Sunny Ways for Most but Not All
“I have had before me as a pillar of fire. . .a policy of true Canadianism, of moderation, of reconciliation.”
Sir Wilfred Laurier
Well – it’s official.
Justin Trudeau has been sworn in as Canada’s new Prime Minister, appointed his Cabinet and the sky hasn’t fallen. I know this because I went outside immediately after the ceremony Wednesday and looked. It was still blue skies and a few clouds hovering way up high. It is going to rain tomorrow but it’s rained before so I’m optimistic it won’t bring the sky down with it.
Ever since the Liberals won the election, I’ve noticed a significant change in mood within the country. I see it every day on my social media timelines and in casual conversation with folks out in the real world. It’s like the sun has come out again after a prolonged period of cold, bitter winds. I think that is what Justin Trudeau was referring to on election night in his victory speech when he paraphrased former Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.
It was a bit flowery for my taste but it did have an historical context.
Laurier who was Prime Minister from 1896-1911 defeated the Conservative government of Sir Charles Tupper which was embroiled the Manitoba School Controversy at the time. The Tupper Government had been intransigent, even threatening and Laurier contrasted it to his planned approach using Aesop’s fable of the Wind, The Sun and the Coat in which the sun and the wind compete to see which can make a man named Greenway remove his coat.
In a speech first delivered in Morrisburg Ontario he summarized his position by saying,
“…the government are very windy. They have blown and raged and theatened, but the more they have theatened and raged and blown the more that man Greenway has stuck to his coat. If it were in my power, I would try the sunny way. I would approach this man Greenway with the sunny way of patriotism, asking him to be just and to be fair, asking him to be generous to the minority, in order that we may have peace among all the creeds and races which it has pleased God to bring upon this corner of our common country. Do you not believe that there is more to be gained by appealing to the heart and soul of men rather than to compel them to do a thing?”
Fast forward to today and Canadians embraced the sunny ways of positive politics over the harsh winds of the politics of division and threat.
Some, of course, are dismissing the new government and its leader as lightweight and lacking in the gravitas necessary to meet the challenges faced by this country. Time alone will tell if they’re right but I think that’s just sour wine (or whine) coming from people who supported a government that was given a decade to accomplish things but failed on too many fronts. I also think it’s the result of the arrogance of too many in our national media who have failed to realize that arrogance is a poor substitute for ability or knowledge.
There’s a an unwarranted sense of elitist superiority by many in the mainstream media these days. They see themselves as the purveyors of expertise on every issue before them, the sophisticates who will clarify for us just how uninformed we are.
Almost from the day after the election, many in the media have been all over the incoming government with self-impressed speculation and expert opinion about how inexperienced and unaccomplished is the new PM and questioning his government’s ability to meet its election promises. Every pronouncement by was pounced on and shred but the commentary on Justin Trudeau’s intention to appoint an equal number of men and women to his cabinet was met with derision (and stupidity) of epic proportions. The media decried the loss of the merit principle in Cabinet appointments with some going so far as to label the decision as regressive.
Regressive? Merit principle? You’re kidding me right?
What exactly was the merit principle that was applied by the Conservatives when it came to appointing Julian Fantino, Vic Toews, Bev Oda, Helena Guergis or Maxine Bernier? What was the merit principle behind the appointments of Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau to the Senate?
Despite the babbling of the chattering class, Trudeau went ahead and named his Cabinet and he followed through on his promise. He appointed 15 men and 15 women to sit at the Cabinet table. Now the criticism is that the cabinet is full of inexperienced ‘rookies’ and we’re headed for disaster. This is based on the rather simplistic notion that being elected to Parliament for the first time somehow negates all of one’s previous accomplishments and experience in the world beyond politics. Considering how well most career politicians, like Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne or former Alberta Premiers Allison Redford and Jim Prentice with all their political experience performed, one would have thought that maybe less political and more real-life experience might actually be considered a desired asset in a Cabinet Minister.
By any system of measure, Trudeau’s new Cabinet is pretty impressive. It includes for example: a former astronaut, a couple of scientists (one of whom is a Nobel Prize winner), the former Chair of the C.D. Howe Institute, a human rights lawyer, a former First Nations Chief and public prosecutor, a farmer, a former Finance Minister, a Former Liberal Party Leader and the list goes on. In fact it is a long list of highly talented people who are significantly more accomplished than most of the media pundits criticizing them. If nothing else, it is a group of people with a proven track record of determination, professionalism and discipline.
The new Minister of Health is a doctor. The new Minister of Defense is a retired colonel who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan (in other words, he has actually seen war up close and personal). The new Finance Minister is a successful business economist. The new Minister of Treasury Board is a former banker, business manager and multi-term Member of Parliament. The new Minister of Science is an honest-to-God scientist.
There is so much talent in the new Cabinet that even the National Post’s Kelly McPartland had to admit it and I’ll bet that hurt.
Canada is a diverse nation and the new Cabinet, rather than being a bunch of old white guys, career politicians and party hacks supported by a few token women and representatives of a couple of ethnic communities reflects that reality. The Cabinet includes at least two atheists, a Sikh, a Muslim, some Christians, a couple of members of First Nations, an equal number of men and women – even a couple of members who became Canadian citizens after immigrating here with their families. Two members of Cabinet have physical disabilities, one is openly gay and married and there is a reasonable blend of older and younger members.
In other words, the new Cabinet looks a lot more like a cross-section of this country than anything we’ve seen before and whatever else it might be called, regressive hardly fits. In fact, when asked following his swearing in why he appointed an equal number of men and women, the new Prime Minister simply smiled and said, “because it’s 2015”.
We’ve lived with outdated attitudes, by all major political parties, for too long and a majority of people in this country have craved a government that was more representative of who we are as a people. Judging from the international reaction, it would appear that it is only a few troglodytes here at home who don’t get the concept. As for merit? It wasn’t overlooked. Every person, male or female, appointed to Cabinet brings with them a wealth of experience and proven ability that warrants their appointment based on merit alone.
Whether or not they will succeed or fail in government remains to be seen and it will be appropriate to evaluate them on their performance but arrogantly dismissing them before they’ve even found their offices by dredging up faux-arguments about the merit principle is nothing but either adding vinegar to your wine or talking to hear yourself talk.
If even one, of these critics had half as much accomplishment as any of the members of the new cabinet, their commentary might have some value – but they don’t. They’re just people who make a living criticizing others at the behest of their corporate masters and their own personal bias. Increasingly what was once informed, objective analysis and commentary is becoming nothing more than shallow opinion which is frequently proven wrong as we saw repeatedly during the coverage of the election campaign.
More than 70% of Canadians rejected the ill wind of discontent and division that had blown over the past decade and they demanded change. As was clearly demonstrated by the thousands who attended the swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall on Wednesday, change is happening. It is being driven by a Prime Minister who has been seriously underestimated by many (including me) and who is now supported by one of the most professionally qualified Cabinets this country has ever seen.
Instead of attacking the credibility of a group of what appears to be eminently qualified people, conservatives and the media might do better to ask why it is that the Conservative Party cannot attract talent of that calibre.
© 2015 Maggie’s Bear
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