The 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau was sworn in Wednesday morning, ushering in a new Canadian government with some significant changes.
Prime Minister Trudeau walked towards Rideau Hall together with his family and cabinet members in tow, a historic sight for the swearing-in ceremony where cabinet members have often showed up in private cars.
Trudeau honoured his commitment to gender parity, as 15 women were appointed as ministers in the 31-member federal cabinet.
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by former prime ministers Jean Chretien and John Turner, two former Governors General, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.
Earlier on Wednesday, outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially resigned as the 22nd prime minister, confirmed in a statement from a spokesperson for Governor General David Johnston
The new cabinet boasts a mix of experience and promise, with 21 rookie ministers taking the oath, 18 of whom were elected as MPs for the first time in the 2015 federal election.
Notable appointments include new Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who has extensive experience and education in finance and the economy, is the former chief executive officer of the Morneau Shepell Inc. pension consulting firm.
The appointment is being touted as a sign that the Trudeau administration is seeking Bay Street acumen rather than political experience in their fiscal plan to run a 3-year deficit to make significant investments in the middle class.
Six other MPs from the Greater Toronto Area make up the new front bench, including Jane Philpott (Markham-Stouffville) taking over as minister of health, Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale) as the new minister of international trade, and Navdeep Singh Bains (Mississauga-Malton) as minister of innovation, science and economic development.
Meanwhile, incoming minister of justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould is the former regional chief for British Columbia on the Assembly of First Nations and a former Crown prosecutor.
Wilson-Raybould is the first indigenous woman to hold the office, and will play a key role in the Liberal party’s promised national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
MP for Vancouver-South Harjit Sajjan was appointed new minister of national defence, with experience as Canada’s first Sikh commander in the Canadian Armed Forces and combat veteran who has served in Bosnia-Herzegovina and three times in Afghanistan.
Trudeau also appointed the country’s first Muslim cabinet member in the Afghan-born Maryam Monsef, the new minister of democratic institutions. She will be tasked with overseeing reform of Canada’s electoral system as Trudeau promised to abolish the first-past-the-post electoral system.
In an unusual move, the new Prime Minister will also be taking on the portfolio of youth and intergovernmental affairs.
Some notable changes were made to cabinet portfolios, with the title of minister of immigration and citizenship being upgraded to include refugees.
Trudeau promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of next year, a task that new minister John McCallum will be working hard to achieve in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, with the appointment of a minister for indigenous and northern affairs, the new government marks a shift from the traditional use of the word “aboriginal” to better represent all of Canada’s first peoples.
Also updated is the title of portfolio of environment which now includes the term ‘climate change’, a move that heralds Trudeau’s commitment to action on climate change ahead of the upcoming summit in Paris.
The new minister of environment and climate change is Catherine McKenna, who will also be part of the committee on environment and climate change headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion.
Addressing the public
After the ceremony, the new Prime Minister addressed reporters and about 3,500 members of the public outside Rideau Hall saying he was proud to “present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada.”
It was a defining moment for the new government, after years of shutting the press out of official cabinet proceedings, to allow more access. Transparency was a big promise made by Trudeau’s Liberal party during the election campaign.
In a prepared statement posted to the Prime Minister’s website, Trudeau touted his team’s diversity, gender equality and experience.
“Canada is strong not in spite of its diversity, but because of it, and we are committed to bringing new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa,” said Trudeau.
“Most importantly, we will be a government that governs for all Canadians and brings Canadians together.”
Trudeau said that all of the people who were elected, even those who did not get a cabinet appointment, will be permitted to be strong voices for their communities and will represent a diversity of opinions.
When asked by reporters why he insisted on a cabinet with an equal number of men and women, Mr. Trudeau replied: “Because it’s 2015.”
He promised to collaborate with the provinces, rebuild relations with indigenous Canadians, and run an open, ethical and transparent government.
The newly-appointed ministers went on to participate in the first official Cabinet meeting for the Trudeau government and participated in a media scrum following the meeting.