Canada

A cabinet with a tight fit

Ian Anderson February 25 1980
Canada

A cabinet with a tight fit

Ian Anderson February 25 1980

A cabinet with a tight fit

Ian Anderson

Before the next week is out, two men will pay special visits to Pierre Trudeau. Marc Lalonde, Trudeau’s closest political ally, will ask to be made

energy minister in the new government. Allan MacEachen, the once and future deputy prime minister, will probably ask for External Affairs.

Trudeau may prefer to have his political surefootedness in the

delicate Finance portfolio and Lalonde to oversee his constitutional interests from the justice department. But no Liberal will choose before these two veterans are satisfied. And only then will the scramble start for what remains— and a legup to lead the party once Trudeau leaves.

By his own admission, Trudeau had failed to anoint a successor when he “retired” last November. He had himself been brought to prominence by Lester Pearson, serving as justiceministerand

getting credit as a law reformer (“The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation”). Now it is Trudeau’s turn to play Pearson. The question remains whom he’ll choose to anoint.

Those closest to Trudeau say he hates to draw up a cabinet. Too many egos are hurt, too many compromises have to be made to ensure regional representation. Thus he must find in the Senate (a Bud Olson, a David Stewart, a Ray Perrault) people to represent Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia—provinces that didn’t elect a Liberal. But there will be rumblings from younger members of the caucus if he doesn’t leave out of his cabinet such former ministers as Bud Cullen, John Reid, Warren Allmand and Jeanne Sauvé. Almost certainly, Bryce Mackasey will not get a portfolio. More than one prominent Liberal has vowed to quit the party if the former Air Canada chairman reaps any further rewards—for political partisanship.

For the leadership hopefuls the glamor portfolio is Energy. Accordingly, Lloyd Axworthy has expressed interest. Axworthy is 40, a westerner and

boasts a blue-chip education (Princeton). His ascendancy could shunt Lalonde into Justice, but it’s more likely the Winnipegger will wind up with Transport, a difficult but less sensitive post.

Another leadership candidate, Francis Fox, would be considered for federal-provincial relations. JeanLuc Pepin may wind up in Finance, should MacEachen get his wish for the calmer world of a diplomat. More likely, though, the ebullient Pepin will get back his old job at Industry and Commerce, with the Trade portfolio going to Ed Lumley.

Ontario is a cabinet-maker’s nightmare. The talent does not run deep there for the Liberals, while the political debts do. Posts must be found for such patriots as Bob Kaplan and Jim Fleming of Toronto. The latter is a good bet for secretary of state. Communications, one of the potentially busiest portfolios in the 1980s, could well go to another former broadcast journalist, Roméo Leblanc. John Roberts might also get a crack at it, though the former secretary of state carries with him the reputation of dilettante and may be dropped from the cabinet altogether.

The thorniest problem is in the three Windsor ridings of Southwestern Ontario, where three Liberals can lay rightful claim to a seat in cabinet. Herb Gray will get a senior economic job—probably the Treasury Board. Eugene Whelan fancies Defence and could well get it. That would open Agriculture to a Quebecker such as André Ouellet. Then there is Mark MacGuigan, a cinch for solicitor-general if he ran anywhere else, but a longshot here.

In Atlantic Canada, Bill Rompkey of Labrador is a good bet to get either Fisheries or Labor. Gerald Regan, the former Nova Scotia premier who won in Halifax, wants a senior economic portfolio but may get Regional Economic

Expansion.

In Newfoundland,

Roger Simmons could satisfy Trudeau’s hunger for a John Crosbie-style orator of his own.

In his home province, Trudeau’s only problem is overabundance of talent.

Possible new faces are Pierre Bussières, Louis Duelos, Yvon Pinard and Jacques Olivier. High-profile jobs will have to be found for such popular former ministers as Monique Bégin and Pierre De Bane.

English Montreal will likely not be represented in the cabinet this time by Warren Allmand. Instead, look for Donald Johnston, Trudeau’s friend, personal lawyer and a tax expert. Johnston, a fiscal conservative, could find himself in Finance but is more likely to get Revenue until he proves that his ability in the House is at least as sharp as his skills on the piano.

From Quebec should also come the new Speaker of the House. A good bet is Tom Lefebvre, a Trudeau loyalist and former garage owner. As Liberal whip, Lefebvre was one of the architects of the Tory defeat in the House. £>