Speedier airport screening, universal pharmacare: Trudeau hands cabinet ministers their to-do lists

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered marching orders to his cabinet ministers today, instructing them to govern in a “positive, open and collaborative way” as they work to speed up airport screening times and bring in a national, universal pharmacare program.

Trudeau issued mandate letters to each of his ministers Friday, outlining the key policy objectives each minister is tasked with as well as the overarching goals of the government. The ministers’ to-do lists mirror the promises in the Liberal election campaign platform, with its goals of making life more affordable, strengthening the health care system, fighting climate change and promoting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“It is more important than ever for Canadians to unite and build a stronger, more inclusive and more resilient country,” reads the opening of the letters.

“The government of Canada is the central institution to promote that unity of purpose and, as a Minister in that Government, you have a personal duty and responsibility to fulfil that objective.”

The letters instruct ministers to work in a “constructive and thoughtful” way with parliamentarians, provincial, territorial and municipal governments and Indigenous partners to find common ground.

Trudeau says in the letters that no Crown relationship is more important to him than the one with Indigenous peoples.

“We made significant progress in our last mandate on supporting self-determination, improving service delivery and advancing reconciliation,” he wrote.

“I am directing every single Minister to determine what they can do in their specific portfolio to accelerate and build on the progress we have made with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.”


The new Liberal minority cabinet poses for a photo following its swearing-in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Nov. 20. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been handed the most critical and wide-ranging job; she’s tasked with working across cabinet to advance the government’s agenda and working with provinces and territories on health care, climate change action and gun control measures.

In each letter, Trudeau directed ministers to turn to him as well as Freeland “early and often” for support in their roles.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has been tasked with taking steps to implement “national universal pharmacare.” The wording is significant — “universal” suggests government is moving to a system that provides access to all Canadians, rather than a fill-in-the-gaps approach.

Hajdu also is charged with ensuring every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health-care team, and with working with other governments and stakeholders to address the “rapid rise” in youth vaping.

“This should start with regulations to reduce the promotion and appeal of vaping products to young people and public education to create awareness of health risks. You are encouraged to explore additional measures,” her mandate letter reads.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has been instructed to shorten wait times for security screening. He has been told to complete the transfer of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to an independent, non-profit entity to improve service, including a cap on the time travellers are forced to wait at security checkpoints.

Tax cuts, drug courts

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been ordered to deliver tax cuts for Canadians and companies that develop zero-emissions technology, while implementing the government’s fiscal plan. That plan includes reducing the federal debt, maintaining Canada’s triple-A credit rating and preserving “fiscal firepower” to prepare for a possible economic downturn.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti also has a long list of tasks, including expanding legislation on medical assistance in dying (MAID), improving access to drug treatment courts and delivering mandatory sexual assault training for judges.

A private member’s bill by former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose requiring sexual assault training for judges died before it passed in the last session of Parliament.

Lametti has been tasked with working with provinces and territories to provide free legal advice and support to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

Lametti also has been told to implement the recommendations in former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan’s report on the cabinet roles of justice minister and attorney general. She was asked to draft the report in the wake of allegations of political interference in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Other points in the mandate letters:

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has been told to reach a recruitment target for women: 25 per cent of the Canadian Armed Forces membership by 2026. According to DND, women make up just 15.9 per cent of the regular and primary reserve forces.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has been asked to advance international efforts to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems, dubbed “killer robots” by some activists.

Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance Mona Fortier is expected to assist Morneau in preparing budgets and economic updates, and to better incorporate quality of life measurements into government decisions and budgets, drawing on lessons from jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Scotland.

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