By Suresh Jaura*
‘Real Change’ as promised in the election campaign has come to Canada with Justin Pierre James Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party, taking over as 23rd Prime Minister of Canada.
Justin is the eldest son of the 15th Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, prompting observers to describe him as the first in Canada’s political destiny. Born December 25, 1971, he is the second youngest Prime Minister in Canadian history after Joe Clark who headed the government from June 1979 to March 1980.
The Liberal Party bagged majority mandate winning 184 seats in the 42nd Federal election on October 19. This was an impressive win for the party under Justin Trudeau, who was elected in April 2013 as leader of the third party in Canada. In 2011 election, the Liberals had the worst showing in its history with 19 percent of the popular vote and 34 seats.
Of the 88 women elected, 50 are Liberals. There are more aboriginal MPs than ever before, a total of 10 – 8 of them Liberals.
The swearing in ceremony was held at Rideau Hall, known as the ‘hall of the people of Canada’, official residence in Ottawa of both the Canadian monarch and his or her representative, the Governor General of Canada since 1867.
There are many firsts with the 29th Ministry that follows the 28th Canadian Ministry that was the combined Cabinet, chaired by the previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Ministers that governed Canada from the beginning of the 39th Parliament to the end of the 41st Parliament.
Among the firsts is that the public was invited to the swearing-in ceremony inside Rideau Hall and watched it on outside screen. An estimated 3,500 people turned out.
The second ‘first’: Prime Minister-designate with Members of the new cabinet gathered earlier in downtown Ottawa to take buses to Rideau Hall, rather than arriving in individual limousines as previously ministers used to. They ‘debarked at the gates to the estate and walked up the tree-lined lane to the governor general’s residence’, cheered by Canadians standing on both sides.
The third first: Of the 30 cabinet ministers, 15 are women, abiding by the gender parity promised in the election campaign, and they have important portfolios like Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Justice, Public Services and Procurement, International Trade, Health, Canadian Heritage, National Revenue and others. For the record, the first female cabinet Minister was in John Difenbaker’s cabinet in 1957.
- For the first time in Canadian history, an aboriginal, Jody Wilson-Raybould, is minister of Justice.
- The first Canadian in space, Marc Garneau is minister of Transport.
- Harjit Singh Sajjan is the first Sikh Canadian to be given charge of National Defence.
- Maryam Monsef is the first Afghan refugee to be appointed as minister of Democratic Institutions. Besides, she is the youngest minister and the fourth youngest ever.
- ‘Climate Change’ has been added to Environment department’s official name.
- Both new members of Parliament (MPs) and experienced politicians have been appointed cabinet ministers.
- The cabinet is the most diverse and inclusive group in recent history.
The new Cabinet includes the appointment of four Sikh Canadians: in addition to Harjit Singh Sajjan as Minister of Defence, that of Amarjeet Sohi as Minister of Infrastructure, of Bardish Chagger as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, and Navdeep Singh Bains as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Navdeep Singh Bains is also the Registrar General of Canada.
The Registrar General of Canada is responsible for registering all letters patent, commissions, instruments, proclamations, and any other documents that may, from time to time, be issued under the Great Seal of Canada or the Privy Seal of Canada.
After the swearing-in ceremony, Justin Trudeau addressed children in a live Google Hangout posted on YouTube. “. . . glad that one of my first actions as prime minister is to reach out to grade school right across the country,” he said.
Toronto Star reported, “Grade school students from . . . schools across the country grilled him about everything from immigration to perks, while Trudeau spoke about the importance of listening as a politician.”
Indigenous peoples’ rights
In a statement issued after the swearing-in, the new Prime Minister, said, “Canadians from all across this country sent a message that it is time for real change, and I am deeply honoured by the faith they have placed in my team and me. Canadians chose a positive and optimistic plan for the future.”
He declared: “We will further strengthen our great country with a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on a recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”
The new Prime Minister promised to “reinvest in our cultural and creative industries and create an immigration system grounded in both compassion and economic opportunity”, adding that “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”.
In a letter to Canadians, Justin Trudeau assured of his “commitment to invest in growing our economy, strengthening our middle class, and helping those working hard to join it. We committed to fighting climate change and protecting our environment. We made a commitment to provide more direct help to those who need it by giving less to those who do not. We committed to public investment as the best way to spur growth, job creation, and economic prosperity. And we committed to a responsible, transparent fiscal plan for challenging economic times. We expect you to hold the government accountable for delivering these commitments.”
He assured Canadians that he is “committed to leading an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards, brings our country together, and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds”.
Trudeau declared in a press release issued on November 2: “Canada must be fully and firmly committed on the international stage, not only for our own success, but also for the success of others around the world.”
He will make his debut on international stage beginning with the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Antalya, Turkey (November 15-16), followed by the APEC Economic Leaders’ meeting in Manila, Philippines (November 18-19); the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta (November 27-29); and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (November 30 to December 11).
*The writer is Director of International Press Syndicate (INPS) associate headquarters and North America Bureau Chief of IDN. He is Publisher and Managing Editor of South Asian Outlook and IndoCanada Outlook, online publications of INPS.