One of prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s first orders of business will be to form a cabinet. It is one of the most difficult tasks facing any prime minister, as there is a need to strike geographic, linguistic, ethnic and gender balance.
While a mix of experienced legislators and fresh blood is expected, the diversity Trudeau will bring to his front bench will be revealed on November 4.
Other known priorities for Trudeau: gender parity and “small” in size. While gender parity was on the Liberal platform, Trudeau indicated reducing the cabinet size at his first press conference without being specific.
Though committing to gender balance is likely to make Trudeau’s task harder, keeping it small gives him an escape route to placate disappointed MPs.
Under Stephen Harper, the Conservative cabinet had swollen to 40 ministers by January 2015, matching the size of Brian Mulroney’s 1984 Progressive Conservative cabinet.
When Harper first became prime minister in 2006 he appointed just 26 people to contrast his fiscal conservatism with the policies of former Liberal PM Paul Martin, whose cabinet had ballooned to 39.
Though committing to gender balance is likely to make Trudeau’s task harder, keeping it small gives him an escape route to placate disappointed MPs. He can blame it on the imperative of having a compact cabinet. With 184 MPs to choose from, Trudeau has his work cut out.
“Bring together the best of our 20 MPs and inevitably it would be a diverse group.”
But as one Liberal MP who spoke to New Canadian Media said, ensuring diversity will be the least of his problems. “Bring together the best of our 20 MPs and inevitably it would be a diverse group.”
Given the limitations imposed by gender parity and size, expect to see MPs who score on more than one criterion make it to the cabinet. Here’s our shortlist of likely minority candidates.
Harjit Sajjan: A former Vancouver police detective, Sajjan is a highly decorated lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces who served three tours in Afghanistan and is the first Sikh to command a Canadian military regiment. Sajjan is a member of Trudeau’s economic team.
This Vancouver South MP ticks the following boxes: Vancouver area representative, veteran, Sikh minority.
Dr. Hedy Fry: An incumbent MP, Dr. Fry has experience on her side as she earned her reputation as a leader in medical politics at the local, provincial and federal levels. In 1993, she was first elected as an MP by defeating then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell.
This Vancouver Centre MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, medical doctor, woman, Black.
Navdeep Bains: A key organizer for the Liberals in the immigrant community around Toronto, Bains has been the party’s critic for trade and natural resources. An accountant and former MP from 2004 to 2011, Bains is a member of Trudeau’s economic team and among the most experienced legislators of the large number of visible minority MPs from the “905” belt of the GTA.
This Mississauga–Malton MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, GTA representative, Sikh minority.
Omar Alghabra: Having served as an MP from 2006 to 2008, Alghabra has been the Liberal critic for natural resources, as well as citizenship and immigration. An engineer by training, he is a prominent voice in the Arab and Muslim community in the GTA.
This Mississauga Centre MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, Arab and Muslim minority.
Yasmin Ratansi: Yasmin Ratansi was an MP from 2004 to 2011. She was Deputy Whip of the Liberal Caucus, and served as Chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and as Chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Her roots are in the Ismaili Muslim community.
This Don Valley East MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, Muslim and South Asian minority, woman.
[E]xpect to see MPs who score on more than one criterion make it to the cabinet.
Emmanuel Dubourg: An incumbent MP, Dubourg was previously involved in Quebec provincial politics as a Liberal Member of the National Assembly for six years. Before entering politics, Emmanuel worked in the federal public service for nearly 20 years. He is a member of Trudeau’s economic team.
This Bourassa MP ticks the following boxes: Legislative experience, Quebec representative, Black.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes: A successful entrepreneur and the recipient of the Toronto Board of Trade’s Business Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012, as well as the 2007 Black Business and Professional Association’s Harry Jerome Young Entrepreneur Award, Caesar-Chavannes is also a research consultant and member of Trudeau’s economic team.
This Whitby MP ticks the following boxes: Young entrepreneur, woman, Black.
Peter Fonseca: An Olympian who represented Canada as a marathon runner, Fonseca sat in the Ontario Legislature between 2003 and 2011 and served as Cabinet Minister, taking on the labour and tourism & recreation portfolios.
This Mississauga East–Cooksville MP ticks the following boxes: Sports person, legislative experience.
Arnold Chan: An incumbent MP, Chan was first elected in a by-election in 2013. His career has included roles in both the public and private sectors as a lawyer, political aide and senior corporate manager. He is also the most senior among the three MPs of Chinese heritage in the Liberal caucus.
This Scarborough–Agincourt MP ticks the following boxes: Chinese minority, legislative experience.
Ali Ehsassi: A lawyer by trade, Ehsassi has extensive experience working in government at both the provincial and federal levels of government, as well as in the private sector. He brings to the table his specialization in international trade and arbitration.
This Willowdale MP ticks the following boxes: Iranian and Muslim minority, government experience.
Ranjit is a Toronto-based writer with interest in Canadian civic affairs, immigration, the environment and motoring. Maytree and Al Jazzera English alumnus.