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New Cabinet Committees and Parliamentary Secretaries

Today, the Prime Minister announced both the formation of his all-important Cabinet Committees, which review and approve government policies and funding initiatives.

Additionally, the Prime Minister announced the new  roster of Parliamentary Secretaries that play an important link between Ministers and Parliament. While some Parliamentary Secretaries support their Minister at Standing Committee and in Question Period as well as taking meetings with stakeholders on behalf of the Minister, Parliamentary Secretaries do have the ability to be incredibly influential and impactful taking leadership roles on priority government files. The Health Department now has two Parliamentary Secretaries. In addition to his role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Sport, Adam Van Koerverden becomes the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health. Élisabeth Brière becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health.

Cabinet Committees

The Prime Minister’s Cabinet Committee for his third term will consist of 7 Cabinet Committees, 3 Sub-committees, plus the Treasury Board and Incident Response Group. There are four committees in the structure of the cabinet that will be particularly important for health care and life sciences in Canada. The composition of Cabinet Committees helps identify the senior Ministers and those that are part of the trusted inner-circle around the Prime Minister. A full list of Cabinet Committee membership can be found here.

  • Cabinet Committee on Agenda, Results, and Communication: This committee chaired by the Prime Minister will set the overall strategic agenda and priorities for the government while also tracking the implementation of the government agenda.
  • Treasury Board: The Treasury Board acts as the government’s management board and provides oversight of the government’s financial management and spending.
  • Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion, and Climate “A” and “B”: These two committees with identical mandates but different memberships appear to be the broadest policy committees of the government with a mandate to “consider such issues as sustainable and inclusive social and economic development, post-pandemic recovery, decarbonization, and the environment, as well as improving the health and quality of life of Canadians”. It remains to be seen how exactly these two committees will interact with each other, if committees will be given different specialties, or if there is going to be an established hierarchy and process for what is considered by committee A or B.
  • Sub-committees: There are two sub-committees in particular that will play an important role in the government’s health care and life sciences agenda. The Sub-committee on Intergovernmental Coordination will be a key player on the health care agenda given that action on surgical backlogs, the creation of a new Canada Mental Health Transfer, new investments for the long-term care sector, and any further action on national pharmacare will all require significant negotiations with provinces and territories. Additionally, the Sub-committee on the federal response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will provide whole-of-government leadership, coordination, and preparedness for a response to COVID-19. With the emergence of new variants in recent days, this sub-committee will continue to play a role in the government’s public health response to the pandemic.

Key Insights on Cabinet Committee Composition:

  • Jean-Yves Duclos is a trusted member of the Trudeau cabinet and has been given an ambitious workload that includes membership on three cabinet committees, a sub-committee, and an alternate membership on the Treasury Board. He will serve on the Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion, and Climate “A”. Minister Duclos continues to be seen as a senior member of the Trudeau cabinet.
  • Carolyn Bennett will have a much lighter workload in the federal cabinet, serving as a member of the Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion, and Climate “B”. This could indicate that Bennett will be given more time and capacity to deal with matters that pertain specifically to mental health and addictions.
  • Francois-Phillippe Champagne has been given the responsibility of being the Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion, and Climate “B”. As a senior member of the cabinet, Champagne will be a key player in determining which issues get consideration by the cabinet at this committee.
  • Duclos, Bennett, and Champagne will all serve on the Sub-committee on the federal response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • Curiously, despite health care being a major aspect of the Liberal election platform and the federal-provincial-territorial agenda, neither Duclos or Bennett will serve on the Sub-committee on Intergovernmental Affairs. Premiers across Canada are calling on the federal government to increase its share of health care spending and have indicated that they will dispute attempts for the federal government to attach strings for funding in an area of provincial jurisdiction. Health care is shaping up to be one of the more contentious areas of federal-provincial-territorial relations and this raises questions about the role the Minister of Health and the Associate Minister of Health will play in these critical negotiations.

Parliamentary Secretaries

 Parliamentary Secretaries support Minister’s and play an important link between the federal cabinet and the Parliament. Parliamentary Secretaries will often be called to speak to matters on the government’s behalf as a stand-in for the Minister and can play a role in managing caucus relations on their assigned files. A full list of Parliamentary Secretaries can be found here.

Key Parliamentary Secretaries

Adam van Koerverden, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Adam van Koeverden was first elected in 2019 in the riding of Milton. He has previous experience working as a Parliamentary Secretary having supported the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Sport) until the dissolution of Parliament for the federal election campaign this summer. Prior to entering politics, Adam van Koerverden was an Olympic athlete and won several medals for Canada in rowing.

Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Andy Fillmore was elected during the 2015 election for the riding of Halifax. A veteran member of the Liberal caucus at this point, Fillmore has served several Ministers in the past as a Parliamentary Secretary, including the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, and the Minister of Democratic Institutions. Prior to entering politics, Andy Fillmore worked as a professional urban planner and designer.

Other key Parliamentary Secretaries include:

  • Élisabeth Brière becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health. She was first elected in 2019 in Sherbrooke and is a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
  • Darren Fisher becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors
  • Anthony Housefather becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.
  • Greg Fergus remains Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

What’s Next

The federal government continues to march forward establishing as much as it can before the House of Commons is scheduled to rise for the holiday break on December 17. With each step, we get a clearer picture of the top priorities of the government and who the key players will be. There are still a few next steps to watch for:

  • Fall Economic Statement: Scheduled for December 14th, Minister Freeland will provide a fiscal and economic update to Parliament and present any new plans the government may have stemming from the Liberal’s election platform, building on the recent Throne Speech.
  • Mandate letters: These mandate letters have yet to be released but should be made public prior to the House of Commons rising for the holiday break.
  • House of Commons Standing Committees: The Standing Committee on Finance will be formed no later than December 6th to study a bill enabling more targeted COVID-19 response support, but the remaining committees will need to be structured as well so Parliament can refer bills for study. These committees should be populated in the weeks ahead.
  • Potential new legislation: The cabinet may table more pieces of legislation prior to the holiday break to set the Parliamentary agenda once the House resumes on January 31st, 2022.
  • Pre-budget consultations and Budget 2022: With the Standing Committee on Finance scheduled to begin next week, we can anticipate that Budget 2022 pre-consultations will open. This will provide everyone an opportunity to submit briefs with recommendations and potentially present them to the Standing Committee on Finance.
  • Budget 2022-23 planning is in full swing: in addition to the finance committee being reconstituted, the machinery of government supporting budget development is in full swing. Officials across the government are building department plans, costing potential new programs and developing approaches for how the government can meet commitments laid out in the throne speech and upcoming mandate letters.