Justin Trudeau's team begins transition to power

Still basking in the glow of victory, Justin Trudeau and his inner circle have already begun the complex business of transitioning to power. The prime minister-designate met with Stephen Harper on Wednesday to discuss the process.

Will landslide Liberal victory make expectations 'enormous and unmeetable'?

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau walks on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, October 20, 2015. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Still basking in the glow of victory, Justin Trudeau and his inner circle have already begun the complex business of transitioning to power.

The prime minister-designate was making the rounds on Parliament Hill Wednesday, accepting congratulations and holding meetings, including one with his former chief rival and the man he will succeed, Stephen Harper.

Extending courtesy and gaining guidance are crucial to the Liberal transition period. 

Don Boudria, a longtime cabinet minister under Jean Chrétien and an expert in parliamentary procedure, expects some of the groundwork has already been done behind the scenes. But the transition team will be working long hours to get it right, because the early days of a mandate are critically important to set the tone and shape public perception.

"No one in the early days wants to see the government drop the ball," he said.

Creating cabinet, hiring staff

Boudria said the transition team — led by Peter Harder and said to include trusted campaign advisers Gerry Butts, Katie Telford and Cyrus Reporter — will work out a detailed strategy for the days ahead, from crafting the structure and mandate of the cabinet and proposing a date to recall Parliament and deliver a throne speech, to listing off names of potential senior staff.
Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau arrives at Ottawa's Langevin Building for a meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday.

This will all be planned around a busy series of international meetings including for the G20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) scheduled for the fall.

"The government is a train that's moving. The transition team is the way to get these passengers on board the moving train without them falling off," he said. "The train slows down a bit, but it doesn't stop."

Former Liberal deputy prime minister Sheila Copps, who is travelling in Asia, said the Liberal win is being celebrated across Canada and abroad. She believes "big change" is on the way.

"We will start talking about citizens again, instead of simply taxpayers," she told CBC News. "The team will be young, as Trudeau has succeeded in recruiting a great number of new faces, and some terrific women from across the country.

"Trudeau's vision is very inclusive, and I think the Paris climate change meeting will send a strong message to the world that Canada is getting serious about sustainability in the environment."

Conservative strategist Geoff Norquay, who served as a senior adviser to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, said the biggest challenge for Trudeau is facing expectations that are "enormous and unmeetable."

"The Liberals won a huge and resounding mandate for change, and that means that not only regions but cities and different sectors of the economy are going to be lining up saying, 'Here's what you promised — where is it? And how quickly will you make me happy?'"

As one of the first orders of business, Trudeau will need to "seize the agenda" by mapping out which policy promises to deliver on fast, which to phase in, and which from the Conservative government to revoke.

Fresh faces

Monday's historic election that led to Trudeau's majority mandate brings many fresh faces to the House of Commons.

There are 215 new MPs, including 15 who are returning to office after serving in the past but not the last Parliament. That's the highest number in 22 years, when 205 new MPs arrived on Parliament Hill after the 1993 election.

An orientation session has been set for Nov. 3, which will be administrative in focus. Another session geared to procedural matters will be held closer to the return of Parliament.

There is much on the to-do list for the outgoing MPs and prime minister, too.

Norquay said that aside from the necessary business of tendering an official resignation to the Governor General, sorting out cabinet documents and vacating official residences at 24 Sussex Drive and Harrington Lake, Harper will likely hold one last meeting with his cabinet and another with his caucus.

"That will be a difficult and emotional final goodbye," he said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?