New ministers, but no mandate letters yet
As far as cabinet shuffles go, this was certainly a major shuffle. Prime Minister Trudeau announced his new cabinet on October 26th and all were sworn in by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary May Simon. Of the 38 cabinet ministers named, only 7 were ‘re-assigned’ to their old post, including Deputy P-M & Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Justice/AG David Lametti. There were 5 new faces and a few lost from the last team.
For the purposes of this short report, I’ll just speak to the main departments that directly affect water and wastewater utilities…and for brevity, you can just assume I said “The Honourable…” before each of their names. We have yet to see each of their mandate letters, which would tell us more about which projects we can expect to see move forward.
Most importantly, we have another big change in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. After Catherine McKenna stepped down, we were happy to see Jonathan Wilkinson move up from Parliamentary Secretary, as we had worked closely with him on a few files and he new the water issues well. But Mr. Wilkinson had moved over to be Minister of Natural Resources so we might connect on the flood mapping project. Our new Environment Minister is newcomer Steven Guilbeault. According to all the news reports, Mr. Guilbeault is a rather controversial choice – apparently due to a protest stunt some 20 years ago. I can understand how his environmental passion might worry the fossil fuels sector, but it does seem to send a signal that this government is going to get even more focused on the climate crisis before us. Our changing climate has had massive impacts on our communities and on our utilities. The CWWA has been consistent in identifying climate as a critical issue needing immediate attention. We hope that this new minister will continue efforts toward a new Canada Water Agency and the efforts of the Standing Committee on the Environment toward more collaboration between federal departments and agencies.
Leading the Health Ministry that gives us the Canada Drinking Water Guidelines, is Jean-Yves Duclos while Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food is Marie-Claude Bibeau. Both are veteran cabinet ministers reassigned from other portfolios. Both should play a role in any possible Canada Water Agency. Also in these discussions would be Marc Miller who shifts from Indigenous Services Minister to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister while his old portfolio goes to Patty Hajdu (the former Health Minister).
Former Police Chief Bill Blair keeps the portfolio as Minister of Emergency Preparedness while the rest of the Public Safety Ministry goes to Marco Mendicino. We hope to see continued work on cyber-security issues and perhaps a renewed focus on the bigger picture around flood risk.
Perhaps the most critical portfolio goes to Domenic Leblanc as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities. It is here we will see the plans for infrastructure funding and perhaps a closer look at the division of powers afforded to municipalities.
As I said earlier, we’ll know a lot more when we see each of their detailed mandate letters. Read about it here….in November.