BY JOE WEPPLER
“Because it’s 2015,” quipped Justin Trudeau with a shrug of his shoulders when he was asked why half his cabinet are women at his first public address as Prime Minister.
While some people believe that Trudeau’s answer should have been “because they’re qualified,” the new Prime Minister’s response made it clear that he thought it was a stupid question.
There is no disparity in the cabinet because qualified people were appointed to their positions with no regard to their gender, ethnicity or backgrounds.
There are several major differences between Trudeau’s new cabinet and the one Stephen Harper announced in 2006. There are 15 women in this initial Liberal cabinet whereas there were only six in Harper’s. There are two aboriginal cabinet members, one of them – Jody Wilson-Raybould – holding the prestigious position of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. There were no aboriginal cabinet members in the Conservative’s 2006 cabinet. There are five visible minorities on the cabinet compared to the two in 2006, holding positions like Minister of Democratic Institutions and Minister of National Defence. Exactly half of the 30 ministers were sworn in on a solemn affirmation instead of taking an oath on the Bible.
Appointing a fairly equal number of neophytes compared to older, more experienced hands, Trudeau has made one thing clear – he doesn’t care what colour or gender you are, as long as he thinks you can do the job. Those arguing that “more qualified” people should be in the positions of power are doing so to mask the fact that they don’t like the idea of equality. There is not only a proper representation of minorities and women in the cabinet, but they are arguably more qualified than the career politicians who held the posts before them.
Our Minister of Science is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist while the Minister of Justice is a well-respected lawyer. The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities is a Paralympic swimmer who is blind. Our Minister of Health is a doctor and our Minister of National Defence was the first Sikh-Canadian to command a Canadian army regiment.
The balance in the cabinet sets an incredibly important precedent for the future of Canada. The melting pot that is Canada will no longer tolerate representation by a white, male and wealthy majority.
This new cabinet reflects the population of Canada more than any cabinet before it. Trudeau called it an “incredible pleasure … to present a cabinet that looks like Canada.”
Relatively young, diverse and representative of Canadians on a broad scale – this cabinet will hopefully inspire future generations to get involved and engaged in politics.
As inspirational as this new cabinet is, now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Now is the time to impress upon Trudeau the importance of keeping his promises.