On December 13, the Prime Minister’s office published ministerial mandate letters for the federal Cabinet, which provide an overview of the priorities assigned to each Minister and will help guide our government relations activities over the coming year.

For the most part, the priorities outlined in the mandate letters are designed to continuing building on the work that the government undertook during its first term, particularly with respect to increasing economic growth and pursuing new trade opportunities, ensuring the safety and environmental sustainability of the transportation system, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.  This being said, the mandate letters also contain some new areas of focus, which reflect the evolution of the political climate over the past four years and the minority waters that the government must now navigate.  More specifically:

The mandate letter sent to the Minister of Transport (Marc Garneau) includes instructions to:

  • Ensure that Canada’s transportation system supports the government’s economic growth and job creation agenda by focusing on safety and reliabilitytrade facilitation, and being more environmentally sustainable;
  • Work with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to invest in Canada’s trade corridors in order to increase global market access for Canadian goods;
  • Continue to improve the safety of Canada’s transportation sector through a review and modernization of relevant legislation and regulations;
  • Work with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to implement the Oceans Protection Planwith particular focus on increasing on-scene environmental capacity, developing near real-time information on marine traffic with Indigenous and coastal communities, and delivering 24/7 emergency response for incident management (which will likely also include discussion on emergency towing capacity);
  • Work with partners to design and introduce programs to make Canada’s ports among the most efficient and clean in the world (which includes completing the Ports Modernization Review and considering governance structures that promote investment in Canadian ports).

It is also worth noting that Minister Garneau’s reappointment as Transport Minister likely means that the 5-year $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan he announced in 2016 will continue to be at the forefront of TC’s agenda, not only with respect to the three priority items noted above, but with respect to the full range of (50 plus) safety and environmental initiatives that the OPP encompasses. TC’s agenda will also be influenced by the Reconciliation Framework Agreement that the government signed with Indigenous Peoples under its previous mandate, which created strong expectations that First Nations will have a greater say in the management of oceans, particularly with respect to marine transportation on the West Coast.

The mandate letter sent to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard (Bernadette Jordan) includes instructions to:

  • Work with the Ministers of Transport, Natural Resources, and Environment and Climate Change to implement and further develop the Oceans Protection Plan. This includes protecting marine species at risk and working with provinces, territories and Indigenous Peoples to better co-manage Canada’s three ocean coasts;
  • Work with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement on the full renewal of the Coast Guard fleet (which includes continued efforts to revitalize the shipbuilding industry);
  • Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to introduce a new plan to conserve 25% of Canada’s oceans by 2025, working towards 30 percent by 2030 (which plan should be grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives);
  • Make new investments in marine science and fighting invasive species.

With respect to the mandate letter sent to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Johnathon Wilkinson), a key instruction relates to implementing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, with a view to not only exceeding Canada’s 2030 goal for reducing GHG emissions, but to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.  Although this instruction is not specifically presented in the context of shipping, we will continue to push for alignment between Canada’s approach to regulating GHG emissions from ships and that of the International Maritime Organization. This is particularly important given that shipping activities are likely to remain a key part of the government’s calculus of how to achieve the necessary political support to move ahead with the implementation of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, and considering the discussions that a number of countries are currently having on how to integrate shipping within their national GHG reduction schemes (e.g. in Europe).

Finally, we are pleased to note that the mandate letter sent to the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade (Mary Ng) includes instructions to help Canadian stakeholders maximize the benefits associated with both the CETA trade agreement between Canada and the European Union and the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP), and to identify additional tools to help Canada’s agricultural industries get their goods into global markets – all of which should lead to increased demand – and opportunities – for ocean shipping.