Trudeau’s New Cabinet Attempts to Appease Prairie Provinces

November 20, 2019 Updated: November 21, 2019

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau carved out a new role in his government on Nov. 20, designed to ensure voices on the Prairies are heard in Ottawa.

Former cabinet minister Jim Carr, who represents a Winnipeg riding, has been named as Trudeau’s “special representative” for the Prairie provinces.

The move follows the Liberals complete shutout in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the October federal election, including the loss of two cabinet ministers.

That raised concerns about how voices from those provinces would have a say around the cabinet table.

The Liberals also lost three seats in Manitoba.

“The Government of Canada represents Canadians in every part of the country. That is why the prime minister has asked Jim Carr to serve as his special representative for the Prairies,” Trudeau’s office said in a news release announcing the move.

“Born and raised in Winnipeg, he will ensure that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have a strong voice in Ottawa.”

Carr formerly served as both natural resources minister and minister for international trade diversification, two portfolios exceptionally top of mind in the Prairies, given struggles in the energy sector and ongoing trade disputes affecting Canadian farmers and producers.

Shortly after the election, Carr said he had received a diagnosis of a form of blood cancer.

There had been questions about his ability to keep playing a major role in Trudeau’s cabinet as he undergoes treatment.

His appointment came as part of a broad cabinet shuffle for the Liberal government that also included naming Chrystia Freeland the deputy prime minister and intergovernmental affairs minister.

Freeland, though an MP for a Toronto riding, was born in Alberta.

She’d previously served as Trudeau’s foreign affairs ministers, and now will need to bring her diplomatic skills to bear on the home front at time when provincial−federal relationships are exceptionally rocky due to issues including the federal carbon tax, immigration, and the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Other MPs from the West who nabbed a spot in cabinet include Winnipeg’s Dan Vandal, appointed minister of Northern Affairs. British Columbia’s Jonathan Wilkinson was shuffled to Environment from Fisheries, and Carla Qualtrough, also from B.C., was moved to Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion from her previous role as minister of public services, procurement and accessibility.