There’s been a lot of chatter about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to ensure his cabinet be made up evenly of women and men. Andrew Coyne from the National Post complained that cabinet should be determined by “judgment, leadership, knowledge of policy, experience in running large organizations, experience in politics” and not a quota system.

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This article was published 4/11/2015 (2047 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Editorial

There’s been a lot of chatter about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to ensure his cabinet be made up evenly of women and men. Andrew Coyne from the National Post complained that cabinet should be determined by "judgment, leadership, knowledge of policy, experience in running large organizations, experience in politics" and not a quota system.

Some have complained that gender should no longer be a criteria for determining inclusion, but social class should. That’s also a pretty fair evaluation, given the concern that too many lawyers and businessmen rule the world and not enough middle class folks.

Some say that it is artificial. By elevating women to 50 per cent in cabinet when they make up just 27 per cent of the overall Liberal ranks, the new prime minister may be scraping the bottom of the metaphorical barrel. But this has been the case for a while now. Women are more likely to get promoted to cabinet once they’re elected, just because governments are more gender sensitive. The numbers have ranged between 22 and 29 per cent since 1993. And as one smart pundit pointed out, Mr. Trudeau only promoted three more women to cabinet than former prime minister Stephen Harper, it’s just that it’s a smaller cabinet and so the percentages go up by 20 points.

However, this is the first time anyone has dared to determine 50 per cent is the right number and done something about it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, fifth from left, and Governor General David Johnston, centre, pose for a group photo with the new Liberal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa today.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ADRIAN WYLD

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, fifth from left, and Governor General David Johnston, centre, pose for a group photo with the new Liberal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa today.

So, here’s a list of just some of the women who were called up into cabinet.

Carolyn Bennett has been an MP since 1997 and is a physician. She’s the new minister of indigenous and northern affairs. B.C.’s Jody Wilson-Raybould is the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, a former Crown prosecutor and a former regional Assembly of First Nations chief. Our new minister of health, Jane Philpott is a family doctor who worked in Niger training family doctors. Catherine McKenna is a trade lawyer and worked as the legal adviser to the negotiator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor. She’s in charge of the environment and climate change. Carla Qualtrough, a paralympian and lawyer, is now minister of sports and persons with disabilities. She’s been visually impaired since birth.

From Manitoba, MaryAnn Mihychuk takes over the employment portfolio. She’s a former school trustee. She’s been a provincial cabinet minister, including intergovernmental affairs. She’s a geoscientist with a master’s degree in science. She’s no lightweight.

These are pretty impressive resumes. Compare those ministers to Pierre Poilievre, who was former prime minister Stephen Harper’s minister of employment. His experience? He worked for former leader Stockwell Day. Seems his credentials were his political affiliations.

Or recall that in the interests of a quota, Mr. Harper appointed Michel Fortier to the position of public works minister because he needed representation in cabinet from Montreal. Fortier was never elected. He was then appointed to the Senate, again, without being elected. Funny, there was little outcry about that.

Cabinet is not just about merit. It is also about representation: Regional, linguistic, and finally this time around, gender and to a certain degree race as well. And making the decision about who is let in and who stays out is a potential minefield. Any prime minister worth his or her salt knows that. But for this prime minister, the decision to ensure that based on gender, the faces sitting in cabinet reflect Canada’s made sense.

When the last government had less than 30 per cent women in its cabinet, no one protested a 70 per cent representation rate for men. Let’s stop doing it for women at the 50 per cent mark. When Mr. Trudeau was asked by reporters why do this, he replied because it’s 2015.