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October 28, 2017 1:39 am

Finding balance in the cabinet

Monday, November 9, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
By Bill Phillips

The country has been agog this past week over the new gender-balanced federal cabinet, and for good reason.

Having women and men equally share the halls of power is more than simply a notion whose time has come, it’s reality that was long overdue.
The interesting thing about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet is that it, more accurately, represents a reduction of men in cabinet rather than an increase in the number of women … compared to Stephen Harper’s last cabinet.
Harper had 12 women in his cabinet, Trudeau has 15. Not a huge increase in terms of numbers. However, the 12 women in Harper’s 39-member cabinet made up just over 30 per cent of the total. The 15 women in Trudeau’s 31-member cabinet make up just over 48 per cent of the total.
Big difference.
One of the more disappointing responses to Trudeau’s new cabinet is the backhanded misogynistic comment: “I don’t have a problem with women in cabinet, as long as they are qualified.”
There is only one qualification needed to become a federal cabinet minister … be in the good graces of the prime minister. You don’t even have to be a member of the party in power. The prime minister could appoint ministers from other parties which, when you think about it, would go a long way towards eliminating partisan politics. You don’t even have to be an MP; Jean Chretien appointed cabinet ministers who weren’t elected (and we like to pick on Harper for being un-democratic).
When the prime minister goes about choosing a cabinet, he certainly examines the skills each brings to the table and, generally, he chooses only from those who have been elected.
Our system doesn’t mandate that our finance minister be an accountant by profession. It helps, but it’s not necessary.
To suggest that women, somehow, have to be further qualified than their male counterparts who only have to meet the ‘getting elected’ criteria, is simply demeaning, especially given some of the bozos who have had cabinet posts over the years.
Will the new cabinet members make mistakes? Have some blunders? Absolutely, and those won’t be determined or defined by gender.
We have a completely new cabinet with a new prime minister who has empowered his ministers to run their departments without the previous practice of micro-managing by the Prime Minister’s Office. It will be new ground for a lot of people.
It will also be new ground for the country.
Having a gender-balanced cabinet also makes Canada one of the world leaders in this regard. Feels good to be a world leader again, at least in one area. Time to start working on some other areas.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at billphillips1@mac.com



did not support Trudeau, but the kids doing all the little things correctly. I think he may be a good rep for Canada. Might need a bit of coaching when he gets on the world stage.

“You don’t even have to be an MP;…”

“…who only have to meet the ‘getting elected’ criteria,…”

If one does NOT have to be an MP (elected member of parliament) how does one meet the required “getting elected” criteria?

Is it possible to be a MP in the parliament without having been duly and legally elected?

We don’t elect governments to be ‘gender balanced’, or ‘religiously balanced’, or ‘ethnically balanced’, or ‘sexual preference-ally balanced’, or ‘short and tall people-ally balanced’, or anything else along those same lines. We elect them to initiate and oversee the obtaining of the results we desire.

If we allow governments to TELL US that those ‘results’ have come down to the utter nonsense of making such a big issue about having everything possible ‘balanced’ in the fields above, you can rest assured that when it comes to obtaining the IMPORTANT results we desire from that government, which are primarily ‘economic’ in nature, we’re going to get shortchanged.

“You don’t even have to be an MP; Jean Chretien appointed cabinet ministers who weren’t elected (and we like to pick on Harper for being un-democratic).”

PriinceGeorge…..The article states you don’t even have to be elected to be appointed to cabinet. Something I didn’t know and not sure if I agree with. As flawed as the system is I think ministers should at least be someone the people elected. And if the Prime Minister just wants to appoint random people he has the Senate for that…

To see how much this was needed just check out what’s happening in Alberta . There is an exstencive article titled . How women in government are changing Alberta . You can find it at The Tyee . What a breath of fresh air . Gives me more hope for my granddaughters .

The title is . How women are changing Alberta’s government.

We have had members of the BC cabinet who were not elected. Edward John , who was not an MLA, was appointed Minister for Children and Families by Ujjal Dosanjh in November, 2000 and served until the fall of the NDP government in May, 2001. As is usually the case with unelected cabinet members, he ran for a seat in the election of May, 2001 but was not successful. More recently, Premier Christy Clark became premier before she obtained a seat in the legislature. Cabinet members who are not MLAs or MPs may not perform roles reserved to elected representatives.

I take exception to the notion that the only qualification for a cabinet minister is the good grace of the Prime Minister. We may not require the finance minister to be an accountant, but we do want cabinet ministers to have a good understanding of the areas with which they deal. How deep this understanding need be depends on the nature of the area and its importance. We may not require the finance minister to be an accountant, but he or she should have a good understanding economics. The minister of health need not be a physician but he or she should have some background in medicine and public health and the ability to understand both scientific and organizational issues.

From what I have seen so far, no one in the new cabinet is glaringly lacking in relevant qualifications.

Thank you, Billposer! I was just going to comment on that very same Edward John appointment. It looks like we have to close a few more loopholes in our democracy based society! Nobody should be appointed to any parliament or legislature job without having been duly elected. That goes for cabinet appointments and senators (!) especially! There was one election when a person ran for the Liberal party, got elected and promptly jumped ship to another party which had offered him a minister’s job – he switched sides before he ever took his seat in Ottawa, meaning he actually did not even cross the floor!

In the bastion of democracy – i.e., the U.S., the President appoints his cabinet. He get’s to pick from the talent pool of the whole country. The only check valve is his picks must be vetted by the senate, and can be blocked – which happens rarely. But the reality is, the most powerful people in the U.S. government are not elected.

