Hodge: King Justin’s cabinet mixed Canadian political salad

Trudeau blended a multicultural collection of veteran and rookie politicians, and spread cabinet positions fairly even across the nation.

If the first few weeks of King Justin’s reign are any indication, Canadians are in for an interesting four-year ride.

I’m confident little of the journey will prove dull.

Even the most caustic opponent must admit our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has handled the public pressure and response to his election victory with decorum, maturity, respect and an eerily familiar charm and swagger.

On Wednesday, Trudeau ramped up his initiation month as Ottawa boss by announcing his new cabinet.

It’s an intriguing collection filled with interesting characters—and sends a few loud statements to Canadians.

Certainly it is a gathering of unique, skilled, and diversified achievers. Time will test its success.

The first eyeopener of the royal roster is the numerical balancing of male/female ministers, Trudeau appointing 15 women to the 31-member cabinet.

In addition, Trudeau blended in a diverse, multicultural collection of veteran and rookie federal politicians, and spread cabinet positions fairly even across the nation.

He tossed into the mix a refugee who fled to Canada, a geoscientist, a millionaire businessman, a paralympic athlete, and several other very talented folks.

It is truly a Canadian political salad.

Trudeau’s cabinet, not surprisingly, establishes some firsts in cabinet cosmetics and knocks down a few former barriers in the process.

Justin went where no other prime minister has gone before, naming a female aboriginal as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Jody Wilson-Raybould, MP for Vancouver-Granville, is a former Crown prosecutor, advisor to the B.C. Treaty Commission and regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.

Wilson-Raybould is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation. She is a brilliant choice.

Harjit Singh Sajjan, MP for Vancouver-South, was appointed Minister of National Defence. The former Vancouver police officer worked with the organized crime unit and was a soldier serving in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

Hunter Tootoo, of Nunavut, is the new Fisheries, Ocean and Canadian Coast Guard Minister. Tootoo is a 14-year member of the Territories Legislative Assembly.

Maryam Monsef, MP in Peterborough, gains the democratic institutions portfolio.

Maryam and family fled the Taliban in Afghanistan 20 years ago arriving in Canada as refugees.

Carla Qualtrough, newly elected MP for Delta, was appointed as Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

Trudeau made sure he added some veteran help to soften the changes in Ottawa, appointing some well known faces to the list.

Stephane Dion, in charge of Foreign Affairs, served as Jean Chretien’s intergovernmental affairs minister and Paul Martin’s environment minister. He also led the Liberal party from 2006 to 2008.

Former astronaut Marc Garneau, who ran for the Liberal leadership in 2013 and bowed out of the race to support Trudeau, was named Minister of Transport which is logical.

Popular Ralph Goodale, from Regina, is back in the saddle with the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness portfolio.

The former finance minister has held several cabinet postings during his political career, again serving under both Paul Martin and Jean Chretien.

For now, one can safely say Trudeau’s first cabinet  probably best reflects the culture and diversity of Canada like no other cabinet before.

Some will question if Trudeau has gone too far in trying to display his ability for openness and inclusivity as a leader.

Others may question the wisdom he shows by attempting to balance a cabinet makeup with equal parts gender, race, religion at the expense of picking the best people for the ministry positions.

Some might even suggest his choices are naïve or simply a public relations stunt.

I am not among them.

I believe Trudeau’s selections were made with great thought and purpose.

While there may prove to be a few weak links in the chain, it is a strong binding start between government and the public.

Make no bones, there will be changes if some appointments don’t work out.

When those changes are necessary, Trudeau will be more prepared to fill the holes with appropriate selections, having had an opportunity to get to know the many new faces in his Liberal caucas.

For the virgin prime minister,  he can only hope his new team gets off to a good start because the honeymoon does not last long with Canadian voters.

Trudeau would be wise to relish these few weeks of riding the wave of euphoria because as many former prime ministers—including his father and certainly his predecessor Stephen Harper—might attest to, in Canadian politics you are just one step from the jungle to the zoo.


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