Who are the key Ministers responsible for our digital future over the next 4 years?
It’s three months to the day since Canada’s election officially started - and today, after a gruelling 11-week campaign and 2-week transition period, Canada finally has a new Prime Minister. Justin Trudeau was officially sworn in as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister earlier this morning. He also named his new Cabinet - 31 Ministers who’ll be responsible for guiding Canada’s ship of state over the coming years. CBC News has the full list of Canada’s new Cabinet Ministers. Here at OpenMedia, we were watching closely to see who’ll be in charge of the key government departments responsible for our digital future. Here’s a quick guide to some of those key Ministers, and the key digital rights issues they’re responsible for - we’ll be hearing these names a lot over the next four years.
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development: Navdeep Bains is a relatively familiar face to Canadians, having previously been an MP between 2004 and 2011. As Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, it looks like Bains will be Trudeau’s point man when it comes to fixing Canada’s broken telecom market, and tackling Big Telecom’s high prices and lack of choice.
One of the more surprising aspects of today’s announcement is that Industry Canada, the powerhouse department previously led by James Moore, is in for at least a rebrand, if not a full restructuring. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this and, needless to say, we’ll be pushing the new minister to implement our crowdsourced plans for more affordable wireless and wireline Internet.
Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade: Former writer and journalist Chrystia Freeland is one of the higher profile members of the new Cabinet. First elected in 2013 for Toronto Centre, she was re-elected 2 weeks ago with a large majority in Toronto’s University-Rosedale riding.
As Minister for International Trade, Freeland will play a crucial role, alongside the Prime Minister, in deciding whether Canada will sign up for the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Internet censorship plan - a key litmus test of the new government. Check out our Meghan Sali, writing in Common Dreams about the secretive and undemocratic nature of the TPP, and our Reilly Yeo’s expert take on what’s at stake for Internet users.
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety: Ralph Goodale is a familiar name to Canadians, having served as Finance Minister from 2003 to 2006, and in other Cabinet positions since 1993. As such, he’s certainly one of the more experienced faces in the new Trudeau Cabinet.
Ralph Goodale is also likely to be the Minister holding lead responsibility for spy agency CSIS, and for rolling back Bill C-51 - the reckless secret police bill that the Liberals have promised to reform.
Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage: Melanie Joly is a well-known name to Montréalers, having been the runner-up in Montréal’s 2013 mayoral election. Now representing Ahuntsic-Cartierville in the House of Commons, Joly’s responsibilities as Heritage Minister are likely to include oversight of Canada’s copyright rules. Canada currently has a fairly balanced set of copyright rules, thanks to the broadly positive 2012 reforms put into place by the previous government.
Unfortunately, as our Meghan Sali recently explained to CBC News, these rules are now under threat of being completely overturned by the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Joly will likely play a key role in determining whether the new government will stand up for Canada’s balanced approach, or give way and allow the importation of a draconian U.S.-style system, geared entirely to the needs of giant media conglomerates, rather than artists, creators, and everyday Internet users. We’ll be pushing for Joly to listen to Canadians and implement our crowdsourced Free Expression plan. (for more, check out this CBC News profile of Melanie Joly)
Harjit Sajjan, Minister of Defence: Harjit Sajjan is a decorated Army Lieutenant-Colonel, and a new face on the Liberal benches having just been elected to represent Vancouver South. As Minister of National Defence he’ll be responsible for the activities of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s ultra-secretive spy agency.
Under the previous government, CSE was embroiled in a long series of scandals, not least when they were exposed as spying on innocent Canadian air travellers. Sajjan will be responsible for cleaning up the mess; in their platform, the Liberals’ promised reforms to CSE, and we’ll be pushing them to fully implement the accountability measures set out in our crowdsourced privacy plan. (For more about Harjit, check out his CBC News profile)
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice: Jody Wilson-Raybould is a prominent First Nations leader and experienced Crown prosecutor. She’s a newly-elected MP, elected to represent B.C.’s Vancouver Granville riding. As Minister of Justice, Wilson-Raybould will play an especially important role in terms of safeguarding Canadians’ privacy and cleaning up the mess left by the previous government’s terrible track record on privacy.
We’ll also be asking Jody to listen to Canadians and implement our crowdsourced pro-privacy action plan, shaped by over 125,000 citizens. If the previous government’s allocation of responsibilities is anything to go by, Wilson-Raybould is also likely to play a role in tackling Bill C-51, although the primary responsibility for that file will likely rest with Ralph Goodale as Public Safety Minister. (for more on Jody Wilson-Raybould, check out this CBC News profile)
These are the key Ministers primarily responsible for our digital future right now. That said, the precise responsibilities of each government department may shift, and if there are any big changes we’ll be sure to let you know.
While these Ministers will play a really key role, ultimately the buck for his government’s actions stops at the desk of Justin Trudeau. None of these issues exist in a vacuum, and it will take a whole-of-government approach to ensure Canadians get the affordable, censorship and surveillance-free digital future they deserve.
It’s clear expectations are high - as community member Kieran Devine told us on Facebook: “I sure hope he reaches his full positive potential.”
We’ve already reached out to Trudeau’s office and asked him to meet with us and representatives of the 300,000 people who want C-51 repealed - stay tuned for more on how you can make your voice heard on this crucial issue.
When it comes to broader digital rights issues, thanks to you we’ve already got our crowdsourced pro-Internet action plan in place. Given that over 250,000 people helped shape this plan, we’ll be pushing Trudeau’s new government to listen to Canadians and implement it as soon as possible.
What do you think of Canada’s new Cabinet? Let us know in the comments below!