By Mahnoor Yawar
The 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau was sworn in Wednesday morning, ushering in a new Canadian government with some significant changes.
Prime Minister Trudeau walked towards Rideau Hall together with his family and cabinet members in tow, a historic sight for the swearing-in ceremony where cabinet members have often showed up in private cars.
Trudeau honoured his commitment to gender parity, as 15 women were appointed as ministers in the 31-member federal cabinet.
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by former prime minister Jean Chretien, two former Governors General, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.
Earlier on Wednesday, outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially resigned as the 22nd prime minister, confirmed in a statement from a spokesperson for Governor General David Johnston.
21 rookie ministers
The new cabinet boasts a mix of experience and promise, with 21 rookie ministers taking the oath, 18 of whom were elected as MPs for the first time in the 2015 federal election.
Notable appointments include new Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who has extensive experience and education in finance and the economy, is the former chief executive officer of the Morneau Shepell Inc. pension consulting firm.
The appointment is being touted as a sign that the Trudeau administration is seeking Bay Street acumen rather than political experience in their fiscal plan to run a 3-year deficit to make significant investments in the middle class.
Six other MPs from the Greater Toronto Area make up the new front bench, including Jane Philpott (Markham-Stouffville) taking over as minister of health, Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale) as the new minister of international trade, and Navdeep Singh Bains (Mississauga-Malton) as minister of innovation, science and economic development.
Meanwhile, incoming minister of justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould is the former regional chief for British Columbia on the Assembly of First Nations and a former Crown prosecutor.
Wilson-Raybould is the first indigenous woman to hold the office, and will play a key role in the Liberal party’s promised national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
MP for Vancouver-South Harjit Sajjan was appointed new minister of national defence, with experience as Canada’s first Sikh commander in the Canadian Armed Forces and combat veteran who has served in Bosnia-Herzegovina and three times in Afghanistan.
Trudeau also appointed the country’s first Muslim cabinet member in the Afghan-born Maryam Monsef, the new minister of democratic institutions. She will be tasked with overseeing reform of Canada’s electoral system as Trudeau promised to abolish the first-past-the-post electoral system.
In an unusual move, the new Prime Minister will also be taking on the portfolio of youth and intergovernmental affairs.
Some notable changes were made to cabinet portfolios, with the title of minister of immigration and citizenship being upgraded to include refugees.
Trudeau promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of next year, a task that new minister John McCallum will be working hard to achieve in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, with the appointment of a minister for indigenous and northern affairs, the new government marks a shift from the traditional use of the word “aboriginal” to better represent all of Canada’s first peoples.
Also updated is the title of portfolio of environment which now includes the term ‘climate change’, a move that heralds Trudeau’s commitment to action on climate change ahead of the upcoming summit in Paris.
The new minister of environment and climate change is Catherine McKenna, who will also be part of the committee on environment and climate change headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion.
Addressing the public
After the ceremony, the new Prime Minister addressed reporters and about 3,500 members of the public outside Rideau Hall saying he was proud to “present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada.”
It was a defining moment for the new government, after years of shutting the press out of official cabinet proceedings, to allow more access. Transparency was a big promise made by Trudeau’s Liberal party during the election campaign.
In a prepared statement posted to the Prime Minister’s website, Trudeau touted his team’s diversity, gender equality and experience.
“Canada is strong not in spite of its diversity, but because of it, and we are committed to bringing new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa,” said Trudeau.
“Most importantly, we will be a government that governs for all Canadians and brings Canadians together.”
Trudeau said that all of the people who were elected, even those who did not get a cabinet appointment, will be permitted to be strong voices for their communities and will represent a diversity of opinions.
When asked by reporters why he insisted on a cabinet with an equal number of men and women, Mr. Trudeau replied: “Because it’s 2015.”
He promised to collaborate with the provinces, rebuild relations with indigenous Canadians, and run an open, ethical and transparent government.
The newly-appointed ministers went on to participate in the first Cabinet meeting for the Trudeau government and participated in a media scrum following the meeting.
Full list of Cabinet appointments
- Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister, and Minister of Youth and Governmental Affairs
- Ralph Goodale – Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- Lawrence MacAulay – Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Stéphane Dion – Minister of Foreign Affairs
- John McCallum – Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees
- Carolyn Bennett – Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
- Scott Brison – Treasury Board President
- Dominic Leblanc – Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
- Navdeep Bains – Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
- Bill Morneau – Minister of Finance
- Jody Wilson-Raybould – Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
- Judy Foote – Minister of Public Services and Procurement
- Chrystia Freeland – Minister of International Trade
- Jane Philpott – Minister of Health
- Jean-Yves Duclos – Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
- Marc Garneau – Minister of Transport
- Marie-Claude Bibeau – Minister of International Development and La francophonie
- James Carr – Minister of Natural Resources
- Mélanie Joly – Minister of Canadian Heritage
- Dianne Lebouthillier – Minister of National Revenue
- Kent Hehr – Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Associate Minister of National Defence
- Catherine McKenna – Minister of Environment and Climate Change
- Harjit Sajjan – Minister of National Defence
- MaryAnn Mihychuck – Minister of Employment Workforce Development and Labour
- Amarjeet Sohi – Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
- Maryam Monsef – Minister of Democratic Institutions
- Carla Qualtrough – Minister of Sport, and Persons with Disabilities
- Hunter Tootoo – Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Canadian Coastguard
- Kirsty Duncan – Minister of Science
- Patricia Hajdu – Minister of Status of Women
- Bardish Chagger – Minister of Small Business and Tourism