Powlowski not deterred by Trudeau cabinet shuffle

By Kevin Jeffrey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marcus Powlowski vows to continue being an advocate for his constituents.

The Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP was not factored into this week’s wide-ranging federal cabinet shake-up, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped seven ministers and promoted seven rookies.

Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu was one of just eight members that remained with their role, continuing as the minister of Indigenous services and minister responsible for FedNor.

“I think [Patty] has done well in the position. She has a very good reputation with the Indigenous community,” Powlowski said. “I like the fact that she’ll continue to be there and I think it’ll make her job easier and it’ll make Indigenous services function smoother as a result of the fact that you don’t have a change of minister.”

Powlowski said cabinet shuffles also lead to staff changes.

“You have projects you may have been following for a year or two years, and then you have a new minister and new staff and, in some cases, it’s like reinventing the wheel,” he said. “So, there is a certain loss of efficiency when you start changing the parts on your car when it’s still moving.”

Powlowski was first elected in 2019 in Thunder Bay-Rainy River and although he has never held a cabinet post under the current prime minister, he does participate on a number of committees, parliamentary associations and interparliamentary groups.

He believes the boat sailed a long time ago on any chance of him being in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

“I wasn’t really expecting to be made a minister for a couple of reasons — gender parity in cabinet and already having a member from Thunder Bay makes it difficult as well,” Powlowski added. “I think there [is] the perception, right or wrongly, that there is something called cabinet solidarity. [That] means that as a minister, you cannot at least publicly disagree with the government.”

“Personally I see being a member of party is a bit like being a marriage — 95 per cent of the time you agree with your partner, but 5 per cent of the time you don’t agree with your partner. And I think in those 5 per cent of the times, it’s nice to be able to say what you think. And as a backbencher, you can say what you think, [but] as a cabinet minister, you don’t have that flexibility [or] freedom.”

Powlowski said he will continue to work on projects in his riding, including the Fort William First Nation long-term care home.

Officials received notice in June 2022 that the project did not advance to the next round of the federal Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program. The $1.5-billion fund emphasizes reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building to net-zero standards in its selection criteria.

“I don’t agree with that decision, and I’m going follow up, I’m pretty determined because I want that home built here,” Powlowski said. “It’s a great idea for Thunder Bay. When the Green and Inclusive Infrastructure Fund first came out, we were told that that fund was actually designed with this project in mind. I think that had been forgotten over the years.”

Powlowski went onto mention that he continues to look at infrastructure changes in the western portion of his riding, which could mitigate the possibility of damage from future flooding. The other riding specific issue that the MP has his hands on includes Americans fishing on the Canadian side of the border.

He added he would need to work closely with Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault on those files.

Powlowski also mentioned that he is the only MP involved in the negotiations for a new treaty on the control of infectious diseases, which involves the World Health Organization (WHO).