O’Toole attacks Trudeau’s ‘inexperienced’ cabinet as a threat to national unity

October 26, 2021
O'Toole attacks Trudeau's 'inexperienced' cabinet as a threat to national unity

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole tore into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet lineup today, saying he’s assembled a group of “largely inexperienced and ideological individuals” that pose a threat to the country’s national unity and post-pandemic economic recovery.

In a statement released as ministers were still being sworn in at Rideau Hall, O’Toole said Trudeau’s cabinet picks are “yet another example” of his “record of style over substance.”

“Today’s changes to the cabinet represent just another example of the prime minister continuing to reward ministers who have consistently demonstrated incompetence and a lack of accountability,” O’Toole said.

Before today’s swearing-in ceremony, O’Toole called for Harjit Sajjan to be dumped as defence minister over his “track record of failure” on the sexual misconduct file in the Canadian Armed Forces. “Canada’s Conservatives are calling on Justin Trudeau to finally do the right thing, and fire Minister Sajjan from cabinet,” O’Toole said in a Monday statement.

Anita Anand and family members arrive for the cabinet swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

While Sajjan was removed from that high-profile post, the B.C. MP will stay in cabinet as the minister of International Development. Ontario MP Anita Anand — who served as Public Services and Procurement minister during the mad scramble to buy COVID-19 vaccines over the past 16 months — will replace Sajjan at defence. Anand is only the second woman in Canadian history to hold that job.

Mélanie Joly, was demoted from Heritage to serve as the minister of tourism in August 2018 after facing a torrent of criticism over her handling of the so-called “Netflix tax” and reforms to the broadcasting sector. She’s now making a triumphant return to a prominent position with her appointment Tuesday as minister of Foreign Affairs.

O’Toole’s talk of a national unity threat appears to be a thinly veiled reference to the appointment of long-time Quebec climate activist Steven Guilbeault to the position of environment minister. In the past, the Conservatives said Guilbeault’s very presence in the Liberal Party suggests Trudeau is hostile to the oil and gas industry, a business that sustains tens of thousands of jobs and pumps billions into government coffers.

Steven Guilbeault is the new environment minister. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Before entering electoral politics, Guilbeault co-founded Équiterre, a Quebec environmental organization, and served as the director of the Quebec chapter of Greenpeace for more than a decade.

While at Greenpeace, Guilbeault was arrested after climbing a 340-metre tall tower and unfurling a banner that read “Canada and Bush Climate Killers” — an act of civil disobedience meant to draw attention to inaction by Canada and the U.S. on the Kyoto Protocol climate agreement.

Later, Guilbeault emerged as an ardent opponent of pipeline development, including the Trans Mountain expansion project that is now being built by a Crown corporation.

Greenpeace celebrated Guilbeault’s appointment Tuesday, calling him a leader who “knows the file.”

“He knows the key players and he understands just how much is at stake,” the group said in a media statement.

Trudeau previously defended his decision to run Guilbeault under the Liberal banner, saying in 2019 that the party welcomes “a broad range of views on a lot of different issues.”

Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is well underway, with more than 9,400 people actively working on the project in hundreds of communities across B.C and Alberta.

O’Toole said another pressing concern for the Conservative Party is the country’s economic recovery, suggesting Trudeau’s new cabinet is ill-equipped to deal with ongoing COVID-related issues.

“With inflation at a near twenty-year high, causing gasoline, grocery and housing prices to skyrocket, and businesses suffering from major supply chain interruptions, it is clear from today’s appointments that the Trudeau government is not serious about addressing Canada’s economic challenges,” he said.

“Canadians will only get higher prices, higher taxes, and smaller paycheques under this government’s economic plan. What they deserve are solutions to our economic challenges, not more risky and unproven economic schemes.”

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