Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may soon find out the truth of the adage “No good turn goes unpunished” in the coming days as he tries to cobble together a new cabinet.
Traditionally cabinets have some sort of regional balance with at least one member from each province. When a province has failed to elect any members to the government benches, it has been the custom to name a member of the Senate from that province as their representative.
But that is not an option for Trudeau this time! Two of the prairie provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan, saw the Liberals shut out in the recent federal election. Unlike past prime ministers, Trudeau cannot just turn to the Senate for his representatives from those two provinces.
And it's his own doing! Campaigning before the 2015 election, Trudeau promised senate reforms would make the senators more independent. He kicked the Liberal senators from the parliamentary caucus and promised to appoint non-partisan folks to fill any subsequent senate vacancies. As a result there are only nine senators who still identify as Liberals currently in the Red Chamber.
Of these nine, one, Lillian Dyck, comes from Saskatchewan, and could potentially be appointed to the cabinet to represent her province. But that would seem to put the lie to Trudeau's promises, and to be in direct contradiction of his expelling the “Liberal” senators from the Liberal parliamentary caucus. If you're not a member of caucus how can you be a member of cabinet? There are no Liberal senators from Alberta.
One alternative which might be available to the prime minister is to appoint a non-elected person from the province to sit at the cabinet table. This option, however unappealing, has been used in the past at both provincial and federal levels, but is usually done prior to the end of a political mandate to enhance the stature or a star candidate, not at the beginning of a mandate to reward a losing candidate.
It's a difficult situation for the prime minister, but I'm confident he will find a solution. After all, he's the PM who appointed an MP from the Greater Toronto Area as the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency after the last election.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister who lives in Springhill.