What might a Liberal cabinet look like?

Cabinet-making is the ultimate political exercise. A balance of linguistic and geographic representation, gender, cultural diversity, individual strengths as well as egos, it requires finesse and ingenuity.

Among Trudeau's challenges, he has promised to reduce cabinet numbers to 25 from the current 40

Former astronaut and Liberal leadership candidate Marc Garneau is a likely shoo-in for a cabinet spot. Toronto-based business journalist and author Chrystia Freeland is high on the list of newcomers. (Canadian Press)

Cabinet-making is the ultimate political exercise. A balance of linguistic and geographic representation, gender, cultural diversity, individual strengths as well as egos, it requires finesse and ingenuity.

For prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau to find that balance — while honouring his commitment to gender parity and a slimmed-down cabinet of around 25 ministers — could be an even greater feat as cabinet numbers have ballooned to 40 under Stephen Harper.

Some time-honoured cabinet-making conventions may assist Trudeau in making these tough choices.

Among them, not appointing people to lead departments who know too much about the job. It sounds counter-intuitive, but in the event a government wants, for example, to cut back on defence spending, a prime minister might not want a general in charge.

Canada's next Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his address after the Liberal Party wins a majority in the federal election. 24:11

Rivals and stars 

When it comes to building a cabinet, prime ministers also tend to reward former leadership rivals, star candidates and those who knock off high-profile opposition ministers or win formerly unwinnable ridings.

Another possible candidate is giant killer Marco Mendicino, who took back the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence for the Liberals, defeating Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver. (Neil Herland/CBC News)

Those who meet these criteria include:

  • Bill Morneau, Toronto-Centre, a successful businessman who helped Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne develop a provincial retirement savings plan to supplement the CPP. He is one of those rumoured to be Canada's next minister of finance.
  • Karen McCrimmon, Kanata-Carleton, a former Liberal leadership candidate and retired lieutenant colonel who was Canada's first female base commander.
  • Andrew Leslie, Orleans (Ottawa), a retired lieutenant general.
  • Chrystia Freeland, University-Rosedale (Toronto), a former business writer and executive at publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Thomson Reuters.
  • Bill Blair, Scarborough Southwest (Toronto), a former Toronto police chief.
  • Denis Paradis, Brome-Missisquoi (Quebec), a lawyer and former MP who served in several cabinet positions under Jean Chrétien.
  • Jim Carr, Winnipeg South-Centre, the founding chief executive of the Business Council of Manitoba, who served in the Manitoba legislature from 1988-91.
  • Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Winnipeg-Centre, a Cree with a PhD and two master's degrees who defeated long-time NDP MP Pat Martin.
  • Anthony Rota, Nipissing-Timiskaming, and Bob Nault, Kenora, who had big wins last night in northern Ontario. Both are former long-time MPs. Nault was once Indian Affairs minister, and Rota was chair of the Liberal caucus.
  • Hunter Tootoo, Nunavut, who defeated Leona Aglukkaq in Nunavut and is an experienced MLA and territorial cabinet minister.
  • Harjit Sajjan, Vancouver South, a former Vancouver cop and Canada's first Sikh commanding officer in the Armed Forces.
  • Marco Mendicino, Eglinton-Lawrence (Toronto), a high-profile Crown prosecutor who knocked off Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver.
  • Mark Holland, Ajax (Ontario), a former MP who defeated Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
  • Kent Hehr, Calgary Centre, one of two Liberals this election to win seats in Calgary for the first time since 1968.
  • Jonathan Wilkinson, North Vancouver, who has run several businesses dedicated to green technologies.

Gender parity

Trudeau has promised an equal number of men and women in his ministry. Among the prominent women elected to the House of Commons for the first time and who could find a spot at the cabinet table:

  • Jody Raybould-Wilson, Vancouver Granville, a lawyer and former regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
  • Pam Goldsmith-Jones, West Vancouver, the twice-elected mayor of West Vancouver.
  • MaryAnn Mihychuk, Kildonan-St. Paul (Winnipeg), who held several provincial cabinet portfolios from 1999 to 2004 in the NDP government of Manitoba.
  • Melanie Joly, Ahuntsic-Cartierville (Montreal), a strong candidate in Montreal's recent mayoral race.
  • Marie-Claude Bibeau, Compton-Stanstead (Quebec), who worked for CIDA and has run a tourism business in Quebec's Eastern Townships.
  • Catherine McKenna, Ottawa Centre, is a former legal adviser and negotiator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor and an international trade lawyer.
A breakdown of seats by party in the House of Commons before the Oct. 19 vote. (CBC)
Breakdown of seats by party in the House of Commons after the Oct. 19 vote. (CBC)

More of a challenge for Trudeau is how to recognize those long-serving MPs over the last 10 years in opposition and even as members of the third party. They can't all make it into cabinet. Most of them have similar strengths and come from Atlantic Canada, downtown Montreal and Toronto.

Veteran MPs

That said, the following veterans will likely be appointed to cabinet as a minister, parliamentary secretary or minister of state:

  • Stephane Dion, Saint-Laurent (Montreal), a capable cabinet minister but lacklustre leader, who is thought to be a contender for the department of Canadian Heritage.
  • Marc Garneau, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount (Montreal), a former astronaut and, briefly, leadership contender, likely be among those considered for Foreign Affairs.
  • Ralph Goodale, Regina-Wascana, the former House leader and minister of Finance, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1974 and, after a break to enter provincial politics, has won every election since 1993. If Trudeau decides to have a deputy prime minister, it could be Goodale.

Others in this category would include:

  • John McCallum, Markham-Thornhill (Toronto).
  • Scott Brison, Kings-Hants (Nova Scotia).
  • Dominic Leblanc, Beausejour (New Brunswick).
  • Geoff Regan, Halifax West.
  • Wayne Easter, Malpeque (Cornwall, P.E.I.).
  • Sean Casey, Charlottetown.
  • Carolyn Bennett, Toronto-St. Paul's.
  • Hedy Fry, Vancouver Centre.


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