Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued marching orders to his cabinet on Friday. While many of the instructions come straight from the Liberal campaign platform, there are a few things that are new, or more detailed than what’s been public before.

Here are five things of note from the ministers’ mandate letters:

Cell service

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains’ letter asks him to use any tools at his disposal to reduce the average cell phone bill in Canada by 25 per cent. While he has to work with telecom companies to make it happen, Bains is also being told to see that cell providers that re-sell service bought in bulk from other providers’ networks expand and increase competition. The letter also puts a deadline for the Liberals and companies to lower prices: Two years.

After that, Bains can make it easier for “virtual network” operators to qualify in Canada and expand the pricing powers of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Separately, Labour Minister Filomena Tassi is being asked to get federally regulated workers a legal “right to disconnect” so they can turn off their work devices outside business hours without fear of reprimand.

ALSO READ: Prime Minister sets 2025 deadline to remove B.C. fish farms

Infrastructure ultimatum

Similarly, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s mandate letter sets a time limit for provinces and territories to hand over lists of construction projects for federal officials to consider funding.

The letter says the lists have to be provided “within the next two years” and that any federal money “not designated for specific approved projects by the end of 2021” will go into the federal gas-tax fund, which goes straight to municipalities — and does an end-run around provincial governments.

Change the stress test

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s mandate letter includes an order that echoes a Conservative campaign promise — changing the mortgage stress test that determines whether a buyer could afford payments if faced with higher interest rates.

The Tories promised to ease the test for first-time homebuyers and remove the test from mortgage renewals. Some groups and economists call for an easing of the test, while the head of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the test has lowered housing prices and ensures Canadians don’t borrow more than they can afford.

Now, Trudeau is telling his finance minister to “review and consider recommendations from financial agencies” about making the stress test “more dynamic.”

China

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s mandate letter requires her to “draw on lessons from recent trade disputes” to improve the federal government’s ability to “respond to export protections against Canadian agriculture, such as were recently faced by canola, beef and pork producers.”

The idea is to “provide faster short-term support for industry when required,” the letter says. China’s blocking of those products this year as relations soured between the two countries has walloped Canadian farmers and producers. At the same time, International Trade Minister Mary Ng is being told to increase trade in places even where no agreement exists, “with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region,” which includes China. Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne’s mandate letter, meanwhile, has no direct mention of China.

Safety abroad, and killer robots

What Champagne’s mandate does have is a request to “ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems” — also called killer robots. The idea of artificial intelligence-driven machines that can target and kill without human oversight has raised alarms globally, and on Parliament Hill. Champagne’s letter doesn’t say how he is to terminate the creation of Terminator-like systems, just that he needs to work with other countries to do so.

In the same vein, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is being told to help the RCMP hire and train 100 new officers “specialized in narcotics trafficking,” among other global security priorities, so they can better help Canadian embassies assist abroad.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ma Miller’s Pub in Langford. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)
Historic Langford pub serves up some spirits

Ghostly experiences at Ma Miller’s pub

Police closed McNeill Avenue after a workplace death Oct. 20, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
WorkSafe BC investigating man’s death during Oak Bay tree removal

Man was working for contracted tree removal company when incident occurred

A notice on the door of the Starbucks at 3849 Cadboro Bay Rd. says it closes permanently on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Google Maps)
Cadboro Bay Starbucks location to close permanently after 16 years

Residents association seeks reason for closure set for Oct. 25

The West Shore RCMP released these images of a suspect as part of its investigation into a report of sexual assault on Sept. 17. (West Shore RCMP handout)
The West Shore RCMP released these images of a suspect as part of its investigation into a report of sexual assault on Sept. 17. (West Shore RCMP handout)
Sexual assault suspect sought by West Shore RCMP

Police are looking for help identifying this man

Environmental advocate, Dorothy Chambers holds up the body of Ollie, a well-known Great Horned owl found dead in Cuthbert Holmes Park on Oct. 17. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)
Poison suspected after well-known owl found dead in Saanich park

Body of Ollie the Great Horned owl discovered in Cuthbert Holmes Park

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read