Canada’s Cabinet – Real Change?

Joseph Noss

Is “Canada’s Cabinet” #RealChange?

Canada's new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (bottom row C) poses with his cabinet after their swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie - RTX1URF7

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his term with a cabinet fit for his slogan; Real Change. After announcements of setting a gender equal quota of ministers within his cabinet, Trudeau was met with a lot of support. Strangely, there was also a lot complaints (usually from terribly oppressed white males) on the basis that the cabinet appointments would lack merit. Dissenters were quickly silenced when Trudeau’s cabinet strode in proudly on Wednesday, November 4th. When Trudeau was asked why his cabinet needed to be gender balanced, he responded with a substance-void yet powerful statement (something which Trudeau seems to have mastered) – “Because it is 2015”.

It is clear that Trudeau has ridden this wave of popular support straight into Parliament, showing his constituents that their support is not ignored. Trudeau’s views represent Canada’s, and consequently, so do his Cabinet’s. I laud Trudeau on his appointments: the first Aboriginal Minister of Justice, the first Sikh Minister of Defence, and the first gender-equal cabinet in Canada’s history. Yet this isn’t anything to talk about. As Trudeau said, it’s 2015. The time for the first gender equal cabinet was decades ago. Moreover, its absurd that we use these ministers’ ethnic or religious backgrounds to define them instead of their achievements.

Instead of the “First Aboriginal Woman appointed Minister of Justice” Jody Wilson-Raybould should be described as the experienced lawyer and proven leader she is. She implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after renewing relations with the BC government. She united fractured first nations tribes in order to create opportunities for native-provincial discussion. Raybould became a tribal chieftain, while working as a provincial crown attorney. Raybould is already leagues ahead of past Justice Minister Peter Mackay. Mackay, with no professional legal experience, marked his tenure as attorney general by instating mandatory minimum sentencing while deflecting any inquiries into the 1200 missing native Canadian women.

Jody Wilson-Raybould addresses the crowd with her co-chairs. Adam Scotti/Liberal Party;

Similarly, headlines describing the new Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan, should read “Most Qualified Defence Minister in the past 10 years is appointed”. In comparison to the past three conservative defence ministers (politicians who’s only experience in war is fighting the everyday moral battle that is working in a Stephen Harper government,) Mr. Sajjan is absurdly qualified. Mr. Sajjan fought in not one, but two wars (Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Afghanistan,) eventually winning the Meritorious Service Medal, the Order of Military Merit award, and becoming a commander of his own regiment.

This cabinet both externally and internally shows signs of the direction that Trudeau is going to take Canada. Externally, the media has painted us a picture of a diverse group of individuals, with clear signs of Trudeau’s (and Canada’s) liberal social values. However, as soon as one peers past the veil of media-propagated racial and gender equality, it becomes transparent what Trudeau’s ulterior motives are as he moves forward.

The many articles on “Canada’s Cabinet” seem to ignore the keystone of the liberal party, Ralph Goodale, and his appointment in the Orwellian position of “Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness”. Ralph Goodale has been an MP for over 23 years. Serving from 1974-1979, and again from 1993 until now, Ralph Goodale is the most senior member of the liberal party. He was the interim Liberal party leader three times—after each failed election—and served as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party since 2010. Goodale kept the position after Trudeau became the leader, becoming a close advisor. When Trudeau was elected, it was clear that Goodale would have an integral position in this new cabinet, be it in Justice, Defense, Health, Indigenous Affairs, or Foreign Affairs. However, it seems the Trudeau government has a plan for the public’s ‘safety’ and that Goodale is a necessary part.

