CPWA Ottawa Report

January 25, 2021
The next edition of the Ottawa Report is scheduled to be sent February 8, 2021.

Latest News

Governor General Resigns
On January 21, governor general Julie Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, resigned after an independent investigation commissioned by the Privy Council Office found that Ms. Payette and Ms. Di Lorenzo were responsible for workplace harassment. It is the first time in Canada’s history that a governor general has resigned because of a scandal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner will serve as acting governor general until a new governor general is appointed.

Prime Minister Releases Supplementary Mandate Letters
On January 15, Prime Minister Trudeau released supplementary mandate letters for Cabinet ministers. These Letters set out the objectives that each Minister is expected to achieve and establish an accountability framework to the Prime Minister. Of particular interest, Infrastructure Minister McKenna’s Supplementary Mandate Letter includes the following:
  • As part of Canada’s climate plan, conduct Canada’s first-ever national infrastructure assessment to help identify needs and priorities in the built environment, and undertake long-term planning toward a net-zero emissions future.
  • As part of Canada’s climate plan, work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Natural Resources, and with the support of the Special Representative for the Prairies, to develop a national climate change adaptation strategy and invest in reducing the impact of climate-related disasters, like floods and wildfires, to make communities safer and more resilient. This includes leveraging proposals received for the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund to accelerate this work.
  • As part of Canada’s climate plan, deliver affordable, active and zero-emissions transit options, and provide permanent transit funding.
  • As the Minister responsible for the Canada Infrastructure Bank, support the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development to accelerate the connectivity timelines and ambitions of the Universal Broadband Fund to ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet.
  • Work with the Minister of Indigenous Services, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Minister of Northern Affairs and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to continue to close the infrastructure gap in Indigenous communities, particularly with respect to affordable housing, working on a distinctions basis with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation to accelerate the Government’s 10-year commitment.
Prime Minister Announces Changes to Ministry
On January 12, Prime Minister Trudeau shuffled his Cabinet.This surprise shuffle was triggered when Industry Minister Navdeep Bains informed the Prime Minister that he did not plan to run in the next election. The Prime Minister moved quickly to ensure his Cabinet is fully prepared to launch into campaign mode, whenever that may be.
  • Marc Garneau, formerly Minister of Transport, was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • François-Philippe Champagne, formerly Minister of Foreign Affairs, was appointed Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
  • Omar Alghabra, formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Public Service Renewal) and to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, was appointed Minister of Transport.
  • Jim Carr joins the Ministry and will continue to serve as Special Representative for the Prairies
Closure of Canada-U.S. Border Extended
On January 12, Prime Minister Trudeau announced during a press conference that the land border between Canada and the United States would remain closed until February 21, 2021.

CPWA Releases 2021 Public Policy Priorities
On January 12, the CPWA Board of Directors approved a new set of public policy priorities to inform and guide its advocacy work in 2021. CPWA’s 2021 Public Policy Priorities include a continued focus on climate resilient infrastructure and the role of public works in emergency response.
The CPWA Board of Directors will be sharing CPWA’s 2021 Public Policy Priorities with elected officials and other stakeholders in the coming weeks.

CPWA Advocates for Public Works in Vaccine Prioritization
On December 10, CPWA President Patty Podoborozny and CEO Scott Grayson contacted the Public Health Agency of Canada to request that specific essential public works personnel be considered for inclusion in the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)’s Guidance on the prioritization of initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine(s).Since provinces and territories have the ultimate authority to decide the priority, many Canadian chapters have also been advocating for prioritization of public works to their provincial officials.


The House of Commons is sitting through Friday, February 5, 2021. The Senate of Canada is adjourned until Tuesday, February 2, 2021.

House to Vote on New Voting App
The House of Commons administration has developed a voting app, using combined facial and fingerprint recognition technology, to enable secure, one-click voting. This would facilitate faster voting than the roll-call videoconference voting procedure used in the fall, by allowing for a ‘time window’ in which all MPs can register their votes simultaneously. The videoconference voting procedure was put in place to allow MPs to vote virtually from remote locations because of the need for physical distancing and restricted travel and temporarily replaced the traditional roll call inside the House chamber whereby MPs are called, one by one, to stand and register their votes on bills and motions.

CPWA Monitoring Bill C-12 and C-14
Introduced by Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on November 19, the bill is at second reading and would require that national targets for the reduction of GHG emissions in Canada be set, with the objective of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
Introduced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on December 2, the bill is at first reading and would implement COVID-19 support measures included in Finance Minister Freeland’s Fall Economic Statement.

Departmental Updates

Statistics Canada Releases Additional Core Public Infrastructure Survey Data
On January 21, Statistics Canada released the final tranche of 2018 data from Canada’s Core Public Infrastructure Survey (CCPI). The survey, conducted every two years, covers nine categories of core public infrastructure assets owned or leased by various levels of Canadian government.
Environment and Agriculture Ministers Announce Canada Water Agency Consultations
On December 17, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the launch of public consultations to help establish the new Canada Water Agency and improve freshwater management across Canada.A discussion paper, Toward the Creation of a Canada Water Agency, presents key issues for consideration – including provision of fresh water for Indigenous communities and updating Canada’s flood mapping – accompanied by a series of relevant questions. Feedback, due March 1, 2021, will inform the Government of Canada's approach to creating a Canada Water Agency.

Prime Minister and Environment Minister Announce Strengthened Climate Plan
On December 11, Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced Canada’s strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. The proposed plan, supported by an initial $15 billion in investments, will focus on creating jobs, growing the middle class, and supporting workers in a stronger and cleaner economy. The plan includes direction to Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna to conduct Canada’s first-ever national infrastructure assessment, starting in 2021, to help identify needs and priorities in the built environment, and undertake long-term planning toward a net-zero emissions future.

Prime Minister Appoints Deputy Finance Minister
On December 7, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Michael Sabia Deputy Minister of Finance, effective December 14, 2020. Mr. Sabia, formerly the Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, and Chair of the Canada Infrastructure Bank Board of Directors, brings extensive private sector experience, including serving as the CEO of BCE Inc. and of the Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec. Before entering the private sector, Mr. Sabia served as a senior official in the Department of Finance.

On the Horizon

Budget 2021 and Election Speculation
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will be presenting her first budget in the House of Commons in the coming months. Typically, federal budgets are presented in February or March, but there is no specific timetable fixed in law. Finance Ministers generally advise the country of the tabling date a few weeks before presenting it in the House of Commons. The Government of Canada did not present a budget in 2020.

Budget 2021 will provide an opportunity for a vote of non-confidence to occur, should all the major opposition parties not find favour with its contents. Moreover, it could present the opportunity for the Prime Minister to call an election, leveraging the Budget as an election platform.

Although Canada has a fixed election law, it does not apply in minority Parliaments. An election in Spring 2021 could result from the opposition parties passing a vote of non-confidence in the government or the Prime Minister deciding he needs a new mandate and triggers a national election. At least in part, the status of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is likely to play a role in the political decision-making process.