I’m not saying I’ve got the touch, but you can’t deny the fact that I wrote an article for my school paper in 1993 about Jean Chretien a week before the federal election, and then I WROTE A BLOG POST about Justin Trudeau two days before the 2015 federal election AND IN BOTH CASES the result was a LIBERAL MAJORITY GOVERNMENT. You’re welcome Canada. Now if only I had written an article about my beloved and cursed federal NDP. What then?
But you can’t change the course of history, and it feels like we are living in history at this very moment. Trudeau, (or JT as he likes me to call him, being in the same room as him has allowed me certain….familiarities), announced his cabinet yesterday, and I actually set the ol’ PVR to record the event. I don’t ever remember doing that for any other swearing-in ceremony, certainly not in the past conservative decade, in any case. I mean, were Harper’s cabinet ceremonies even televised? I imagine them happening like the post-game John Gibbons interviews on the road, where he was stuck in some office, or broom closet at a funny angle with recorders and iPhones stuck in his face with bad lighting trying to explain why Josh Donaldson is so awesome. In my world, that’s how the conservative governments got sworn in, under a veil of secrecy and mystery.
But not yesterday. Yesterday, the cabinet showed up outside the gates of Rideau Hall in a couple of busses, and JT and his new gang walked down the driveway, (the same driveway that his father walked down with his cabinet in 1968, you guys. Getting shivers, yet?), lined with supporters and well-wishers. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day in our nation’s capital, and I couldn’t help suppressing this irrational feeling of pride in what I was witnessing. I realized at that moment that for the last 10 years, if I thought of my federal government at all, it was with shame, disappointment and anger. But mostly, I didn’t think of them. I was simply not engaged. Ignorance was bliss for me, and the less I had to look at those smug conservative faces on television every night, the better. I just stopped caring, which is probably exactly what the conservatives wanted. (Sorry to take such an anti-conservative position in what I hoped was a hopeful blog post. Actually, not sorry.)
So back to the cabinet, and it truly is a cabinet of curiosities. It is one of the smaller cabinets in recent memory at just 30 people. Isn’t that always the way? The Tories talk about the joys and pleasures of “small government” but who had the biggest cabinets in the end? Yep, Harper and Mulroney. And another thing to note was that it has equal numbers of men and women, which is pretty great. It also has a high number of new faces to government. The Tories may have tried to sway voters by saying that JT was “Just Not Ready”, so they must be pooping their britches over all these “not ready” diverse faces lining up to take the oath of office. And all those women. I mean, the Tories must be concerned about all the fainting couches and smelling salts the federal government will have to order now, and DON’T GET THEM STARTED on all those synchronized PERIODS that will bound to drive parliament to a halt. But you know what? At least I don’t expect JT to prorogue parliament TWICE like the former PM did, so let’s call it a wash, okay?
So, to celebrate this historic moment in Canadian History: Yes, the moment when I started caring about Federal Politics again, let’s take a quick look at some of the faces that make up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first cabinet.
Okay, so right off the top maybe this cabinet isn’t quite so diverse as it looks at first glance. The two biggest money portfolios, Treasury and Finance, are given to two white dudes, Scott Brison and Bill Morneau, respectively. Now, Scott Brison is a FORMER TORY you guys, getting elected in the late 90s when the PCs were still around under the leadership of Joe Clark. Yes, that Joe Clark. It was a dark time for the extreme right, and Scott Brison was one of those guys who voted in favour of merging the Canadian Alliance and the PCs into the Conservative Party which eventually led to PM Stephen Harper happening. So, um, thanks for nothing, Scott. Sure, he crossed the floor in 2003 and joined the Liberals, but you know what they say, “Once a Tory, always a Tory”, so I’d keep my eye on him if I were the Prime Minister. And this other guy? Bill Morneau? He’s a Bay Street millionaire insider with little or no political experience. Hoo boy.
But you know what? It gets better, despite the fact that these two powerful positions seem to be handed over to the establishment.
We’ve got Jody Wilson-Raybould as Minister of Finance and Attorney General. It’s the first time an Indigenous person has had this job, so maybe, just maybe we’ll see some meaningful steps taken towards addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in this country.
