Trudeau to decide on timing of Parliament's return after meeting opposition leaders next week

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will decide whether Parliament sits before the end of this year after he wraps up a face-to-face meeting with opposition leaders in Ottawa next week, a senior Liberal source tells CBC News.

Katie Telford's expected to remain chief of staff - but the fate of a lot of other Liberals is up in the air

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Gen. Julie Payette leave following a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will decide whether Parliament sits before the end of this year after he wraps up a face-to-face meeting with opposition leaders in Ottawa next week, a senior Liberal source tells CBC News.

Trudeau has yet to decide on the timing of a throne speech and the introduction of legislation to cut taxes for the 2020 tax year. He also has to pick the lineup for his new cabinet and make some senior staffing choices in his own office.

If Trudeau decides not to open the House of Commons in December, it's likely to convene early in the new year.

Katie Telford will stay on as Trudeau's chief of staff, said the Liberal source — despite persistent rumours of her appointment as Canada's next ambassador to Washington. Apart from Telford's position, the source said, further PMO staffing decisions are on hold until the cabinet is finalized and the staffing needs of the new ministers have been met.

Chief of staff Katie Telford, left, and principal secretary Gerald Butts look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks during the Meeting of First Ministers in Ottawa Dec. 9, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press )

Some Liberals have been pushing for Trudeau to make big changes to his inner circle, with many MPs and party insiders complaining about the way the first-term PMO operated. This discontent intensified during the SNC-Lavalin controversy and in the months leading up to the election.

"There is a recognition of the need to bring in other voices and make processes work better," the source said. "But it's still a team that just won a really hard election and there is a recognition of that."

Gerry Butts resigned as Trudeau's principal secretary over the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin affair. While he played a role on the Liberals' election campaign team, he is not expected to return to the PMO.

A little cabinet shuffle, or a big one?

Trudeau will unveil his new cabinet on Nov. 20. The loss of cabinet ministers Ralph Goodale and Amarjeet Sohi mean there will be at least two changes around the table; the senior Liberal source cautioned there could be more.

There is no guarantee that all re-elected ministers will return to cabinet, the senior source said, adding some departments might be restructured to reflect new priorities and the new reality of a minority Parliament.

Trudeau brought in former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan and Isabelle Hudon, Canada's ambassador to France, to advise him on the transition from majority government to minority. Their primary task has been vetting people for the new cabinet — interviewing re-elected ministers and potential candidates for promotion.

One question being asked in Liberal circles is whether Trudeau should re-deploy Chrystia Freeland from Global Affairs to a domestic portfolio. Freeland earned significant public respect for her handling of the NAFTA negotiations and there is a sense among some Liberals that her skill-set could be extremely helpful at home in a minority government.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau looks on as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a media availability at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"Freeland remains an open question. Where to use that talent remains an open question," the senior Liberal said.

Finance has been suggested as a potential destination for Freeland; sending her there would make Freeland the first woman ever to hold that job in Canada. But multiple Liberal sources say that Bill Morneau is unlikely to move from the government's top economic post.

Trudeau also is still working on a plan to ensure the interests of Saskatchewan and Alberta are properly represented at the cabinet table, after an election which saw no Liberals at all elected in those provinces. The senior Liberal source said that plan hasn't been settled yet, but suggested that results will matter more to people in Alberta and Saskatchewan than any cabinet tinkering.

"The West can smell bullshit. So just get the pipeline built. Show competency on that," the source said.

Trudeau also has to consider the health of two of his senior ministers as he picks his cabinet. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc was sidelined during the election campaign to finish his cancer treatment.

LeBlanc is expected to return to work soon. Less clear is the status of International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr, who was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer the day after the election.

Carr is still in the early stages of chemotherapy and dialysis treatment.

"I am feeling well, my spirits are high. I spoke to the prime minister and reiterated my commitment to continue serving my constituents and all Canadians," Carr said in a media statement.


David Cochrane is host of Power & Politics, Canada's premier daily political show, airing 5 to 7 p.m. ET weekdays on CBC News Network. David joined the parliamentary bureau as a senior reporter in 2016. Since then, he has reported from 11 countries across four continents. David played a leading role in CBC's 2019 and 2021 federal election coverage. Before Ottawa, David spent nearly two decades covering politics in his beloved Newfoundland and Labrador, where he hosted the RTDNA award winning political show On Point with David Cochrane.