Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his cabinet selection Wednesday and once again, NWT MP Michael McLeod and northern representation were passed over.
Ministers were sworn in to 37 new cabinet posts at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
McLeod said he was “disappointed” that there is no Northern voice in cabinet.
“For the most part I am hearing a lot of people quite happy with the (cabinet) selection,” he said. “But I’m also hearing from a number of people who were disappointed – as I am – that there will be no voice in cabinet for the North again.
“We certainly understand that there are only a few new positions that are available in cabinet. We have to take into account the incumbents and take into account gender balance. But it is a surprising turn of events that neither myself or the member from Yukon (Larry Bagnell) – given that we can be considered both North and west – were not contacted for a position.”
McLeod said getting a Northern voice in cabinet would have led to better outcomes for Northerners and the unique challenges their region faces.
He also noted that Yvonne Jones, an MP for Labrador of Inuit descent who served as parliamentary secretary under minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, should have been given a promotion to cabinet.
“I think overall who can talk about the North best is a Northerner,” he said. “So we would be better served if one of us were in the decision-making capacity that cabinet provides.”
During election night on Oct. 21, McLeod had told News/North that he was interested in a position with the Trudeau cabinet after winning a second term.
Still, McLeod said he was pleased with the cabinet ministers who were named to files that will directly impact Northerners.
“It is disappointing but we live with the decision and there is some good news out of it,” he said. “We have some good ministers and a good team and we have a new dedicated northern affairs minister.”
Bennett was re-appointed as minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, which in her previous stint had included Northern Affairs. He said her understanding of Indigenous issues and her continuance in the file is welcome among Indigenous governments and people.
“She still plays a key role and having continuity is very important for the Indigenous people,” he said. “She’s also important for us in the North because that position as minister holds a lot of decision making for us in the NWT still. ”
Dan Vandal, a Manitoba member of Metis descent, was given the new position of Northern Affairs.
“Dan is Indigenous and Metis and is very familiar with the challenges that Indigenous people face and he has been in politics a long time,” McLeod said, adding he thinks he is a good fit as a hard and cautious politician.
Quebec MP Marc Miller was named the minister of Indigenous Services.
McLeod said he is committed to bringing greater attention to Northern issues by pressing for the creation of a cabinet committee to focus on Arctic issues and ensuring that the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework released in September is carried through.
“I want to make sure our interests are on the front burner and ensuring there is timely implementation and advancement, especially of the Arctic and northern policy framework,” he said, adding that there remain many issues to deal with including housing affordability, education gaps, settling land claims and the economy and joblessness.
Norman Yakeleya, Dene Nation chief, said there is a lot of work to do in the next parliament with a short window to do it, but he is looking forward to building on progress he believes was made over the last term in the nation-to-nation relationship. Namely, he wants to see an apology to the Dene for how they were sent south to never return for tuberculosis treatment last century, enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) into Canadian law, advancing the Arctic and northern policy framework, and addressing economic and cost of living challenges in the North.
Yakeleya said he would have liked to have seen McLeod in cabinet.
“He would have been a great asset to the Northern file and the Northern voice and the prime minister has missed out on hard working fellow like our MP Michael McLeod,” Yakeleya said.
“He is a great advocate for Northern people and we will continue support him in his role as MP. ”
Other cabinet appointments from Wednesday went to the following:
Francois-Philippe Champagne – Foreign Affairs
Lawrence MacAulay – Veteran Affairs
Dominic LeBlanc – President of Queen’s Privy Council
Navdeep Bains – Innovation, Science and Industry
Bill Morneau – Finance
Marc Garneau – Transport
Patty Hajdu – Health
Marie-Claude Bibeau – Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food
Diane Lebouthillier – National Revenue
Harjit Sajjan – Minister of National Defence
David Lametti – Minister of Justice and Attorney General
Chrystia Freeland – Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs
Jean-Yves Duclos – Families, Children and Social Development and President of the Treasury Board
Melanie Joly – Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages
Catherine McKenna – Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Maryam Monsef – Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development
Carla Qualtrough – Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
Bardish Chagger – Diversity, Inclusion and Youth
Karina Gould – Minister of International Development
Ahmed Hussen – Family, Children and Social Development
Seamus O’Regan – Natural Resources
Pablo Rodriguez – Government House Leader and Minister of Heritage and Multiculturalism
Bill Blair – Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Mary Ng – International Trade
Filomena Tassi – Labour
Jonathan Wilkinson – Environment and Climate Change
Bernadette Jordan – Fisheries and Oceans
Joyce Murray – Digital Government
Anita Annand – Public Service and Procurement
Mona Fortier – Middle Class Prosperity
Steven Guilbeault – Canadian Heritage
Marc Mendicino – Immigration
Deb Schulte – Seniors
Jim Carr – special representative for the Prairies