Canadian Finance Minister Ralph Goodale arrives at the G8 Finance Ministers meeting at Lancaster House in London, Friday June 10, 2005. Britain and the United States have overcome their differences over debt relief, setting the stage for a potentially historic agreement among G8 countries this weekend to cancel US$15 billion owed by the world's poorest countries. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

For those of you who don’t know the role of the Minister of Public Safety, it is the very-Canadian title for the our equivalent of the Secretary of Homeland Security. Created in 2003, the position is meant to oversee things like the Canadian Prison system, the RCMP, the Parole Board of Canada, and CSIS (our CIA). The malleable portfolio was used by Conservative government minister Steven Blaney to pass terrible legislation, most significantly, Bill C-51. Why would Trudeau waste his most experienced man on public safety, when Trudeau has to follow through on promises across the board? At a time of a changing national economy, global instability, environmental disarray, and unsolved murders of indigenous second class citizens, Trudeau, just like every politician before him, has an agenda.

Trudeau supported Bill C-51 even in the face of overwhelming public outcry. This caused Trudeau to drop heavily in the early polls. As a result, Trudeau pulled a classic Justin and promised to repeal and amend certain clauses of C-51 after careful review and public questioning if elected. This is characteristic of Justin, preaching real change policies while ultimately supporting legislation that were the most terrible parts of Stephen Harper’s Government. It’s easy to appoint a few more minorities to the cabinet, but thats just an aesthetic change. Just like my grandmother’s facelift, this won’t change the corruption that lies inside. The machinations of Harper that will soon become uncontrollable, specifically C-51 and its incredibly expansive ramifications, must be repealed. New legislation, written by “Canada’s Cabinet” with our interests at heart, must be introduced.

The Liberal Party started the tradition of the UN peacekeeping force after solving the Suez Crisis. The Liberal Party also voted to take away indigenous peoples’ right to vote in 1890. The Liberal Party is not infallible. The appointment of Ralph Goodale in the position of Minister of Public Safety is a terrifying sign of things to come, and worse, a lack of real change. I don’t know about you, but as a member of the public, I think I speak for most people in saying I feel really safe in Canada. It’s clear to me this position isn’t important, and its departments should be delegated back to the Ministers of Justice and Defence, as they were from federation to 2003. But, clearly Trudeau disagrees, listing the Minister of Public Safety as number 2 on his list of cabinet precedence. Real change means protecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the real Trudeau (Pierre) had supported so strongly, not undermining it through support of Bill C-51. I hope that Goodale was put in this position for the sole reason of repealing and replacing C-51, instead of supporting and strengthening the Intelligence agencies that already operate without any parliamentary oversight within Canada. Only time will tell.

On a different front, one of the most prominent and desired cabinet positions, that of the Minister of Finance, was given to high profile rookie parliamentarian Bill Morneau. Leading Morneau Shepell(the largest Canadian human resource firm), Morneau facilitated the firm’s growth from 200 employees in 1992, to more than 4000 employees in 2015. During this time, Morneau also worked on the boards of St. Michael’s Hospital, and the Covenant House. Morneau even sponsored a ninth grade Ugandan student to come with live with his family as she studied in Canada. That was five years ago, and now Morneau and his wife are the legal guardians of Grace Acan. Morneau seems to be the necessary plaster to hold the mosaic of characters that makes up this cabinet together. Morneau said himself that when everyone is talking about spending, he will be the one asking how much everything costs, a sober second thought usually lacking from Liberal cabinets. If Morneau can manage this cabinet as well as he has managed his company, this shouldn’t be an issue. But the question remains: do we want his management?

Serving as CEO since 1998, it is clear that Morneau is both extremely experienced in finance, and also probably has a lot of money.  This places his own wealth in the crosshairs, as one of Trudeau’s most significant and convincing campaign promises was that of raising the taxes on Canada’s richest tax bracket—-while lowering taxes on the middle class. However, this won’t be a problem for Morneau, as once you get as rich as he is, income is not your main source of monetary. Oh, I guess I also forgot to mention he is married to Nancy Mccain, of Mccain foods, the world’s largest producer of French fries, and other frozen foods. This privately owned company, which the Mccain’s hold the majority of shares in, has a revenue of more than 6.5 billion dollars. This enormous amount of money raises fears that Morneau may not raise the corporate tax rate in face of an overwhelming deficit down the line, or close specific tax loopholes that may affect his family’s multinational company.

