Mandate letters to McKenna, Fortier focus on ‘middle class’ but fail to define term

Ottawa's female power duo in federal cabinet

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has outlined his expectations for his cabinet ministers in mandate letters that have been published online.

Each minister receives a letter and they’re mostly the same. The opening paragraphs focus on the mandate the Liberals were given on Election Day with particular attention to how the government will work for the "middle class." The letters also stress the importance of working within a hung parliament.

The Liberals were reduced to a minority Oct. 21, and will need the support of other parties to pass legislation and survive confidence votes.

Deeper into the letters, Trudeau gets specific about what he expects from each minister.

The letter to Ottawa Centre MP and Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna tasks her with “increasing economic growth and creating good middle class jobs with infrastructure that improves people’s quality of life.”

McKenna is also tasked with creating a National Infrastructure Fund to “seek out and support major nation-building projects” and with making “the federal commitment to public transit permanent.”

The latter includes ensuring federal funding in transit projects goes toward zero-emission buses and rail systems starting in 2023.

Ottawa—Vanier’s Mona Fortier, the Associate Finance Minister, has also been dubbed by the government the “Minister of Middle Class Prosperity.”

Her mandate letter does not define “middle class” but focuses more heavily on the term than other letters.

“As Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance, you will be a second Minister within the Department of Finance,” Trudeau says. “From that central agency, you will develop cross-government approaches to ensure that the prosperity and quality of life of the middle class are central to government policy-making.”

Fortier's mandate letter seems to emphasize her role as Associate Finance Minister, tasking her primarily with supporting and working with Finance Minister Bill Morneau on a number of items.

The letters to all ministers end with a reminder to follow the Conflict of Interest Act and they instruct ministers to carefully read their copies of Open and Accountable Government, with particular emphasis on ethical guidelines.

“As noted in the Guidelines, you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny,” Trudeau writes. “This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.”

The Prime Minister ends the letter with words of encouragement.

“I know I can count on you to fulfill the important responsibilities entrusted in you. It is incumbent on you to turn to me and the Deputy Prime Minister early and often to support you in your role as Minister. Sincerely, Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P. Prime Minister of Canada.”

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