Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks towards his cabinet to speak to reporters following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

What’s the president of the Privy Council do? Five things about Trudeau’s new cabinet

A breakdown of the role switches, demotions, promotions and new positions

Five things to note about the new federal cabinet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Wednesday:

He has a deputy prime minister

Besides being intergovernmental-affairs minister, in charge of dealing with Canada’s restive provincial premiers, Chrystia Freeland has the title of deputy prime minister. It’s a symbolic appointment meant to indicate that a minister is especially important but it has not historically come with any particular authority. Trudeau’s father, Pierre, named Canada’s first deputy prime minister in 1977; that was Allan MacEachen, a veteran cabinet minister who was also the Liberals’ House leader.

Jean Chretien named trusted loyalists Herb Gray, Sheila Copps and John Manley as deputy prime minister at different times. Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney turned to Don Mazankowski, who was essentially the government’s powerful chief operating officer. Other prime ministers have named deputies to give elevated status to leaders of rival factions in their parties. Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper never had one and neither did Trudeau in his first term.

“I see it being very much a Freelandish role,” Trudeau joked when asked which type of deputy prime minister he sees Freeland being. “Chrystia and I have worked very closely together on some of the very biggest files.”

Dominic LeBlanc is president of the Privy Council (and nothing else)

The New Brunswick MP is a lifelong friend of Trudeau’s and was House leader, fisheries minister, intergovernmental-affairs minister and northern-affairs minister at various times in the last Parliament. He is also fighting cancer and is recovering from a stem-cell transplant. He appeared at Wednesday’s swearing-in looking gaunt and bald and wore a mask over his mouth and nose through most of the event.

The president of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada is formally responsible for the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic department that supports the prime minister, but in practice the prime minister handles it.

READ MORE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveils new Liberal cabinet

The Privy Council itself is a large ceremonial body made up of dozens of current and former cabinet ministers, Speakers of the House of Commons and Senate, governors general and Supreme Court judges and other similar figures — membership on the council is what the title “The Honourable” indicates. It meets very rarely, sometimes not for decades, to do things like approve royal marriages.

LeBlanc’s position keeps him as a cabinet minister but without putting consequential demands on him while his health is poor.

Gender parity

Consistent with his practice since forming a government in 2015, Trudeau named equal numbers of men and women to ministerial posts — 18 of each, plus himself. Freeland is clearly his No. 2 as deputy prime minister but many other key posts are held by men: Bill Morneau at Finance, Francois-Philippe Champagne at Foreign Affairs, Harjit Sajjan at Defence, Bill Blair at Public Safety, David Lametti at Justice, Ahmed Hussen at Social Development, Seamus O’Regan at Natural Resources and Jonathan Wilkinson at Environment.

Women do have other important portfolios: Anita Anand at Public Services and Procurement, Marie-Claude Bibeau at Agriculture, Patty Hajdu at Health, Catherine McKenna at Infrastructure and Carla Qualtrough at Employment, for instance. But women are also more likely than male ministers to have cabinet posts that don’t come with leadership of distinct departments, such as Bardish Chagger’s job as minister of diversity, inclusion and youth and Mona Fortier’s as minister of middle-class prosperity.

Beefing up the House-management operation

Making sure the Liberals can get government legislation through a House of Commons where they don’t hold a majority could be difficult and Trudeau has assigned some potent players to it.

Pablo Rodriguez is the Liberals’ new House leader. The Montreal MP was heritage minister until Wednesday, was previously chief whip (in charge of making sure the Liberals were never caught short of votes in the Commons) and was an MP during the fractious minority Parliaments of the 2000s. He’ll work with counterparts in the other parties to gauge their support for Liberal proposals and try to keep the House of Commons moving.

Another Toronto-area MP, Mark Holland, is staying on as chief whip.

Demotions

Rodriguez’s deputy is Kirsty Duncan, a Toronto MP who was formerly minister of science and of amateur sport. Holland’s deputy whip is now former health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor. Both are taking on jobs that will be important for the Liberals but they’re also losing a lot of formal status along the way.

Petitpas Taylor, in particular, is leaving a multibillion-dollar portfolio to support Holland in a post she held when Trudeau’s Liberals first took office in 2015. The fluently bilingual New Brunswicker has experience and close connections among the Liberals’ many Atlantic MPs.

Joyce Murray of Vancouver is leaving her job as president of the Treasury Board, the body that deals with the nuts and bolts of the federal government as an employer and buyer of goods, to be minister of digital government, which used to be only part of her job.

Catherine McKenna’s move from Environment and Climate Change to Infrastructure means leaving one of the highest-profile jobs in the Liberal government but also will make her less of a lightning rod for anger about carbon taxes and stiffer regulations.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mary Lowther column: Bee problems are telling us about the state of our planet

“Beekeeping as an industry will likely be dead soon if something doesn’t change.”

Time to bite the bullet and borrow to fix roads, sidewalks, sewer lagoon in Lake Cowichan: Peters

Lake Cowichan mayor says he’d be ‘ashamed’ to show public the lack of capital spending

Business notes: Dine Cowichan on the menu for February

Dine Cowichan, the fabulous food festival is back for a fourth mouth-watering… Continue reading

100 years of adventure for Duncan’s Sylvia Peecock

After a century of life, understandably, Sylvia Peecock’s brain sometimes needs a… Continue reading

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Prince Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Here is a list of some things you definitely should NOT do, according to the BBC

Abandoned boats left to freeze on Okanagan Lake cause chaos

Over the last week weather conditions have caused three separate incidents

B.C. teacher witnesses coronavirus terror in Shanghai: ‘Everyone is on edge’

Face masks and hand sanitizer ‘sell out’ as 9 SARS-like illness cases confirmed in the city

B.C.-based firefighting plane crashes in Australia, killing three

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

Remote surveillance helps RCMP nab suspect immediately Island break-in

Stolen items returned after Parksville business owner takes quick action

WHO says China virus not global health emergency

The decision came after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities on Thursday

Living near major roads, highways linked to higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s: UBC

Green space could mitigate some of the risks, researchers found

B.C. privacy commissioner suggests media civility for Prince Harry and Meghan

Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent a letter to British press threatening legal action

Victoria’s plastic-bag ban ended by Supreme Court of Canada

City’s leave to appeal lower court’s decision denied

Most Read