OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau has launched a new Liberal era with a 30-member cabinet that features predominantly fresh faces, an equal number of men and women and probably the most diverse line-up of ministers in Canadian history.
The newly minted prime minister emerged Wednesday from the formal swearing-in ceremony boasting that he’s put together a cabinet “that looks like Canada.”
Fully 18 of the newly minted ministers are rookies who won election for the first time on Oct. 19, including the all-important finance minister, millionaire Toronto businessman Bill Morneau.
The cabinet includes two aboriginal ministers, two disabled ministers, one openly gay minister, a refugee from Afghanistan and four Sikhs — one of whom was once wrongly accused of terrorism, tortured and detained without trial for almost two years in India.
From the moment Trudeau and his team arrived by bus at Rideau Hall and walked together up the long, tree-lined driveway to the Governor General’s mansion, the swearing-in event was designed to convey openness, optimism and inclusion — a stark contrast to nearly a decade of what the Liberals call the one-man, secretive rule and politics of division of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Even the weather seemed to co-operate, the brilliant, warm autumn day underscoring Trudeau’s vaunted “sunny ways” approach to politics.
“We’re a government that wants to earn Canadians’ trust by demonstrating that we trust Canadians,” Trudeau said.
“Openness and transparency” will be a hallmark of his government, he insisted, with the media allowed to hold government to account, MPs empowered to be powerful voices for their communities and public policy based on evidence, not partisanship.
Later Wednesday, government House leader Dominic LeBlanc said the government would reconvene the House of Commons on Dec. 3 to elect an new Speaker, to be followed the next day by a speech from the throne.
Parliament would likely sit for at least another week, allowing the government to introduce a long-promised tax cut for the middle class and a higher tax for the wealthiest, LeBlanc said.
Trudeau wants to see those tax measures in place before the new year, he added.
Highlighting his campaign promise to deliver “real change,” Trudeau weighted his cabinet with newbies, giving them some of the most crucial and influential portfolios, some of which he has reconfigured or renamed.
B.C. regional aboriginal chief Jody Wilson-Raybould takes on Justice; family doctor Jane Philpott takes Health; economist Jean-Yves Duclos takes Families, Children and Social Development; international lawyer Catherine McKenna takes Environment and Climate Change; highly decorated combat veteran Harjit Singh Sajjan takes Defence; Montreal lawyer Melanie Joly takes Canadian Heritage; former Edmonton city councillor Amarjeet Sohi takes Infrastructure and Communities; and former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister MaryAnn Mihychuk takes Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
Former journalist Chrystia Freeland, who won a byelection in Toronto two years ago, will head up International Trade, while Navdeep Bains, who is back as an MP after being defeated in 2011, becomes minister of innovation, science and economic development.
The rookies will be backstopped by seven veterans with previous federal or provincial cabinet experience, including: Ralph Goodale in Public Safety; Stephane Dion in Foreign Affairs; John McCallum in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; Carolyn Bennett in Indigenous and Northern Affairs; Judy Foote in Public Services and Procurement; and Scott Brison in Treasury Board.
Longtime MPs Marc Garneau and Kirsty Duncan take on Transport and Science, respectively.
Trudeau himself, who has promised to usher in a new era of collaboration with the provinces, takes responsibility for intergovernmental affairs and youth.
Trudeau’s Liberals won a strong majority of 184 seats, with representation in every province and territory. His cabinet reflects that, with 11 ministers from Ontario, six from Quebec, three from British Columbia and two each from Alberta and Manitoba. Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island all have a single representative in cabinet, as does Nunavut.
Geography — along with Trudeau’s determination to have a smaller cabinet than Harper’s 39-member ministry and to ensure half his ministers are women — resulted in some surprising absences, including former general Andrew Leslie, popular former Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, former provincial minister and one-time leadership rival Joyce Murray and Trudeau leadership organizer Mark Holland.
Trudeau was unrepentant when asked why gender parity was so important.
“Because it’s 2015,” he said simply.
Trudeau and his team arrived together at Rideau Hall shortly after a statement from a spokesperson for Governor General David Johnston confirmed that Harper had resigned as the country’s 22nd prime minister.
Holding the hand of his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, Trudeau led his ministers-to-be on a walk up the long driveway leading to the Governor General’s mansion, accompanied by a bagpiper and cheers from a throng of well-wishers and onlookers who lined the route.
For the final steps of the stroll, Trudeau was joined by his three young children, carrying toddler Hadrien in his arms.
The new Liberal prime minister and cabinet were scheduled to hold their first meeting later Wednesday.
A by-the numbers look at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first cabinet and how it compares to the last cabinet of his predecessor, Stephen Harper.
Total members, including prime minister: 31
Total women: 15
Women, as percentage: 48 per cent
Aboriginals: 2 (Jody Wilson-Raybould, Hunter Tootoo)
Visible minorities: 5
Ministers from Quebec: 6
Ministers from B.C.: 3
Total members, including prime minister: 39
Women, as percentage: 31 per cent
Aboriginals: 1 (Leona Aglukkaq)
Visible minorities: 3
Ministers from Quebec: 4
Ministers from B.C.: 5