The Prime Minister’s Office released 38 new ministerial mandate letters on Dec. 16th, outlining the broad priorities and 645 specific total commitments that the ministers in the new Liberal government must strive towards accomplishing during this election cycle.
These letters are “not an exhaustive list of all files a minister would work on”, but the question arises, are there too many commitments for a national government to deliver?
Cabinet was sworn in Oct. 26 and the 44th parliament began Nov. 22. The letters were announced following a nearly 90-day delay in their release since the 2021 federal election.
Global Advantage Consulting Group (GACG) produced a detailed analysis of the MMLs and the 645 commitments stated therein. The ministers’ four broad priorities are:
- Continuing to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,
- Addressing climate change impacts,
- Ending systemic discrimination and inequality, and
- Advancing Indigenous reconciliation
The Deputy PM and Minister of Finance and Minister of Environment of Climate Change Canada each were assigned the most commitments, with 39. This was followed by the Minister of Science, Innovation, and Industry (33) and Minister of Public Safety (29).
Source: GACG Analysis & Visualization
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directed each minister to return to him with a plan for how they intend to accomplish each of the commitments given to them and is ordering his ministers to publicly report their progress.
GACG identified commitments outlining the launch of 18 new organizations or structures, such as:
- Permanent Council of Economic Advisors
- Canada Apprenticeship Service,
- Canadian Drug Agency,
- Canada Water Agency,
- Just Transition,
- Net Zero Accelerator Initiative, and
- Pan-Canadian Grid Council
The key issues present in the largest number of the MMLs are equity, diversity and inclusion (24 letters), climate change/cleantech (21 letters), and jobs, talent and skills (21 letters).
The Ministers of Finance (Chrystia Freeland), Public Safety (Marco Mendocino), Indigenous Services (Patty Hajdu) and Innovation/Science/Industry (François-Philippe Champagne) are responsible for the broadest range of topics of priority, with nine each.
According to GACG analysis, there are relatively few commitments specifically targeting businesses and economic development, while emphasizing improving quality of life for households and encouraging cross-departmental collaboration between Ministers.
Interesting to note is what is not included in the 38 letters. For example, inflation is not mentioned once in Minister Freeland’s letter, despite inflation reaching 7.6% in 2021. The Bank of Canada and the federal government announced a two per cent annual inflation rate. It is a challenge to justify how that inflation rate is going to be achieved when curbing the rate is not mentioned once in the Finance Minister’s new mandate.
Additionally, neither the Minister of Health’s nor Minister of Mental Health’s mandate letters contained any mention of the ongoing opioid crisis facing Canadians, despite an average of 19 people dying of an opioid-related overdose everyday in the first half of 2021, and this trend could worsen in 2022.
The staggering 645 commitments stated in these letters are too many for the federal government to realistically accomplish before the next election cycle, and likely unrealizable.
As noted in Michael Wernick’s book, Governing Canada: A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics, Cabinet’s time is split between 100 hours per annum on a variety of topics. The majority of these commitments, new proposed agencies and centres, and 645 initiatives will require funding approvals, and in some cases, new legislation.
How is the already overburdened public service going to design and develop implementation plans for these 645 commitments, see them pass the legislative agenda, and launch them before the next election cycle?
In its Briefing Deck, Global Advantage presents some select priority commitments from some of the key ministers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy of the Deck.