We have had unelected federal cabinet ministers before too. In 1941 MacKenzie King appointed Louis St. Laurent, a Québec lawyer who was not an MP, Minister of Justice. St. Laurent ran successfully in a by-election a few months later. Unelected cabinet members are something that our system seems to have frowned upon but allowed for some time.

All of this talk about Justin’s gender balanced cabinet!

From what I understand, Harper’s last cabinet had 12 women. Justin’s new cabinet has 15. But Harper’s “12” represented a greater percentage of his total elected females, while Justin’s “15” represents a lesser percentage!

I can’t remember the exact numbers and percentages, but I’ll have a look when I get some extra time!

In the meantime, perhaps Ataloss can check the CBC and the Tyee for me, just in case the numbers were illustrated there! After all, both of those news organizations are clearly unbiased!

@He Spoke

“the kids doing all the little things correctly”

its funny when people call Trudeau “young” or a “kid”. Although he is the youngest of the recent 4, he is in fact not much younger than the rest.

Harper became PM at 47, Cretien at 59, Mulroney at 45 and Now Trudeau at 43.

Will Trudeau cut civil service numbers? Our last leader gave us one of the largest governments in Canadian history, and one of the largest civil services. 8 ministers less is a start.

Are not 5 of those 15 women “junior ministers”?

Yeah, junior ministers whose purpose is only to be a helper for real ministers, so the actual count of women in the new cabinet is 10 or 32.26% of the cabinet. I’m surprised that an award winning journalist didn’t notice that.

There is only one qualification that SHOULD be needed to become a federal cabinet minister, COMPETENCE! Look it up.

Hart Guy … your standard is to throw some stupid comment out without doing your research yourself. In the meantime the damage has been done and others who do not do their research give you a big thumbs up..

Here are the facts. Not counting the PM:

Harper’s last cabinet had 38 members with 14 women for a percentage of 36.84%

Trudeau has a cabinet of 30 with 15 women for 50%.

Are you interested in apologizing for seeding this topic with false information?

Dirtman seems to be implying that some of the women are incompetent while none of the males are.

At the time Justin’s father was PM we had a term for such people – MCP – male chauvinist pigs. Obviously that variety of pigs is still thriving.

So if Trudeau had more female elected MPs who had better qualifications for a Cabinet post than his elected male MPs did he would have to by-pass them so his Cabinet had a 50/50 make up of men and women? Perhaps we expect too much from those who become Cabinet Ministers, and having the appearance of some supposed gender or other kinds of ‘balanced ratio’ is more important than a person’s actual qualifications in managing their portfolio? But if this is the case, then why the pretence that Cabinet Ministers are going to be running the show, and the PMO won’t be ‘managing’ them, when we all know to do otherwise would be courting disaster?

I think the truth of that Conservative election ad about Trudeau is going to become more and more evident with each passing day. “He’s just not ready.” And, boy, is that sure going to cost us when the ‘smoke and mirrors’ can’t hide the facts anymore, and some really important decisions have to be made.

There are no ministers of state (junior ministers) in Trudeau’s cabinet.

Harper had 8 male ministers of state and 4 female ministers of state.

Why is it that most right wing posters on here do not know their facts?

Dirtman, can you please list the ministries in order of budget. If we do not base the “junior” ministers based on the tile of “minister of state” maybe we can do it by the monetary scope of the ministers responsibility.


“why the pretence that Cabinet Ministers are going to be running the show”

They don’t!!! Deputy Ministers and their administrative staff run the show.

THAT is why I disagree that elected members should actually be in charge of ministries. Those in charge of ministries should be competent based on job applicants from the entire population of Canada rather than just those who have the gift of the gab and convincing the peanut gallery voters that they should vote for them.

I am not 100% sure, but there is hardly anyone in the German Parliament, for instance, who is not at least a PhD. Does that make them better parliamentarians? I doubt it.


Actually read what was said, here are the real facts.

2011 Conservatives had 28 women elected to parliament (of 166 or 17%), 10 of whom were given cabinet portfolios right off the bat – 36% of the elected women received a posting to cabinet during the first cabinet announcement.

2015 Liberals had 50 women elected to parliament (of 184 or 27%), 15 of whom were put in cabinet positions right off the bat (although 5 are junior portfolios) – 30% of the elected women receiving some type of posting to cabinet during the first cabinet announcement.

So no apology necessary from Hart Guy as what was stated is factual, just your interpretation is at fault (maybe you owe Hart Guy an apology?). Harper did indeed have more percentage of the party’s elected women promoted to cabinet than Trudeau.

From the CBC: But the orders in council for Nov. 4 included the following language:

Marie-Claude Bibeau, a minister of state to be styled minister of la Francophonie, to assist the minister of foreign affairs in the carrying out of that minister’s responsibilities.
Patricia A. Hajdu, a minister of state to be styled minister of status of women, to assist the minister of Canadian heritage in the carrying out of that minister’s responsibilities.
Carla Qualtrough, a minister of state to be styled minister of sport and persons with disabilities, to assist the minister of Canadian heritage and the minister of employment and social development in the carrying out of those ministers’ responsibilities.
Bardish Chagger, a minister of state to be styled minister of small business and tourism, to assist the minister of industry in the carrying out of that minister’s responsibilities.
Kirsty Duncan, a minister of state to be styled minister of science, to assist the minister of industry in the carrying out of that minister’s responsibilities.

These roles will be changed to full status and salaries through a sitting of the house but will still assist the larger portfolios.

female Okay, so the seeding was of unimportant information.

The important information is how representational the cabinet is of of the population of the country, not the population of the MPs.

What Hart Guy is guilty of is showing an irrelevant fact.

In order to get a better representation of women who are actually the majority sex in Canada one has to start off with a high number of candidates. I remember looking up the number of female candidates for the liberals before election day. The Libs had more female candidates than the Cons.

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