<a href="https://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/nenshis-potential-path-to-the-federal-cabinet-might-go-through-queen-elizabeth-ii" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Trudeau hints at Naheed Nenshi as western representative on federal cabinet</a>  <font color="#6f6f6f">Calgary Herald</font>

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in Calgary on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. Jim Wells/Postmedia

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still has nearly a month to figure out how he’ll work Western Canada representation into his cabinet, and speculation is swirling that Calgary’s mayor might be tapped for the role.

The prime minister said he’ll announce his cabinet Nov. 20, and that it will have gender parity. He’s also said he won’t seek a coalition government, which would appear to rule out having Edmonton NDP MP-elect Heather McPherson join the cabinet.

But comments made by Trudeau have some speculating he might turn to Mayor Naheed Nenshi to be the West’s voice in his cabinet. Speaking to reporters Wednesday at his first news conference since being re-elected, Trudeau mentioned the mayor by name.

“I spoke with both premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan (Tuesday), but I’m also speaking with people like Mayor Naheed Nenshi and others, to talk about how we can make sure the concerns — the very real concerns of Alberta — are being addressed by this government.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on Wednesday in Ottawa. DAVE CHAN / AFP via Getty Images

Calls to the mayor’s office Thursday morning were not returned, but in an interview on Business News Network on Wednesday, Nenshi did not say “no” to the idea.

“I’ve got a pretty big job now, but I am also a loyal Canadian; I am a non-partisan,” he said. “That’s why I wear purple every day — it’s red and blue. And I am always willing to help anybody who’s seeking public service to help do what’s best for this place.”

When asked at a press conference where he was reacting to the Alberta provincial budget, Nenshi said there was “no news” on his current job.

“I have an excellent job that has somehow gotten harder in the last three hours,” he said.

Philippe Lagasse, associate professor at Carleton University and an expert on the Westminster system, said anyone can be appointed to cabinet, but constitutional convention says they either need to be an aspiring parliamentarian or be appointed to the Senate.

He said the conventions are really more important than the legal written rules.

“We rely on these conventions to a significant degree to ensure we have a democratic convention — so they’re not nothing,” said Lagasse.

He said appointing Nenshi to cabinet would present problems for Trudeau because there’s no western seats where the mayor could run for federal office, never mind the uphill battle a Liberal candidate would face.

He also said there are no vacant Senate seats in Alberta, although there is one way to get around that: Trudeau could ask the Governor General and the Queen to name additional senators.

Lagasse said that process is written into Section 26 of the Constitution Act of 1867, and the permission is required of both the vice regal and the Queen.

“It’s like a two-key system. They both have to agree,” said Lagasse, adding that they would be likely to give their blessing to such a request.

Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the National Institute of Agricultural Botany on July 09, 2019 in Cambridge, England. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

If Nenshi stepped down from his current position, it would trigger a mayoral byelection within 90 days, according to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act.

University of Calgary political scientist Melanee Thomas said she thinks cabinet would be a step down for the mayor.

“Practically speaking, where does Mayor Nenshi have the most forceful voice for Calgary? Is it as a big city mayor with an international reputation, or is it as a person being directed by the prime minister with cabinet solidarity and secrecy?”

She said the prime minister might be better served by looking to the Senate for regional representation.

“The only reason why cabinet is seen as a vehicle for regional representation is because the Senate fails at it,” said Thomas. “It’s supposed to be the Senate that brings voices of regional representation in to the institutions of the federal government.”

She said when Trudeau eliminated Liberal senators, making them Independents, he helped reinvigorate the notion of the Senate as a vehicle for regional representation.

– With files from Meghan Potkins


Twitter: @brodie_thomas