Lesson not Learned: Trudeau Introduces his Cabinet in What will Likely be his last Term

The previous election result displayed what had been evident for a while: Canada is deeply divided. The coastal regions are progressive, while the oil provinces and conservative countryside are worried about their future. Prime Minister Trudeau has now introduced his Cabinet, with which he seeks to tackle the issues Canada faces. Once again Trudeau has taken a route towards symbolism over Realpolitik.

One month after the Canadian general election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has presented and sworn in his new Cabinet. Its main duties according to Trudeau: Reunite the country, enable economic growth for the middle class, combat climate change, and ensure the safety of Canadian communities.

Rather ambitious plans for a Prime Minister, who will need the support of other parties to facilitate any of his visions. His party lost its majority in the previous election. Now, Trudeau is leading a minority government.

One reason for Trudeau’s fall from grace – besides having been exposed as not being holier than water after all – was that his party could not win a single seat in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Both are the heart of the Canadian oil industry, however, Trudeau’s obsession in favor of a pro-climate course has alienated voters in the region, who are feeling their livelihoods are at stake. Currently, protesters in the two provinces have been holding rallies in favor of a “Wexit”, i.e. a secession of the Canadian West from the rest of the country.

The reappearance of Bloc Québécois, who tripled their seats, has created another issue for Trudeau. The party gained support by promising to defend the concerns of French-speaking Canada. Trudeau’s answer? Ten of the thirty-six ministerial posts in his cabinet are from Quebec in an obvious attempt to immediately cease any emerging secessionism initiated by Bloc Québécois.

Twelve former ministers received new roles, while the cabinet only has seven members who had not been part of the previous administration. As in 2015, Trudeau paid attention to parity. Half of the posts are thus occupied by women.

One of these women is Mona Fortier. She is the Minister for Middle-Class Prosperity. It is a nearly created office, and Trudeau’s answer to an extremely worried middle-class in the country.

Meanwhile, the former Trade and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland seeks to help him to master the domestic challenges, namely as Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, while also becoming the new Deputy Prime Minister. Freeland’s successor as Foreign Minister will be the current Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

The new cabinet will meet for the first time in Ottawa on December 5. By then Trudeau also seeks to present to parliament the priorities of his government. As he announced on Wednesday, the first reform will target tax relief for the middle class.

In the face of the deep divisions, the country faces and Trudeau’s subpar election result answers to the question of how Trudeau would now try to bridge these trenches was eagerly awaited in recent weeks.

As so often with Trudeau, however, symbolism has remained on the top of his agenda and the middle-class ministry, as well as French-speaking cabinet members, are a testimony to it. It reminds one more of a campaign promise than a specific task description and it makes one wonder, whether Trudeau received the message the voters provided him with on election night.

Trudeau has become a Canadian left-wing version of Donald Trump. A President not for the country, but his base. It is where the issue lies for Trudeau and he is unlikely to escape the conundrum satisfying the call for even more progressivism on the one hand and traditional, Canadian values on the other.