Trudeau issues two minister mandate letters but won't be issuing any others

Trudeau’s office said the mandate letters from December 2021 will remain in force, though they were written in many cases for different ministers, in the midst of a pandemic

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office has released two mandate letters for newly created cabinet posts after the summer’s ministerial shuffle but will not be updating the mandates for ministers who have taken over existing portfolios.

New Minister of Citizens’ Services Terry Beech is expected to serve as the government’s “champion for service delivery excellence” and to “develop mitigation plans” to prevent another crisis in Canada’s passport service, according to the mandate letter posted on the prime minister’s website.

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New Minister of Sport and Physical Activity Carla Qualtrough’s mandate letter includes a list of commitments that are an almost word-for-word duplicate of the mandate letter for the minister of sport, Pascale St-Onge, from December 2021, with some minor alterations.

Mandate letters outline the objectives and goals that each minister is expected to accomplish, and any other challenges they will have to address in their role. Trudeau promised when first elected to make them public after each cabinet shuffle but has been criticized for not doing it as promptly this time. The two letters were posted on the prime minister’s website last Friday.

Trudeau’s office confirmed that the mandate letters from December 2021, which were for cabinet appointments following the last federal election, will remain in force, though they were written in many cases for different ministers, in the midst of a global pandemic, and before a major rise in inflation and interest rates.

“Ministers are expected to continue to work and deliver on the priorities listed in the letters from 2021,” said Mohammad Hussain, press secretary for Trudeau’s office, in an email.

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Beech’s mandate letter is the only one that includes a prelude that reflects an update for 2023, including that Canadians have “emerged into a world that is facing more uncertainty than we have seen in our lifetimes” and that “the cost of living has increased faster than it has in a generation.”

“Global events — wars, climate change, inflation — are having very real consequences in the lives of Canadians. There are more and more anti-democratic forces that seek to destabilize our democracy and our democratic institutions,” reads the letter signed by Trudeau.

“With all that is going on in Canada and around the world, serious, responsible government has never been more important.”

Beech’s list of commitments include developing a whole-of-government cabinet directive on the delivery of federal services, bolstering Service Canada’s role in delivering services to Canadians and supporting colleagues in delivering “priority initiatives” such as the Canadian Dental Care Plan.

It also includes working with president of the Treasury Board Anita Anand to “drive the digitalization of government services” and to create a digital identity platform to support “seamless service delivery” to Canadians across the country.

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Beech will also be collaborating with the minister of national revenue and the minister of employment to work toward the implementation of a new e-payroll system for businesses.

But its most noteworthy commitment is to build on “lessons learned from summer 2022,” at the height of the fiasco at Canada’s passport offices that saw Canadians waiting months for passport services, to “take steps to proactively identify potential service delivery challenges and develop mitigation plans, especially with regards to passports.”

In her letter, Qualtrough is asked to encourage all Canadians to incorporate more physical activity in their daily lives and work with partners to ensure that the Canadian sport system “reflects the diversity of Canada.”

What does not figure in in her mandate letter, however, is the promise to hold a national public inquiry into abuse and mistreatment in sports, something that the House of Commons committee on the status of women has recommended after consulting with Canadian sport organizations and elite athletes.

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