A perfect cabinet? Some Italian Liberals disagree. Also Black Canadians

The challenges in meeting the expectations of all groups in Canada, starting with Steve Paiken with respect to Italian Canadians:

But now that the dust is settling and Ottawa is beginning to get back to business, some observers — even Liberals — are allowing themselves to be a bit more critical.

Having spoken Thursday night to two prominent members of the Italian-Canadian community — both of whom are Liberals — they are more than a little miffed that there’s not a single member of their community in the new cabinet.

In some respects, it is a bit shocking. The Italian-Canadian community has always demonstrated overwhelming support for the Liberal Party of Canada.

“We’re not going to make a stink about this because the reaction to the new cabinet has been so positive,” one well-connected member of the Italian community told me. “But four ‎Sikhs and no Italians? I don’t know about that.”

Let’s remember, putting a cabinet together is almost by definition an impossible undertaking. There are so many boxes to check off: gender balance, regional balance, ethnic balance, generational balance, and the list goes on. Satisfying every constituency is a hopeless task.

Nevertheless, the absence of any Italian presence in a Liberal cabinet is noteworthy.

Another Liberal with whom I spoke last night — not an Italian — had less patience for the criticism. This source admitted, yes, Italians are under-represented in this cabinet, but added they’ve been over-represented in previous cabinets.

When Paul Martin took over the prime minister’s office in 2004, his cabinets would feature more ministers of Italian heritage than perhaps numbers warranted (Albina Guarnieri, Tony Valeri, Joe Volpe, Joe Fontana, Tony Ianno, Judy Sgro, and Joe Comuzzi).

“No one complained we had too many Italians back then,” this source said.

It’s not like Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t have enough Italian-Canadian MPs from which to choose. Liberal MPs with Italian backgrounds include former cabinet minister Judy Sgro; Joe Peschisolido, who has previous experience as a parliamentary secretary; Marco Mendicino, whose resume includes defeating floor-crossing MP Eve Adams for the Liberal nomination, then Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver for the seat in Eglinton-Lawrence;  Francis Scarpaleggia, an MP since 2004; Anthony Rota, first elected in 2004, sidelined for the last four years after losing in 2011, but back in now; and rookie MPs Francesco Sorbara, Mike Bossio, Angelo Iacono, David Lametti, and Nicola Di Iorio, among others.

When our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, once checked into a hotel, he was asked on the registration form what his occupation was. He wrote: “cabinet maker.”

Our first PM was a clever guy. He also understood that every time he made a decision to put someone in cabinet, it required a concurrent decision to keep several others out. High profile victorious candidates such as former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, former broadcaster Seamus O’Regan, downtown Toronto’s Adam Vaughan, and former general Andrew Leslie are among the many Liberal MPs who have learned this the hard way.

And so, apparently, are many Italian-Canadian MPs, who for the first time in three-and-a-half decades find themselves outside the Liberal inner circle. As we are learning, it is a curious and uncomfortable place for them to be.

Source: A perfect cabinet? Some Italian Liberals disagree | TVO.org

And Cecil Foster reflects on Black discontent:

It is as if there is no black in Canada. Maybe despite all its diversity Canada in 2015 is still a white man’s country, where as in time of old all eligible and desirable non-whites and males have been co-opted into whiteness. Just like the Italians, Greeks, Ukrainians, Afghans, etc. that are now all white Canadians. Diversity through assimilation. And as has always been the case, the one unassimilable group – primary because of the colour of skin and the historic outsider status – is blacks. And this is at a time when south of the border there is a black president. Maybe it is true that Canadian and U.S. cultures and politics are fundamentally different.

It is unbelievable that at this moment when diversity is the language and imagery of Canada, yet again we have been told in the jargon of street that if you are black, stand back. If there has been two groups that have been the measure of exclusion and marginalization in the Canada of old they were First Nations people and blacks. It is a moment of pride when we can see First Nations representation in the Canadian government, especially for me a First Nations Justice Minister and Attorney-General.

But whether it was as the original Loyalists that withdrew into what would become Canada, blacks were always part of this country and we have always been the moral conscience of this country. Indeed how can anyone begin a conversation on power, citizenship, multiculturalism, equity, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, criminality, discrimination and police carding without starting that conversation about historically what has been the role and positioning of blacks generally in this hemisphere and specifically in Canada?

So why are there no blacks in the cabinet? Perhaps because the cabinet was chosen on merit and no black was good enough. Perhaps no one ethnic or racialized group should be signalled out for special attention. Perhaps affirmative action should not be a factor. …

As the Prime Minister stated, the year is 2015. All these questions can be posed about any visible-minority group that is using the pictures of members of their community who are federal government ministers to tell their young see you, too, can become a government minister. For it to be really true, as our Prime Minister implied, that Canada has come a long way when any argument against the inclusion of any ethnic, racial, gendered or sexed group is so absurd that no real explanation is needed. Unless this inclusion is about other minorities, not blacks.

Unfortunately, there is the sense that the blacks in Canada have been slighted. And ironically this is one of the ethnic groups that have resolutely remained faithful politically to the Liberal Party of Canada in good and bad times, even when other ethnic groups with less of a legacy in Canada flirted with and even shifted support to other parties. Most enthusiastically support multiculturalism. Many in the black communities across Canada still revere Pierre Trudeau. What more needs to be said about loyalty or blacks and Liberals.

About two decades ago, I published a book titled A Place Called Heaven: The Meaning of Being Black in Canada. Back then. I was writing about an ethno-racial group that is as old as Canada itself, that for want of a better phrase should be considered as much “old stock” as the English or French. Back then, this was a group still feeling marginalized and dreaming of a day when Canada would make young black boys and girls feel confident enough to believe that they can grow up to become members of the highest echelons of their society.

Source: Canada’s blacks: Still waiting for their moment of ‘real change’ – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to A perfect cabinet? Some Italian Liberals disagree. Also Black Canadians

  1. Peter Cameron says:

    Once you begin to qualify people by categorizing them, you end up dividing them. It starts with targets such as 50% women, and there is no end. Ultimately some group loses its status. Too much focus on gender/ethnicity creates opportunities for inter-group rivalries, and diminishes our attention on who these people really are, what they believe, and what they will do for the collectivity.

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