Liberal Power House


The new Liberal government’s economic team will be led by former pension executive Bill Morneau, a rookie Toronto MP who is now the Finance Minister.

Bill Morneau as the Finance Minister.

The rest of the team is a mix of rookies and MPs with parliamentary experience.

Mr. Morneau was executive chair of Morneau Shepell, the country’s largest manager of private-sector pensions. He is also a former chair of the C.D. Howe Institute, a public-policy think tank that focuses on economic issues.

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Other first-time MPs with economic portfolios include:

Diane Lebouthillier as Minister of National Revenue

Jim Carr as Minister of Natural Resources,

MaryAnn Mihychuk as Minister of Employment, workforce Development and Labour and

Amarjeet Sohi as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

Those with House of Commons experience include:

chrystiafreelandChrystia Freeland as Trade Minister

Navdeep Bains as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Scott Brison as Treasury Board President

Marc Garneau as Transport Minister.

The new government inherits a Canadian economy that is continuing to deal with the fallout of last year’s deep drop in the price of oil and other key commodities. This has hurt oil-exporting provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

After a technical recession in the first half of 2015, the economy is beginning to rebound, but economists are not expecting strong growth over the coming years. There is potential that the Liberal policies in areas such as taxation and infrastructure will provide some stimulus to the economy, but there are questions as to how quickly the Liberals can implement their agenda.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau

Mr. Morneau will need to work quickly on a fall fiscal update. The economic landscape has changed considerably since the Conservative government released its April budget based on a survey of private-sector economists conducted in March. The economy has underperformed expectations this year and an update will show what that means for federal revenue projections.

The Liberal platform promised to undo several recent Conservative policies, including allowing income splitting for families with children under the age of 18 and nearly doubling the maximum annual contributions that Canadians can make to their tax-free savings accounts. The Liberals also promised tax cuts on middle incomes and for small business as well as a tax hike on personal income above $200,000.

Canadians will be looking for clarity as to which of these changes will take effect as of the 2016 tax year, which starts on Jan. 1.

Mr. Morneau, the man who will be responsible for delivering on the Liberal promise to have Canada’s top 1 per cent pay more in taxes, is himself a member of the 1 per cent. Corporate records show that his total compensation was $1.1-million in 2014 and $1.8-million in 2013.

He will also be responsible for negotiating an enhancement of the Canada Pension Plan with the provinces. The Liberals also promised negotiations with the provinces on the future of health-care transfer payments, which could be a major new federal expense that was not accounted for in the party’s spending plan.

Mr. Morneau is well aware of the issues surrounding pension reform. He served on a technical advisory group on retirement security for the Ontario government as it moves to implement a supplementary pension plan.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains

In a nod to the complex economic challenges facing the country, the Liberals are rebranding the sprawling Industry Department, making Mr. Bains the first Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister. The Mississauga MP, 38, is a former accountant and financial analyst.

Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have struggled to get companies to do more research and development despite tax breaks that are among the most generous in the world. Seven out of 10 of Canada’s top R&D spenders, including BlackBerry and Bombardier, invested less in 2014 than they did a year earlier, according to list published recently by Research Infosource Inc.

The cabinet will also have a dedicated Science Minister, Kirsty Duncan, 49, a medical geographer and former university professor. She is the MP for the Toronto riding of Etobicoke North.

One of the first decisions facing Mr. Bains will be whether to join the Quebec government in propping up ailing aircraft maker Bombardier Inc. Quebec wants Ottawa to match its $1-billion (U.S.) investment in the Montreal-based company, which is struggling to get its C Series commercial jet launched.

Going to Bombardier’s rescue would come with significant political risk. Critics will accuse the government of lavishing corporate welfare on a company that has enjoyed generous federal subsidies over the years and has close ties to the Liberal Party.

Mr. Bains also inherits a thorny file from the Conservatives, who clashed openly with telecom companies by trying to promote more competition in the telecommunications industry. Mobile-phone companies are anxious to see if the new government will continue to help upstarts, such as Wind Mobile Corp., compete with the Big Three telcos, Bell, Rogers and Telus.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland

Ms. Freeland must hit the ground running on several key issues, most notably a decision on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive 12-country Pacific Rim trade deal negotiated by the previous government. Justin Trudeau stressed during the election campaign that the Liberal Party is “pro-trade,” but he vowed to examine the deal closely before making a final decision.

Ms. Freeland, 47, is a Toronto MP and a former journalist with The Globe and Mail, Thomson Reuters and Financial Times. She was first elected in a 2013 by-election. Born in Peace River, Alta., she speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Italian and some French. She is the author of several books, including Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.

She inherits several ongoing trade disputes, including another possible round of litigation with the United States over Canadian softwood lumber exports and the U.S. Congress’s failure so far to reform it labelling rules for imported meat.

More broadly, Canadian exporters have struggled to regain market share lost during the last recession, even with a much lower Canadian dollar.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi

Responsibility for delivering on the Liberals’ ambitious infrastructure promises will fall to Mr. Sohi, a former Edmonton city councillor.

His biography describes him as a strong advocate for light-rail transit. As councillor, he was Edmonton’s representative on the Canadian Urban Transit Association. He is also involved in the city’s Punjabi community.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau

In addition to working on files that will overlap with the Liberals’ infrastructure promise, Mr. Garneau has responsibility for Canada Post, which recently announced that it was suspending a controversial decision to phase out home delivery. The plan to shift roughly five million mostly urban Canadians to community mailboxes is part of an effort by the post office to deal with a steady erosion of mail volumes.

Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk

The department formerly known as Human Resources Development Canada has been renamed for a second time in just over two years. This cabinet job now incorporates labour, which had previously been its own cabinet position.

Ms. Mihychuk is the MP for the Winnipeg-area riding of Kildonan-St. Paul. She is a geoscientist who has provincial cabinet experience.

For her, the challenging files include employment-insurance reforms and managing the controversial temporary foreign worker program.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr

One of two cabinet ministers from Winnipeg, Mr. Carr worked in music and journalism before entering provincial politics. He became deputy leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party. More recently, he was the founding chief executive officer of the Business Council of Manitoba.

At a time when Canada’s energy sector is struggling, Mr. Carr will need to find the balance between supporting industry while helping to implement the government’s climate-change plans.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison

The Treasury Board President has a role in shaping the budgets of all federal departments. Keeping spending within the fiscal plan of annual deficits that are no larger than $10-billion a year over the next two years will be part of Mr. Brison’s job.

The veteran MP, who once sat as a Progressive Conservative, will also be responsible for implementing the Liberals’ ambitious pledges to make the public service more open, including by reforming the Access to Information Act.

Establishing good relations with the public service will also be part of Mr. Brison’s assignment.

National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier

The Liberals promised more money for Revenue Canada to crack down on tax evasion as it implements new taxes on Canada’s highest-income earners.

Ms. Lebouthillier, who was elected in the rural Quebec riding of Gaspésie-Les Iles-de-la-Madeleine, has a background in small business and municipal politics.