Today we got ourselves a new Prime Minister in Canada. One of the perks of living in the capital city is that I can make time to take advantage of opportunities to take part in national ceremonies. Today I took my two oldest daughters and one of their friends to the swearing in ceremony for our new Prime Minister and his cabinet.
Today I took the girls to witness history in the making. Not so much the swearing in of a new Prime Minister, although that is certainly important. This particular Prime Minister has already made history in a few ways. Justin Trudeau took a party that pundits left for dead a few years ago and turned it into a majority government. He also happens to be the son of the man who was Prime Minister when I was a kid, actually his last year in office was the year I turned nine, which is the same age that my oldest daughter is now. I like the symmetry. He is the first Prime Minister of Canada to be the son of a Prime Minister and the first one to have been born when his parents lived in the Prime Minister’s residence. He is our second youngest Prime Minister – the youngest (Joe Clark) beat his father in an election to win a minority government, only to lose that government when an opposition Member of Parliament moved a motion of non-confidence against him and he lost. That resulted in another election which saw Pierre Trudeau re-elected. In another interesting turn of events, that MP, Bob Rae later became the interim leader of the Liberal Party and handed the reigns of that party over to Justin Trudeau who is now our Prime Minister.
Enough talk from the political junkie. So today was about a more important piece of history being made. I wanted to take the girls today in part because of the excitement around our new Prime Minister and because I should take advantage of opportunities like this when they occur. Most importantly I wanted to take them because of a commitment that Justin Trudeau made. He committed to building a cabinet of ministers that would be 50% men and 50% women. I’m sad to say, that is a historical first in Canada.
I want my daughters to know that anything is possible for them if they put their minds to it. I want them to see and encounter strong women. I want them to know that they can pursue the path of strong women who have gone before them, whatever they have chosen to do with their lives. I want them to know that they can be a strong woman by choosing to work at home raising kids and building a business like their mum and I want them to know that they can be a business, community or political leader like the women we saw today. All are worthy choices and paths and I want them to see all of those pathways before them.
There were lots of people (mostly men) in the past week saying it would be difficult to find enough women to fill half of the cabinet roles in this country and that filling that quota would mean other good people (again men) would be left out of cabinet. Oh there has been a terrible hue and cry about merit and the problems with picking women over meritorious men just to say you build a cabinet that was 50/50. Other than the fact that cabinet making has never been just about merit, it was a ridiculous argument.
The women that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed to cabinet today are tremendous and full of merit. We have two physicians, a former crown attorney and aboriginal chief, former cabinet ministers in other governments, a Rhodes Scholar and internationally recognized journalist, a former international development worker turned business owner, a municipal politician, a former legal advisor to the UN, a refugee from the Taliban in Afghanistan, a paralympic medalist and former president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, a scientist and university educator, an executive director of a homeless shelter, a settlement worker, and a lawyer. All excellent choices. Some of them will likely be exceptional ministers and others may not do as well, just like their male colleagues, who are all also excellent choices.
When Prime Minister Trudeau was asked after the ceremony why it was so important to him to appoint a cabinet that was 50% women, he ended the debate.
Seriously, why are we even having this conversation? Women make up at least 50% of our population, we have women who are successful in all walks of life, we even have several female premiers of provinces in this country, for a while half of the premiers in Canada were women. The government should reflect the people and today Prime Minister Trudeau appointed a cabinet of ministers that looks like Canada and not just looks like Canada, it also represents the broad spectrum of life experiences of Canadians. Frankly, with all the excellent women elected last month I am impressed that he was able to limit the cabinet to only 50% women.
So, let’s move on and hopefully when my daughters decide on their pathway, 50/50 cabinets will be standard practice and we will have more women elected to all levels of government across the country.
An excellent and exciting day in history and we were there to witness it.