Trudeau’s diverse cabinet not a true Canadian portrait – Gagnon

While true, commentators sometimes miss the forest for the trees.

Compared to previous federal cabinets, the Trudeau cabinet represents progress. For example, the previous Conservative cabinet was only 30 percent women and the three visible minority members were only in junior positions (multiculturalism, sport, seniors).

I suspect that some of the gaps pointed out will be addressed when parliamentary secretaries appointed.

And Gagnon is also factually wrong: Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources is Jewish.

It would be interesting, rather than just carping on the sidelines, to come up with an alternate cabinet that would balance regional, gender, ethnic origin, and experience – not as easy as it sounds:

“A cabinet that looks like Canada!” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exclaimed as he introduced his ministers. But this was false on several counts.

A cabinet that includes no one of Italian or Chinese origin, a cabinet without Jews or Arabs, a cabinet without a single black person – while Sikhs (who comprise about 1.4 per cent of the Canadian population) hold four cabinet posts – is not a true portrait of Canada. Not that I mind. The last thing a modern government needs is a cabinet that would reflect the exact ethnic makeup of the population. That’s because it’s impossible to achieve: Ministers are chosen from a caucus that results from the vagaries of politics and doesn’t correspond to demographic reality. For example, the Liberals have only a handful of black MPs, two MPs of Chinese descent – and 16 Sikhs, reflecting the active interest of Sikhs in politics and of a pattern of block voting in ridings with a significant Sikh minority.

Mr. Trudeau also prides himself on having formed the first federal cabinet with gender parity. False again. It is actually built on gender inequity. The Liberal caucus counts 134 men and 50 women, meaning that at the outset, every female MP had roughly three chances more than her male colleagues to be appointed to cabinet. Shouldn’t gender equity apply to men as well?

Those who want the proportion of female cabinet ministers to reflect the female population should insist that the political parties present many more women in “good” ridings – ridings where they have a real chance of being elected. Then a prime minister would have a larger pool of qualified female MPs to choose from when forming the cabinet.

Source: Trudeau’s diverse cabinet not a true Canadian portrait – The Globe and Mail

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 |

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

“Because It’s 2015” | Commentary magazine

The neocons at Commentary fret over ‘because it’s 2015’.

Wonder what they would have said if Lincoln had stated when slavery was abolished ‘because it’s 1865’?

On Wednesday in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau was sworn in as Canadian prime minister. He wasted no time in announcing his newly chosen cabinet of exactly 15 men and 15 women, which fulfilled a campaign pledge he’d made about gender equality. One reporter asked Trudeau why the perfect male-female split was so important to him. The prime minster’s response: “Because it’s 2015.”

It sure is. Back in the pre-identity Dark Ages, leaders of representative democracies felt obliged to cite principles or aims in explaining policy to citizens. Today they cite trends.

One problem with trends is that they go as quickly as they come. As Trudeau is sure to find out, his 50-50-gender cabinet is already passé. Where does it leave those Canadians who don’t identify as either male or female? Tell the prime minister the 1990s called. It wants its social justice back.

That’s only a practical challenge. Trudeau can pick up a full-time gendermetrician to carve up the grievance pie and reconfigure his cabinet with each newly pronounced identity.

There are deeper problems. “Because it’s 2015” kills debate, which is the lifeblood of free societies and, ironically, of social evolution. “Because it’s 2015” is a witless claim to absolute prerogative. It dresses up dogma in the finery of historical truth and casts off inquiry as another freshly uncovered offense against progress.

Source: Because It’s 2015 | commentary

The New Cabinet: Diversity, inclusion and achieving parity

Election 2015 - VisMin and Foreign-Born MPs.002
The chart shows the overall representation of Canada’s new Parliament (the 2011 Parliament equivalent is shown below).

Election 2015 - VisMin and Foreign-Born MPs.001

In addition to gender parity, visible minorities are slightly over-represented (16 percent) in relation to their share of the population who are Canadian citizens (15 percent).

However, Canadian Sikhs predominate as four out of the five visible minority ministers are Sikh: Navdeep Bains, Harjit Sajjan, Amarjeet Sohi and Bardish Chagger (the only non-Sikh is Maryam Monsef, an immigrant from Afghanistan). Likely that geographic factors played a role.

Two out of the five are women. Three are foreign-born.

Two have senior portfolios: Harjit Sajjan in Defence, Navdeep Bains in Innovation, Science and Economic Development (the rebranded Industry Canada).

The choice of John McCullum for the renamed Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship department suggests that an experience minister was wanted to move the priority files (in addition to his previous experience in a number of portfolios and was previously the Liberal critic for citizenship and immigration). So very likely that he will hit the ground running.

And the best illustration of how the overall philosophy and approach has changed can be seen in the creation of a Cabinet Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, with a mandate to:

Considers issues concerning the social fabric of Canada and the promotion of Canadian pluralism. Examines initiatives designed to strengthen the relationship with Indigenous Canadians, improve the economic performance of immigrants, and promote Canadian diversity, multiculturalism, and linguistic duality.

Cabinet is not a meritocracy. And it hasn’t been for decades.

Laura Payton provides the best rebuttal to Andrew Coyne’s blather against gender parity in Cabinet (Andrew Coyne: Trudeau cabinet should be based on merit, not gender):

Here’s the thing: Cabinet is not a meritocracy. It hasn’t been, at least as far back as 1968. It’s always been influenced by a range of factors, including where an MP is from and whether he or she is an anglophone or francophone. And while those factors are practical, other selections seem to be made based on someone’s fundraising ability or skill at obfuscating in the House of Commons.

Give me a good merit-based reason why Julian Fantino held three cabinet postsall of them disastrous. What exactly qualified Fantino to be the minister for international development? Or look at Peter MacKay, who held a range of high-profile posts, including Foreign Affairs and Justice. Any time cabinet speculation took over with the Conservatives in charge, it was assumed he would never be excluded from cabinet, simply because he was the PC leader who agreed to merge the party with the Canadian Alliance, thereby allowing Stephen Harper to lead the combined forces to victory. Never mind the bungled military procurement files or his use of a search-and-rescue helicopter to shave a couple of hours off his trip back to Ontario when his vacation was interrupted. And who can forget Chris Alexander’s deft touch with immigration matters?

Given that women are half the population, it’s downright strange that no federal government before this one has striven to put more of them into cabinet. Lots of deserving people are left out of cabinet, simply because there are too many excellent MPs from one region or another, and not all of them will make it. It’s bizarre to argue that Trudeau’s pledge to include more women in cabinet means leaving out qualified men, because the corollary is that so many women have been left out of cabinet to squeeze in men who have better fundraising networks, are better known to Ottawa-based party insiders, or know how to follow orders.

Canada’s federal parties have a long way to go to hit gender parity and to elect a representative number of visible minorities. There are 5o women in the Liberal caucus of 184 MPs, for example. While the NDP led the way with 43 per cent female candidates (rather than quotas, they asked riding associations to look for female or visible-minority candidates), the Conservatives were only able to find enough female candidates to make up 19 per cent of their total. You can’t tell me there aren’t more smart women who would want to run if they didn’t feel the hurdles were too high to clear.

Source: Cabinet is not a meritocracy. And it hasn’t been for decades.