The day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife was revealed to have COVID-19, cabinet agreed that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland would be next in line if Trudeau could not perform his duties.

The move, usually a formality, has become more significant during the COVID-19 crisis, which is now threatening the life of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Next in line

The order of precedence approved March 13 designates Freeland as next in line to perform the prime minister’s duties if Trudeau is “unable to perform the functions of his office.”

All 36 ministers in the current cabinet are listed in case Freeland is also unable to fill the role, but those who come after her are named according to the date by which they were first sworn into a federal cabinet.

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That puts Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, who first served in cabinet under former prime minister Jean Chretien, the next in line after Freeland to act as prime minister. Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, who became a cabinet minister last November, is last.

Such lists are regularly created and updated by federal governments.