What is most striking, and should be disturbing, about the mandate letters is the presumption of Justin Trudeau issuing orders to cabinet ministers. The letters have been described in the press as his ‘marching orders.’ Their tone is grossly condescending: ‘I will expect you….’observes John Pepall. (Update: Debatable? The PM does have authority to recommend cabinet appointments to the Governor General, and presumably the power to appoint -- and remove -- gives the PM an authority over cabinet ministers.
The Prime Minister has no legal or constitutional authority to issue orders to cabinet ministers.
Columnist Susan Delacourt, however, thought that mandate letters for the cabinet were not enough. She wanted similar orders to be issued to the Liberal MPs as well -- in the name of democratic renewal, no less!
Why not mandate letters for the 150-plus MPs who didn’t get sworn into cabinet too? The Samara organization, devoted to democratic renewal, has been urging for years that MPs need better job descriptions.Surely it is the responsibility of MPs to issue the prime minister and cabinet ministers with mandate letters, not the other way round. "We constitute the majority of the elected representatives of the Canadian people. In exchange for entrusting you with office and keeping you there as the government of Canada, we will expect you to...."
Trudeau’s marching orders to cabinet leave no doubt about the style of government he wants to lead. For that to work, the MPs not in the cabinet will need to have their jobs defined that way too.
Image: Toronto Star. H/t: Dale Smith