The promise was kept: 15 of the 31 Members of Parliament (MP) chosen to serve on Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.
The swearing-in ceremony occurred Wednesday late morning, and was attended by over 3,500 members of the public. It was a historic affair, and not only because it was open to “regular” Canadians. It is the first time the Cabinet has been made up of an equal number of men and women.
During the election campaign, the newly sworn-in Prime Minister promised that half his cabinet will be formed of women. Since women make up over 50 per cent of the Canadian population, Trudeau argued they should be represented as such in government.
In 2015, it’s sad that a statement like this one had to be made into an election promise.
Over the last three days, there have been a number of columns written in the media arguing that the cabinet should be chosen as a meritocracy, and not by gender. It was enough to make me snort in my coffee. First of all, there are 50 female MPs to choose from in the Liberal Party, and all are qualified in some way seeming as they were elected by the people of Canada. Second of all, Cabinet appointments have always been political, and it’s naive to think of it any other way. The columns were, by the most part, written by male political pundits. The irony was not lost on me.
As of Wednesday, I firmly believe that these Cabinet positions were chosen based on merit, experience, and trust.
To prove it, here are the women chosen to represent the Liberal Government in the Cabinet and their qualifications:
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Bennett was first elected to the House of Commons in the 1997 general election and has been re-elected since. During the SARS outbreak, Bennett served as the first ever Minister of Public Health, where she set up the Public Health Agency of Canada. During the last four years, she has served as Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
As a former crown prosecutor, treaty commissioner and Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Wilson-Raybould is more than qualified to hold this position. She has 10 years experience as an elected official, representing Indigenous people in British Columbia. Wilson-Raybould is the first Aboriginal person to hold this position.
Minister of Public Services & Procurement
Foote has served as MP since 2008 and previously held the position of Liberal Whip and Deputy House Leader of the Opposition. She also spent 11 years in public service with the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly, acting as Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, and Minister of Education.
Minister of International Trade
Freeland is a former journalist who held editorial positions within the Financial Times, the Washington Post, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, and Thomson Reuters. She reported on business and global affairs from the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Over the past year Freeland held the position of Liberal Critic for International Trade.
Minister of Health
Before being elected into the House of Commons, Philpott served as Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital from 2008 to 2014. Before that she was a family physician. She was also an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine. Philpott is the founder of Give a Day to World Aids, which has raised over $4 million to help those affected by the disease in Africa.
Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
A federal rookie, Bibeau has a lot of experience in community business and local politics. Before running for office, she worked at the Canadian International Development Agency in Ottawa, Montréal, Morocco and Benin, and in Africa. She is also a business owner of 15 years, has served on numerous museum boards, and held a position on the Compton revitalization committee.
Minister of Canadian Heritage
Before getting into politics, Joly worked with two separate law firms in Montreal. She later moved to communications and founded of the party Le Vrai Changement pour Montréal. Joly is on a number of art and museum boards, including the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Governnor General’s Performing Arts Award and Business for the Arts.
Minister of National Revenue
LeBouthillier spent more then 23 years working with as a social worker at the Rocher Percé Health and Social Services Centre. She serves on the Board of Governors of Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, and chairs the boards of directors of Réseau collectif Gaspésie Les Îles and Transport adapté et collectif des Anses.
Minister of Environment & Climate Change
McKenna is another rookie to the federal arena. She co-founded the executive director of Canadian Lawyers Abroad, a charitable organization based at the University of Ottawa, and was the executive director the Banff Forum, an organization that brings together young Canadians to discuss key public policy challenges. McKenna has also worked as a legal adviser for the UN in East Timor and in Indonesia.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development & Labour.
Mihychuck is a former member of the Manitoba Legislator and is the founder of both Women in Mining Canada and Women in Mining Manitoba. She was elected provincially in 1995, and has served for nine years, holding the positions of Minister of Industry, Trade, and Mines and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Minister for Democratic Institutions
Monsef has a truly colourful resume—she has worked for Trent University, Fleming College, Peterborough Economic Development, the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough and the New Canadian Centre. She has represented Peterborough at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, and is a co-recipient of the YMCA’s Peace Medallion. Monsef is also the first Afghanistan-born MP appointed to the Cabinet.
Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
Qualtrough is not only a successful lawyer, but a four-time world champion Paralympian. She chairs the BC Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility, and is an adjudicator with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal. Qualtrough has also been President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Chair of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. She is on the Board of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and Vice-Chair of the Delta Gymnastics Society.
Minister of Science
Duncan is a Canadian medical geographer. Until 2000, she taught meteorology, climatology, and climate change at the University of Windsor. She started studying influenza strains, an interest which led her to perform a ground survey in Longyearbyen, Norway. Duncan was also an adjunct professor teaching both medical geography at the University of Toronto and global environmental processes at Royal Roads University. She also served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Minister of Status of Women
New to politics, Hajdu was the executive director for Shelter House, Thunder Bay’s largest homeless shelter. For nine years, she worked with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit where she chaired the Drug Awareness Committee of Thunder Bay and authored the city’s Drug Strategy. In her free time, she volunteers as a board member with Alphacourt Mental Health Services and the Ontario Literacy Coalition.
Minister of Small Business & Tourism
Chagger has worked at the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, an organization that assists new Canadians as they transition into the community. In this role, she planned and coordinated events for the community, including the annual Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival. She was executive assistant to Hon. Andrew Telegdi, former MP. She was also a board member with the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo, Wellington, Dufferin, and MT Space.
To all the naysayers and meritocracy-obsessed column writers, I see your point. How could any of these women be qualified for the positions they now hold?
All I have to say after today is this: Thank goodness our new Prime Minister rose above the commentary to create a cabinet that is actually representative of the population it works for. Thank goodness he saw the value and experience of the women who were elected into the House of Commons. And thank goodness he didn’t assume that men are more qualified than women to run this country.
And shame on those who thought anything different.