We’ve got Hunter Tootoo, an MP from Nunavut, who is looking after Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. This seems like the perfect fit to me. Having someone from the North on this portfolio really stresses the environmental aspects associated with Oceans and Fisheries, which I don’t really remember happening before.
Which leads me to Catherine McKenna, the new minister of the environment and climate change. The Liberals aren’t messing around. They actually are using the words climate change in this ministry’s description, as if to underline that this is a real concern, and that the ministry of the environment is not just the place to which energy lobbyists address their demands.
Couple this with Kirsty Duncan, a geographer (go geographers!) who is looking after Science, and Jim Carr who is looking after Natural Resources, I think you have a pretty strong (and yet balanced) team to show up at the climate conference in Paris next month. I’m already imagining Tootoo, McKenna, Duncan, Carr and Trudeau kicking the doors of the conference room in and doing a nice slow-mo steadicam Wes Anderson style walk into the room.
Speaking of Jim Carr, did you know he was a former oboist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra? I think all federal cabinet meetings should begin with a little oboe music. Maybe something from “The Mission” soundtrack? You know, just to set the tone, empty the mind of outside thoughts and stress, and calm the nerves. You know, you don’t want to look too closely at Jim Carr. If you google “James Carr musician” you will find this Wikipedia page. Jim Carr DIED in 2001 of lung cancer, you guys! So if that’s the case, we’ve got ourselves a real Don Draper/Dick Whitman situation going on here. I hate to bring this to the attention of the Prime Minister, especially since they are going to miss all that nice oboe music, but I feel it is my patriotic duty to point this out.
Who else have we got here? Oh yeah: the truly inspiring story of Democratic Institutions minister, Maryam Monsef, whose family left Afghanistan when she was a child and came to Canada as a refugee. I’ve got nothing cheeky to say about her. Just happy she now calls Canada home.
And what about our new defence minister? Harjit Sajjan. This guy is bad ass. Let’s just say he was in the shit in Afghanistan. He did stuff, okay. I’m not supposed to talk about it, but trust me. This guy is legit.
I also like how as a novelty, Trudeau stuck astronaut Marc Garneau in the Transport ministry. I mean, this guy was the first Canadian IN SPACE, so you know he’s looking beyond smart cars and shipping routes. This guy is going to be secretly working on setting up a shuttle TO THE MOON, people. You heard it here first.
If there was any nepotism working at all in these appointments, it would have to be childhood family friend, Dominic Leblanc getting the post of Government House Leader. I mean, this guy used to babysit Justin and his siblings when they were all kids, so I can’t think of anyone better suited to keeping the juvenile antics of the House of Commons in line than him. Do you think he’ll put people in time outs, or will he actually SPANK them? Personally, I can’t wait to find out.
It’s early days, of course, but if there is a weak link in any of these early posts, I would have to say it is Diane Lebouthillier. The poor lady had her poppy on the wrong side of her blouse during the whole ceremony, and she was given the portfolio of “Revenue”. What IS that actually all about? I mean, we’ve already got a finance minister, and a minister in charge of the treasury. So what’s “Revenue” looking after? Is that like Income Tax? Nobody knows.
And I’ve got nothing really to say about Lawrence Macaulay, the new minister of Agriculture and Agrifood, except to say that he is representing the riding of Cardigan, P.E.I. Cardigan, you guys! Is there a more romantic sounding riding in all of Canada? I want to live in Cardigan, and probably wear cardigans while I’m living there. It’s P.E.I., so that means there is probably an excellent chance it has LIGHTHOUSES, and is a short drive to all of Anne of Green Gables locations. The seafood is probably abundant and the beaches world-class. And at the end of a long day managing the local public library in my cardigan I’ll come back to the lighthouse, set a fire, write in my LifeBook, gaze longingly out over the ocean, and reflect.
Sorry, I really lost myself in the moment there.
I haven’t touched on everyone in the cabinet, but these were my first impressions. I’m sure over the next little while, especially after Parliament reconvenes in December, we’ll get a better idea of these characters and curiosities that PM Trudeau has assembled to run our country. I’m sure it won’t be perfect, I’m sure eventually we’ll see cracks and chinks in the armour. We may even become disillusioned by this new group of federal politicians, but in this moment I feel hopeful. I feel proud. I feel Canadian.