Expect continuity in Canada’s foreign policy and national security corridors after DM shuffle: analysts
While two new principal national security and foreign policy advisers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are starting in the Privy Council Office as part of an immense shuffle in the senior civil service, no sharp policy turns are expected.
The shuffle of 18 senior public servants announced on Jan. 5—coupled with the retirement of 10 others—has brought some new and familiar faces to the epicentre of Canada’s foreign policy decision-making world.
Jody Thomas who has spent the last year gripped with the sexual misconduct crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces as the deputy minister of National Defence, becomes Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) national security and intelligence adviser. Dan Costello, who was the assistant deputy minister of international security and public affairs at Global Affairs has been tasked to be by Trudeau’s side as his foreign and defence policy adviser.
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Thomas replaces Vincent Rigby who retired last year, while Costello takes the place of David Morrison who has been shuffled back to Global Affairs to be the deputy minister of international trade. Before joining the PCO, Morrison was the associate deputy minister of foreign affairs. He has been Trudeau’s G7 sherpa since 2018—a role he is keeping.
Former diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he sees the shuffle not as a change in foreign policy direction, but a continuity.
“It also reflects [interim Privy Council clerk] Janice Charette’s sure grasp of the public service,” he said, but noted that Canada has found itself in an evolving world. “The international order has shifted. The rule of law doesn’t exist internationally anymore.”
Robertson said more emphasis will have to be put on Canada’s diplomatic service and those involved in Canada’s international presence.
“You want people with experience and expertise and that’s what I am seeing in this latest shift,” he said.
Before becoming an assistant deputy minister, Costello was Canada’s ambassador to the European Union from 2015 to 2019. He was also posted abroad as ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012.
Robertson said he can bridge the civil servant world to the political arena, as a former chief of staff to then-foreign affairs minister Bill Graham.
“What you want, especially in the senior civil service, are people that understand the politics. That’s often a criticism of civil servants is that they simply don’t appreciate the political perspectives of things. Good public policy is rooted in good public policy, but also in the appreciation of the politics,” he said.
Thomas had been the deputy minister at DND since October 2017. Prior to that, she was the commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard and a special adviser to the deputy secretary of cabinet operations in the PCO.
Replacing Thomas as the deputy minister of national defence is Bill Matthews who rejoins new Defence Minister Anita Anand (Oakville, Ont.). They were No. 1 and No. 2 at Public Services and Procurement Canada since 2019. The pair will be tasked with confronting the sexual misconduct crisis, as well as consequential defence procurement for naval ships and fighter jets, and confronting extremism in the Armed Forces.
With Morrison taking over as the second in command of the international stage, John Hannaford is being moved to taking over as deputy minister of natural resources—an important role with the Liberal government’s focus on fighting climate change. He has held the trade role since 2019; previously he was Trudeau’s foreign and defence policy adviser. He has also served as Canada’s ambassador to Norway from 2009 to 2012.
Trade consultant Eric Miller, president of Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, said Morrison is “well trusted” and “very smart.”
“He is willing to think differently because he has had a different career trajectory to some extent than many of his peers. With trade diversification back on the agenda, I’d be curious to see how he tackles that issue and whether he’s taking some different approaches than some of his predecessors,” he said.
Before rejoining the civil service in 2013, Morrison was the executive secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund.
Miller said keeping the G7 Sherpa role will expand Morrison’s working power in his new role.
“Holding that role is an indication of how much the system trusts him, which is a lot,” he said. “And how effective they think he is in delivering.”
While not having a heavy background in international trade, the role could be seen as a sign that the government needed someone who will approach the role with a different mindset after a litany of trade issues with the Biden administration.
“He is somebody who is well positioned to do that,” he said. “By the fact that he has a broad background that has covered development and national security and foreign policy and multilateral institutions and so on that he’s well positioned to take on this challenge,” he said.
Both the Hannaford and Morrison moves show that the government is going “strength to strength” in two departments they feel that they need to.
At Global Affairs headquarters, Christopher MacLennan is becoming deputy minister of international development and holding onto his role as Trudeau’s G20 Sherpa. He was previously the associate deputy minister of foreign affairs
Taking over for Matthews as second in command at Public Services and Procurement Canada will be Paul Thompson, who was an associate deputy minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
Michael Vandergrift is adding the role of deputy secretary to the cabinet for plans and consultations to his position as the deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs.
With Charette continuing to operate as an interim clerk, the shuffle of deputy ministers could be a testing ground for who is next in line to become Canada’s top public servant.
Graham Flack has been tasked with looking over the government’s finances as the secretary of the Treasury Board. He has been the deputy minister of Employment and Social Development since 2018.
Replacing him will be Jean-François Tremblay who was the deputy minister of natural resources after being the deputy minister for Indigenous services, transport, infrastructure, and communities.