OTTAWA — The new Liberal government says all of its ministers are full members of cabinet — contrary to suggestions otherwise.
Justin Trudeau’s 30 cabinet members were billed as full ministers upon being sworn in Wednesday. The new prime minister made good on a promise of gender parity, appointing 15 men and 15 women.
In response to an inquiry that day, the Prime Minister’s Office said all had equal standing, with none categorized as junior ministers, a common feature of previous governments.
But subsequently published orders-in-council designated five members — all of them women — as ministers of state, prompting further questions about their actual status.
They are Carla Qualtrough in Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Patricia Hajdu in Status of Women, Kirsty Duncan in Science, and Bardish Chagger in Small Business and Tourism. In addition, Marie-Claude Bibeau was named a minister of state for La Francophonie in addition to becoming International Development minister.
Ministers of state receive $60,000 in addition to their MP’s salary, compared with $80,100 for ministers. They also lack full ministerial powers.
However, the Liberals say the designations were a technicality — the women in question are full members of cabinet, carry the title of minister, were always intended as such and will receive benefits and supports commensurate with those of their colleagues.
They were appointed under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act to ensure they have access to the support of existing departments, as new organizations are not being created, officials said Friday.
For instance, Hajdu’s portfolio, Status of Women, is attached to that of the Canadian Heritage minister.
The five members will lead on a number of federal priorities, the government says. Of these, Qualtrough’s responsibility for disabled persons and Duncan’s science portfolio are seen as deliberate efforts to make new policy strides.