Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appoints new Parliamentary Secretaries

Vimy MP Annie Koutrakis becomes Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

In addition to her duties as the Liberal Member of Parliament for the riding of Vimy, Annie Koutrakis’ workload will be a quite a bit heavier for at least the next year following her appointment recently by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the Minister of Transport’s Parliamentary Secretary.

A vital link

Announcing the new team of parliamentary secretaries on Dec. 3, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the appointees will be an important link between the ministers and Parliament, working closely with their colleagues.

“This talented and diverse team of parliamentary secretaries will work tirelessly with their ministers and colleagues,” Trudeau said in a statement. The responsibilities of parliamentary secretaries generally fall into two broad categories: House of Commons business and department-related duties.

Vimy Member of Parliament Annie Koutrakis was recently appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport Alghabra in the Liberal government.

Not decision-making

They are not members of the cabinet and do not play a formal role in the cabinet decision-making process. However, they do provide support to ministers, although overall responsibility and accountability remains with the minister.

“It’s always an honour when the Prime Minister shows confidence in the people on his team to help with the various cabinet portfolios,” Koutrakis said in an interview with the Laval News. “I tell you I was so excited when I received his call a couple of days before it was announced publicly.”

Providing support

Koutrakis describes the Parliamentary Secretary’s position as “junior ministerial,” with her job being primarily to assist the Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, and see that he has the necessary support to understand and process a very large number of files pertaining to national transportation issues.

“There are so many different files, there is no way he can stay on top of everything,” she said. “So, he needs someone to assist with that. My conversation with Minister Alghabra was that he’d like me to take some time to reflect on the kinds of files that perhaps I would like to take a lead on.”

Some of the duties

‘i’m the kind of person who, when I’m assigned a certain file, really wants to ensure that I fully understand the issues’

According to a “Guide for Parliamentary Secretaries” published on the Prime Minister’s website, the role of Parliamentary Secretaries in supporting ministers’ House duties includes:

  • Attending Question Period;
  • Piloting the minister’s legislation through the legislative process on the floor of the House, in parliamentary committees (although parliamentary secretaries do not vote on committees that fall under their responsibility as parliamentary secretary), and with caucus and opposition MPs;
  • Supporting the minister’s position on Private Members’ Business;
  • Supporting the minister on committee issues and appearing before parliamentary committees;
  • liaising with caucus members and other parliamentarians on behalf of the minister;
  • Carrying out other House duties assigned to them and coordinated by the Government House Leader, such as participating in “Late Show” debates, leading the Government’s response to Opposition Day motions, and responding to Parliamentary Returns.

The Parliament of Canada Act sets the maximum term for an appointment as a Parliamentary Secretary at 12 months, although the appointment may be renewed for more than one term. The appointment comes with a $16.600 bonus added to the annual salary of more than $185,000 paid to MPs.

Heavier workload

Koutrakis said that as part of her Parliamentary Secretary duties, she expects to be briefed for several hours at least once a week on issues pertaining to the dossiers she will be overseeing on behalf of the Transport Minister. As a result, her workload will be increasing significantly.

“There’s no question that if I was working 12-to-14-hour days before, I expect to add maybe two to three hours more a day,” she said.

Knowing the issues

“But, you know, for someone who really wants to make a difference, I’m the kind of person who, when I’m assigned a certain file, really wants to ensure that I fully understand the issues and that I can be as helpful and involved as I can be.

“So, I expect to be busier in the beginning. And the Christmas break coming up that will be welcome, because it will give me some time to catch up on reading and familiarizing myself with the files.”