Friday , January 15 2021

Cabinet shuffle in Ottawa | Turbulence for a recruit

It has been a few years since Quebec had been so well represented in a federal government, particularly in economic positions.

Following the mini-cabinet shuffle, this is where the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Industry, Economic Development, Heritage, Treasury Board, Agriculture and Revenue come, not to mention the Prime Minister himself and his House leader.

Justin Trudeau hopes to make gains in Quebec. Except that his plan contains a bet: Transport.

Marc Garneau will be replaced by Omar Alghabra, recruit to the Council of Ministers. This unilingual Anglophone from the suburbs of Toronto will have to manage complex files, such as the sale of Air Transat, assistance to the air sector, the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) station at Montreal airport and the train to high frequency between Quebec and Windsor. The Bloc Québécois would be very happy to hear him respond to platitudes in Macdonald’s language …

PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Omar Alghabra, new Federal Minister of Transport

Under Mr. Trudeau, one of the most heated clashes with Quebec arose over irregular migration to Roxham Road. The Legault government had been insulted by the moralizing tone and lack of sensitivity of the federal minister, Ahmed Hussen. He didn’t make any friends in the housing negotiations either.

It is to avoid this kind of unnecessary tension that Mr. Trudeau resigned himself to appointing a lieutenant in Quebec, Pablo Rodriguez.

With the appointment of Mr. Alghabra, his presence will be more necessary than ever. The pressure will be enormous.

It started with the sale of Air Transat to Air Canada.

The Competition Bureau has already concluded that consumers would be the losers, but this had not in the past prevented transactions from being concluded anyway, such as between First Air and Canadian North.

The transaction must be approved by the Minister. Mr. Garneau had commissioned a study before deciding, and the work is progressing.

A similar process is taking place with the European authorities. Pierre Karl Péladeau also wants to buy Air Transat, and he asked the federal government and Europe to block the sale to Air Canada. Regardless of Mr. Alghabra’s decision, it will be challenged.

Aid to the aviation sector is also eagerly awaited. Relations between Mr. Garneau and the carriers were strained. The latter did not help their cause by promoting travel to the South in the midst of the pandemic and by canceling regional flights.

The minister was right to defend the interests of consumers, by making any aid conditional on the reimbursement of flight tickets canceled due to the pandemic. And after the broken promises to Aveos, vigilance is required. But all the same, the file has dragged on for nine months.

In defense of Mr. Garneau, the Minister of Transport is primarily concerned with regulation. Aid depends on finance, and former minister Bill Morneau did not want a targeted program for the airline industry for fear that the oil companies and others would ask for the same. Either way, carriers were able to take advantage of general programs (loans as well as wage subsidy and credit for large employers).

But last November, the federal government made a commitment to conclude such an agreement with the carriers. Mr. Alghabra will have to finish the job by striking the delicate balance between protecting consumers and taxpayers, on the one hand, and defending the interests of this vital industry for Quebec.

Added to this is the REM station at Trudeau airport, for which we are awaiting the federal contribution, and the hoped-for green light for the VIA Rail high-frequency train that would link Windsor to Montreal, and possibly to Quebec City. .

Because of the set of musical chairs, François-Philippe Champagne loses the prestigious post of Minister of Foreign Affairs. Marc Garneau replaces him.

Admittedly, the two Michael are still prisoners in China, and the families of the passengers of the flight PS752, shot down by mistake by an Iranian missile, await their full compensation. But it would be unfair to blame him. Mr. Champagne had a weak balance of power, and it is difficult to say what he should have done otherwise.

For the liberals, it will be more useful for Innovation. This tireless salesman will spend all his time in the country cutting ribbons and distributing pre-election checks. And his new role will allow him to assist Mr. Alghabra in aeronautics.

***

As we know, the reshuffle stems from the resignation of Navdeep Bains as Minister of Innovation.

On Tuesday, Justin Trudeau claimed that a spring election was not his “preference”. It wouldn’t bother him too much either… If the polls were favorable to him and the vaccination went well, he would be strongly tempted to overturn after the tabling of his budget. It’s so obvious that even the daughter of Mr. Bains, a second year student, guesses it.

The minister leaves to spend more time with his family. His eldest was worried that he would sign up for another electoral cycle that would last until the end of his high school.

Loyal to Mr. Trudeau, he was a sort of lieutenant of the government in Ontario. The re-election of the Liberals passes through the Toronto suburbs. This explains why the departure of Mr. Bains is followed by the arrival of Mr. Alghabra, another MP from this region.

In Transportation, Mr. Alghabra will have the mandate, among other things, to respond to requests from Toronto and Ontario for public transit. But if he does not want to harm Quebec, he will have to land several thorny issues urgently. And for that, he will need all the help he can get from MM. Rodriguez and Champagne.



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