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Justin Trudeau’s mid-season makeover show

The cabinet shuffle rewards the young and energetic—and leaves the unfortunate impression that rookie female MPs are fungible


 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, middle, holds a press conference as he's joined by his newly sworn in ministers on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, middle, holds a press conference as he’s joined by his newly sworn in ministers on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

It was called a “facelift,” and indeed it was. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, no stranger to visual storytelling (read: “optics”) exhibited it in glorious form today as he shuffled his cabinet in preparation for a Donald Trump presidency. Chrystia Freeland, former trade minister, was promoted to Foreign Affairs, replacing Stéphane Dion. Freeland will be replaced by the well-regarded François-Philippe Champagne, a 46-year-old former trade lawyer who was parliamentary secretary to the finance minister. Champagne, a cabinet novice, will be responsible for dealing with the barrage of trade reforms promised by Trump.

The shuffle also succeeded in producing a younger, most racially diverse and Instagram-friendly Canadian political executive. The mid-season makeover show keeps Trudeau’s celebrated 50:50 female:male cabinet ratio intact while rewarding the young, the energetic and the photogenic.

RELATED: What you need to know about Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle

This telegraphs volumes. Iranian-born Maryam Monsef, who spent much of last year under fire, first for her birth story, then for her bungling of the electoral reform file that saw her attack the committee charged with making recommendations, maintains a cabinet seat—clearly a reward for staying on even the most implausible talking points. But she’s being sent to the newly renovated Status of Women office which is, tellingly, widely read as a demotion, given, well, the status of women generally, even in the cabinet of a repeatedly self-identified “feminist.”

Dumping the Iranian-born refugee, a rookie MP, from cabinet would have been an optics fail for Trudeau, read as abandonment. Yet replacing the 31-year-old Monsef with 29-year-old Karina Gould, an Oxford-educated rookie MP and former parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development and La Francophonie, can also be read as a signal: that the government’s course on the troubled file isn’t changing—and that the complex electoral reform mandate doesn’t require a more experienced hand at the tiller. There’s also an unfortunate optical takeaway: that young, female rookie MPs are fungible.

MORE: Who is Karina Gould?

The shuffle produced a cabinet more diverse in every way but in age. Former Status of Women minister, 50-year-old Patty Hajdu, was shifted to Labour and Employment, replacing 61-year-old MaryAnn Mihychuk, who was dumped. It also removed two members of the white, male, old guard—along with 61-year-old Dion, 66-year-old John McCallum exits as minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, replaced by 40-year-old Somalian-born Ahmed Hussen, a former Toronto lawyer, himself a refugee.

The veteran pols will land in diplomatic posts—China for McCallum, likely France for Dion. Three over-60 members of cabinet leaving brings the average age down by three years, to 49.7, and the number of over-60 ministers in a 32-member cabinet to six. That makes the 45-year-old Trudeau, if not yet elder statesman, closer to it.

Freeland is at the shuffle’s centre, clearly rewarded for her last-minute victory salvaging CETA. That the former journalist is now the country’s emissary in an emerging Trump-Putin landscape comes with built-in optics. Freeland’s much-lauded 2012 book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, makes clear that she understands the financial benefits of entering politics: “One thing that isn’t in dispute is the material value of a political career after leaving office,” she writes. “Politicians can’t fully monetize their plutocratic networks until they retire.” (Clearly she was writing before anyone anticipated Trump enriching himself in office.)

Plutocrats, widely heralded as an exposé of rising global income inequity—and named as a prime reason Trudeau recruited Freeland to run in a 2013 by-election—is more accurately a voyeuristic glimpse of the lifestyles and habits of the world’s oligarchs, featuring much gossip about Russia. She refers to Putin, but not glowingly: “Russia, of course, gives plutocracy a bad name,” she writes. Freeland, whose mother helped draft the Ukrainian constitution in the 1990s, was among politicians and lawmakers banned from Russia in 2014 in retaliation for Canada putting sanctions over Ukraine.

Plutocrats doesn’t mention Trump, which the new president will undoubtedly see as a slight if he bothers to get someone to read the index for him. But the book leaves little doubt that the media-savvy Freeland is intimately acquainted with how rich, old powerful men and oligarchs operate. And that will be indispensable ammunition in her new role.

The midseason makeover:

(L) Canada's Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, March 21, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters) (R) Patty Hajdu is sworn in as Minister of Labour during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

John McCallum is out as immigration minister. He was replaced by 40-year-old Ahmed Hussen.

(L) Minister of Status of Women Patricia Hajdu responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday September 22, 2016 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/CP) (R) Maryam Monsef is sworn in as Minister of Status of Women during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Patricia Hajdu, 50, was replaced by Maryam Monsef, 32, as minister of status of women.

(L) International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/CP). (R) Francois-Philippe Champagne responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Chrystia Freeland (promoted to foreign affairs minister) is replaced by Francois-Philippe Champagne, 46, as the trade minister

(L) Minister of Democratice Institutions Maryam Monsef stands in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, December 5 , 2016. (Fred Chartrand/CP). (R) Liberal MP Karina Gould responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Maryam Monsef is replaced by the 29-year-old Karina Gould as Democratic Institutions minister

(L) Canada's Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, March 21, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters) (R) Patty Hajdu is sworn in as Minister of Labour during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

MaryAnn Mihychuk, 61, was fired as Employment and Labour minister, replaced by Patty Hajdu, 50.

(L) Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick(R) International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, October 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Stephane Dion, 61, was removed from the prestigious foreign affairs post, and replaced by Freeland, 48


 

Justin Trudeau’s mid-season makeover show

  1. Too bad there wasn’t a place for Justin in China.

    Anyway it was certainly time for Dion and MacCallum to go!

  2. its something that we have known for close to a decade now, older white men need not apply. never mind about experience or talent. Funny you know I marched for 4 decades so people could get jobs based on the content of their character (bet you no one at Maclean’s nor CBC nor Trudeaus new cabinet, have a clue where that line comes from…just proving a point here). Instead we are still deciding futures and values of human beings based on gender, skin colour and sexual preference. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (once again no one will have a clue on that line either) I have had 23 year olds ask me what the Holocaust was, what religion are they in Israel (Buddhist I respond, I can’t fix stupid), who was John Glenn, who was Dr King (really!) and the latest who was JFK. But you just keep hiring them after all we all know who loves the uneducated and look where that has it (ok you gotta know that line).

    • Nothing to do with color…..it’s education, or the lack thereof.

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