Morneau’s conflict of interest will become especially pertinent in the upcoming battle over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP was written in secret with the public unable to view it.  Meanwhile, 80% of negotiators and those who had access were lobbyists for various colossal corporate conglomerates. These lobbyists got to write the specific clauses that filled this document, the most expansive trade deal in humanity’s history. The TPP covers everything from the Internet, the Dairy Industry, the Auto Sector, healthcare, to even frozen foods, with terrible ramifications in all of these facets. The TPP was made to empower corporations just like McCain Foods, while taking power away from governments and small businesses. You see the conflict of interest? As time marches on, we must acknowledge that  Morneau may not be the agent of real change that Canada’s economy needs to combat growing inequality. In the words of Michael J Fox, “Family is not important. It’s everything.” Lets just hope Morneau doesn’t agree.

Independent of whatever the theoretical consequences of the TPP’s wide ranging clauses are, the fact that the public only learned about these different sections through Wikileaks instead of our own government is evidence enough that something is wrong. Worse, now with the entire document released, it seems that there is nothing that Canada gains, and many things Canada loses. Unifor, the Canadian Auto Industry union, predicted that 20,000 jobs would be lost as a result. The research chair of medicine research at the University of Alberta, Christopher McCabe said “the TPP will raise the long term pharma bill for health care systems not just in Canada but for all of the countries that are going to be signatories to this agreement.” And Doctors Without Borders describing that the TPP “limits competition from generic drug manufacturers that reduce drug prices and improve access to treatment, and would accelerate already soaring medicine and vaccine prices.”

The evidence is overwhelming that the TPP will have negative effects on Canada, just as NAFTA did, with Canada being the most sued country in the treaty. Under NAFTA “Canada has lost or settled six claims paying a total of $170 million in damages, while Mexico has lost five cases and paid out $204 million. The U.S. meanwhile, has won 11 cases and has never lost a NAFTA investor-state case.” These suits include the Canadian government banning a neurotoxin used in car’s diagnostic systems, causing them to be sued by the Ethyl Corporation, the US chemical company that makes it. Another suit was from US-Based Lone Pine Resources Inc, suing Canada for 250$ million over Quebec’s ban on natural gas fracking. Canada is still fighting another 8 cases that amount to 6 billion in damages, all of them brought by US companies.

And the TPP is even worse than NAFTA. The TPP isn’t pro-free trade, its pro-corporate monopoly, allowing large companies that are already established to have incredibly increased control on the countries they interact with. This limits, if not destroys, new competition. Corporations will have the right to sue governments over their passage of specific laws that may inhibit a corporation’s profits. This will be specifically damaging in any new environmental regulations that Trudeau “supports”. Governments will be pushed to inaction on climate change due to fear of corporate lawsuits.

Again, Trudeau when faced with the TPP displayed his usual response when a tough issue is presented. Trudeau described his stance on the TPP vaguely, explaining that he supports free trade, and therefore the TPP, but has some hesitations about it being negotiated in secret and will review aspects of it in the coming months. Once more Trudeau, when presented with a challenging topic, used those talents he perfected as a drama teacher, using rhetoric to deflect and distract the public from the real issues and his stances on them.

Appointing “Canada’s Cabinet” and legalizing marijuana is not enough to appease me, Trudeau. You said you were bringing Real Change. Real change is protecting the environment for future generations, reigning in the growing military-industrial complex, and providing oversight for intelligence agencies. Real change is strengthening Canada, not corporations.

Family is everything, Trudeau. As prime minister, your family is now all of us (Canadians). Start acting like it.

“The life of a state cannot, any more than the lives of individuals, be conditioned by the force and the will of a unit, however powerful, but by the consensus of a group.” -Lester B. Pearson.

Justin Trudeau