Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has released the mandate letters for each of the 37 cabinet Ministers of his minority Liberal government. This bulletin highlights some of the priority initiatives set out in the mandate letters for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Minister of Finance.
Deputy Prime Minister
The mandate given to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland requests the Deputy Prime Minister to:
- lead the Government's work in maintaining open and collaborative relationships with every province and territory.
- lead the conclusion of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement legislative process while continuing to oversee the Canada-U.S relationship.
- strengthen Medicare.
- work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to put Canada on a trajectory to net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Canadian Free Trade Agreement, which took effect on July 1, 2017, has faced criticism for its weak dispute settlement mechanisms and inability to compel provinces to reduce trade-restrictive measures. The issue of interprovincial trade was again highlighted in the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R v Comeau, 2018 SCC 15. In Comeau, the Supreme Court held that provinces maintained the ability to enact laws that restrict commerce between the provinces if there is an overriding purpose, which included the right to control the sales of alcohol within New Brunswick.
The mandate letter sets out the Prime Minister's goals for interprovincial trade, including the creation of the Canada Free Trade Tribunal:
Lead work with the provinces and territories to continue to eliminate barriers to trade between them, and work toward a stronger, more integrated Canadian economy. You will build on the Canadian Free Trade Agreement and actively assert federal jurisdiction where needed under section 91(2) of the Constitution Act, 1867 and Supreme Court decisions on the regulation of trade and commerce. Your work will include creating a Canada Free Trade Tribunal to hear, investigate, and help resolve cases where domestic trade barriers may exist.
Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade
The mandate letter to Minister Mary Ng regarding her International Trade portfolio, directs the implementation and maximization of two trade agreements - the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Minister Ng is also tasked with:
- implementing measures to support small businesses in Canada and identifying additional tools to help Canada's agricultural industries get their products into global markets.
- creating a new Canada Commercial Consular Service by drawing on existing resources to better support small- and medium-sized Canadian companies facing trade disputes.
- leading the new Women Entrepreneurship Strategy with the goal of doubling the number of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025 (in 2018, there were approximately 1.1 million self-employed women in Canada).
- implementing Canada's Export Diversification Strategy, which includes diversifying trade for the benefit of the middle class, developing strategies to increase trade with key global markets, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region, and maximizing Canada's trade promotion capabilities.
- advancing Canada's trade agenda and advancing the work of the Ottawa Group on World Trade Organization (WTO) Reform to achieve realistic, meaningful and pragmatic reforms to the WTO.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
The mandate letter for Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne requests him to:
- expand Canadian diplomacy on global issues and in international institutions, and continue Canada's tradition of being a strong voice for the rules-based order. This includes continuing Canada's strong role in multilateral organizations, specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations, the Organisation International de la Francophonie, and in the Commonwealth. It also includes expanding Canada's support for United Nations peace operations.
- continue Canadian leadership on international efforts to combat climate change.
- increase Canadian support abroad for democracy, human rights, international law and freedom of the press. This consists of, in part:
- championing values of inclusive and accountable governance, and promoting respect for diversity and inclusion;
- establishing the Canadian Centre for Peace, Order and Good Government;
- building on the Magnitsky sanctions regime to ensure increased support for victims of human rights violations by developing a framework to transfer seized assets from those who commit grave human rights abuses to their victims, with appropriate judicial oversight;
- reinforcing international institutions such as the International Criminal Court and the WTO, including by providing additional resources to promote and uphold international law; and
- advancing efforts to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems.
- defend Canada's Arctic sovereignty.
- ensure a close link between foreign, defence, development and trade policy.
- support the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in work on Canada-U.S. Relations.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Minister of the Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains is asked to focus on telecom initiatives and the strengthening of Canadian privacy laws. Specifically, the mandate letter asks the Minister to:
- continue to support Canada's traditionally strong industries - including, but not limited to, automotive, aerospace, and agri-food.
- support the Chief Science Advisor to ensure that the government's pure and applied science is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work and that scientific analysis from across Canada and around the world is considered when the Government makes decisions.
- use all available instruments, including the advancement of the 2019 Telecom Policy Directive to reduce the average cost of cellular phone bills in Canada by 25% (the 2018 edition of the annual study on Canadian wireless services again ranked Canada as one of the most expensive).
- deliver high-speed internet to 100 percent of Canadian homes and businesses by 2030.
- partner with industry and communities, work with the Minister of National Resources to install up to 5,000 additional charging stations along the Trans Canada Highway and other major road networks and in Canada's urban and rural areas, track towards our zero-emission vehicles targets, and expand the existing zero-emission vehicle incentive by providing a 10 per cent rebate on a used zero-emissions vehicle up to a maximum of $2,000.
- work with the Minister of the Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Canadian Heritage to advance Canada's Digital Charter and enhanced powers for the Privacy Commissioner.
- with the support of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, create new regulations for large digital companies to better protect people's personal data and encourage greater competition in the digital marketplace. A newly created Data Commissioner will oversee those regulations.
- with the support of the Minister of Digital Government, continue to work on the ethical use of data and digital tools like artificial intelligence for better government.
Minister of Finance
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau is asked to maintain four key principles for the implementation of the Government's fiscal plan:
- continue to reduce the Government's debt as a function of Canada's economy;
- continue to build confidence in Canada's economy by preserving its AAA credit rating;
- continue to invest in people and in the things that give people a better quality of life; and
- preserve fiscal firepower in the event that we need to respond to an economic downturn.
The Minister of Finance is also tasked with:
- as a top Parliamentary priority, introducing legislation to cut taxes for the middle class and those working hard to join it. This includes developing a new Basic Personal Amount (BPA) of $15,000 (the 2019 BPA is $12,069).
- cutting taxes by 50% for companies that develop and manufacture zero-emissions technology.
- working with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to support the Minister of health to strengthen Medicare, renewing health agreements with the provinces and territories in four priority areas:
- ensure that every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team;
- set national standards for access to mental health services so Canadians can get fast access to the support they need when they need it;
- continue to make home care and palliative care more available across the country; and
- continue to implement national universal pharmacare, including the establishment of the Canada Drug Agency, a national formulary and a rare disease drug strategy to help Canadian families save money on high-cost drugs.
- modernizing anti-avoidance rules to stop large multinational companies from being able to shop for lower tax rates by constructing complex schemes between countries.
- ensuring that multinational tech giants pay appropriate corporate tax on the revenue that they generate within Canada.
- developing a framework and introducing a 1 per cent annual vacancy and speculation tax on applicable residential properties owned by non-resident non-Canadians.
The complete mandate letters for the five Ministers featured above, and the other 32 ministers are available on the Prime Minister's website. The House of Commons will resume sitting on January 27, 2020.