Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave his cabinet ministers marching orders Friday, spelling out that he wants legislated targets on greenhouse gas emissions, universal pharmacare, the Trans Mountain pipeline, a UN Security Council seat and high-frequency rail between Toronto and Quebec City.
Trudeau released his mandate letter for all members of his cabinet, much as he did in 2015 showing what the government would be up to for however long this parliament lasts. The government had 289 commitments in 2015, according to a mandate tracker website it developed. Grading itself, the government said 219 of those commitments were followed through on during the last parliament, which lasted four full years.
This time, a review of the letters by the Post found 288 projects for new ministers to take on some of them holdovers from the last mandate. The government doesn’t seem concerned about the potential limits of a minority parliament and even included some NDP demands as areas for ministers to work on.
With worrying signs in the economy, Finance Minister Bill Morneau is being told to continue to reduce the debt to GDP level and maintain Canada’s credit rating, but he is also being asked to “preserve fiscal firepower” for a possible downturn in the economy.
Morneau is also being asked to take another look at the stress test homeowners now face before getting a mortgage.
Conservative MP Tom Kmiec said it was “better late than never” that the government was finally considering changes.
“I was a vocal advocate in the last parliament for a full review of the Liberal’s one-size-fits-all mortgage stress test which blocked many young Canadians from purchasing their first home,” he said.
The heritage minister is being asked to find new ways to crack down on social media companies and “create new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant penalties.”
The mandate letters are high-level documents and the government doesn’t spell out what illegal content will cover, but it said it would include hate speech, radicalization, incitement to violence, exploitation of children, or creation or distribution of terrorist propaganda.
Minister of Middle Class Prosperity Mona Fortier’s mandate mostly includes instructions to support Morneau, but she is being asked how to better incorporate quality of life decisions in budget making and to advance a global commitment to growth for people in all economic classes.
Some NDP priorities made their way into the mandate letters as well, with a commitment to study national dental care and a call to settle a class-action lawsuit around the underfunding of child and family services on reserves.
The government recently appealed a decision in a related case, but has said before it wants to resolve the situation.
Better late than never
Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna is being given a charge to get more money out the door. Provinces will have until the end of 2021 to decide where they want infrastructure money to go. If they don’t decide on where the money will go, the feds will bypass the province and give the money directly to municipalities through the gas tax fund.
In addition to high-frequency rail, McKenna is also being tasked with looking for big national projects the government can invest in, including a Newfoundland-Labrador fixed transportation link. The last study the provincial government did of such a plan in 2016 found it would cost $1.65 billion and cost 15 years to build.
She is also being asked to help municipalities and school boards purchase 5,000 zero-emission buses in the next five years.