liberal-cabinet-20151104I don’t always talk about serious stuff on this blog, in fact, most of the time I talk about nonsense. Every now and then though the urge hits me to write something that’s a little more substantial than horror movies and toys and the like. This is one of those times. Last week, the new Canadian Prime Minister set an interesting precedent with the appointment of his Ministry. He decided to make 50% of his cabinet women. His reason? “Because it’s 2015.”

I think he has other reasons, good ones, but “because it’s 2015” has a certain quotable ring to it. Let’s be honest, a big part of Trudeau’s current appeal is spouting cocky, progressive sounding swagger to let everyone know that there’s a new sheriff in town. Harper was an alien wearing a human skin suit, Trudeau doesn’t need to try that hard to be cooler than ole’ Steve. That’s another thing, I think we should all start referring to our previous Prime Minister as “Steve”. The same way the Conservatives spent the entire election campaign referring to the appointed leader of a political party as “Justin”.

But I digress.

When Trudeau announced that he was going to being forming his cabinet partially on the basis of gender equality, to reflect the population of the country there were loud and sudden cries of outrage from a bunch of idiots. People boldly proclaiming that appointments to the cabinet should be made on merit, not gender. That by setting the goal of having a full half of his cabinet be female he would suddenly be ignoring merit altogether.

First of all, did anyone actually take a look at the list of appointed MPs? Go ahead, they’re right here, with tiny little blurbs explaining what they were doing before their appointment. Our Minister of International Trade? Chrystia Freeland, former journalist who held the title of International Trade critic within the Liberal Party since 2013 who speaks 5 languages. New Minister of Science? Kirsty Duncan, a published medical geographer who served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the organization that won the 2007 Nobel Prize with Al Gore. Minister of Health? Jane Philpott, a family doctor 1988, is an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine. 

Who held these posts under Steve? Our previous Minister of International Trade was Ed Fast, who was a former lawyer who became the Deputy Mayor and as Chair of the Parks Recreation & Culture Commission of Abbostford. He also once made a gun with his fingers and said “boom” in the general direction of Nicki Ashton of the NDP. Steve’s Minister of Science was Ed Holder (Steve loved guys named Ed). Ed Holder is a 61 year old businessman who has never done science. Finally, Steve’s Minister of Health was Rona Ambrose (who is now officially the leader of the opposition as Steve has stepped down). Ambrose has a Masters in political science and is totally not a doctor.

What other merit based appointments did Steve make? Take a look at Jason Kenney, in the span of 7 years he was the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Minister of Multiculturalism, Minister of Employment and Social Development and then, most insanely, the Minister of National Defense. What were his credentials for any of this? He studied philosophy in San Francisco and was the director of the Alberta Taxpayers Association.

So the point is, if you’re getting all upset about appointment on merit, where was the outrage when Steve appointed his cabinet? I mean, I suppose you could rightfully say that we were all mad at him for a bunch of other reasons and we just sort of assumed his cabinet was bullshit, but still, there wasn’t the same degree of people freaking out.

Look at this cabinet.  I have cabinets at home, but none are this cool looking,

Look at this cabinet. I have cabinets at home, but none are this cool looking,

Want to know something even crazier? Steve’s cabinet had 12 female Ministers in it! (Admittedly, he had 39 positions in his cabinet compared to Trudeau’s 31). This bullshit outcry is because Trudeau appointed 3 more female members than Stephen “The Least Progressive Man in the World” Harper.  If Trudeau had literally said nothing and just appointed his cabinet without drawing attention to the fact that he was forming a gender equal cabinet, how long would it have taken for anybody to even notice? (I’m ignoring the fact that the gender-equal cabinet was actually part of the Liberals platform, but still, you know what I mean).

But Trudeau did draw attention to it and I think he did so for a good reason. If there was ever a profession that has the outward appearance of a “boys club”, politics must be a front runner. When talking about the issue of equality of any kind, I’ve often used the parable of two boxers. For a long, long time one of those boxers was tied to a chair with their hands behind their back, just getting hammered by the other. If you want to make it a fair fight, it’s not just enough to untie that boxer (the equivalent of saying “I don’t look at gender/race/disability when I hire someone, I just hire the best person for the job so I’m not the problem”). No, you need to untie that boxer, make sure they get medical attention, then make sure they get proper training. At that point you might have a fair fight.

Trudeau took an important step in making his gender-equal cabinet part of the conversation. He essentially held up a great big sign that said to all women in Canada that they were not only welcome in a political role, but they were wanted. Who knows how many little girls saw the new cabinet and thought for the first time “hey, I could be a politician?”

The role of the cabinet is to further the agenda of the Prime Minister. It’s about putting the person who is going to serve the needs of Justin Trudeau in charge of a branch of government. One of Trudeau’s aims is clearly to make gender equality an important part of the Canadian identity. Before even any political decisions got made, he already took a very big step in that direction.

And I think that’s badass.

Keith does all sorts of things here on, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.

Photo 1 from CBC (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press).
Photo 2 from Macleans (Chris Wattie/Reuters).

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