizens to show their face at the moment they become Canadian. The Liberals accused the Conservatives of using the niqab, which is worn by only a small number of women, as a distraction and a wedge issue during the recent federal election campaign.

Trudeau has also asked Wilson-Raybould to review changes to the criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade to ensure public safety and value for money.

In addition, the prime minister wants her to work with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to address gaps in services to indigenous Canadians and those with mental illness throughout the justice system.

Goodale himself is being asked to lead a multi-departmental review of existing measures to protect critical infrastructure — such as energy and water facilities — from cyberthreats.

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos will steer development of a Canadian poverty reduction strategy that would set targets and measure and publicly report on progress — a move applauded Friday by the Ottawa-based group Citizens for Public Justice.

A common theme woven through many of the mandate letters is a government-wide commitment to combating climate change.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion’s letter cites development of a North American clean energy and environment agreement as a key priority, as well as “making Canada a leader of international efforts to combat climate change.”

Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr are also heavily invested in the climate file, charged with investing in clean technology producers and supporting innovation in clean tech. Carr has also been asked to “modernize the National Energy Board” and to support the North American clean energy agreement.

Carr and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are to work with the provinces and territories to “make Canada the world’s most competitive tax jurisdiction” for investment in clean technology.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is asked to provide leadership on reducing emissions, fighting climate change and pricing carbon.

McKenna, who this week cleared the City of Montreal to dump eight billion litres of untreated sewage into the St. Lawrence River, is also charged in her mandate letter to “renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin.”

Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is told to implement the massive Canada-Europe free-trade deal, known as CETA, after an agreement in principle was struck in October 2013.

As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the letter says she may consult on “Canada’s potential participation” in the deal that includes 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

“This will include working with relevant ministers and provinces and territories to support adjustment in sectors including agriculture, the auto sector, and compensation for incremental cost increases to public drug plans arising from CETA,” the letter says.

She is also told to expand and deepen trade and investment links with fast-growing economies such as India and China, and to strengthen relations with the United States and Mexico.

Top of the list for John McCallum, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, is the instruction to lead government-wide efforts to resettle 25,000 refugees from Syria in the coming months.

Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s letter affirms that the Liberals will carry on Harper’s signature maternal newborn child health initiative, but with one clear change: getting rid of the ban on funding projects that provide abortions.

In his letter to Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, Trudeau emphasizes the need to restore the government’s relationship with the scientific community, which was strained under Harper.

“We are a government that believes in science,” he writes. “Support for science is an essential pillar in our strategy to create sustainable economic growth and support and grow the middle class.”

Duncan is to create a chief science officer, mandated to ensure that government science is publicly available, that scientists can speak freely about their work and that their analyses are considered in federal decision-making.

Hunter Tootoo, minister responsible for the Coast Guard, has been asked to fulfil a promise to reopen the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John’s, N.L., and the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver, though no timing is mentioned.

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