John Ivison: For a day, Trudeau’s positive symbolism was an antidote to austere Harper years

When emerged from Rideau Hall as ’s 23rd prime minister, the atmosphere was providential and full of possibility.

Trees blazed in the unseasonably warm November sun; babies ran to their father’s arms, as if on a photographer’s cue; supporters grabbed selfies with the new prime minister as he performed an impromptu walkabout, scaring the bejabbers out of his RCMP detail.

Most of all, Canada’s blessing — the peaceful transfer of power — made the bitter partisanship of the recent campaign seem light years away.

The carnival mood that began when Trudeau strode toward Rideau Hall like a conquering Roman general extended until he shook the last hand and kissed the last baby of the 3,500 or so Canadians who had stood waiting patiently all day.

It almost overwhelmed the senses — like the moment Dorothy entered Technicolour in the Wizard of Oz.

For a day, even the sceptics — ahem — were forced to admit the positive symbolism was a powerful antidote to the severe, austere Harper years.

After his new 30-member was sworn in, Trudeau emerged to laud his “strong, diverse and experienced team” that includes an equal number of men and women for the first time. “It’s a that looks like Canada,” he said.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldPrime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau and his family walk past crowds to Rideau Hall for Trudeau to be sworn in a prime minister Wednesday Nov.4, 2015 in Ottawa.

The new Liberal government — which will bring Parliament back Dec. 3, with a Speech from the Throne the following day — will work to restore the trust of Canadians in their government. “Openness and transparency will be our constant companions,” he said.

He outlined the priorities for his government — “real action” on climate change; a “renewed nation-to-nation relationship” with indigenous people; fulfilling the “sacred obligation” to veterans; and, building an immigration system “grounded in both compassion and economic opportunity.”

The new government will “bring Canadians together.” It will certainly bring its ministers together. Often. A bewildering number of cabinet committees will be struck to ensure there is sufficient discussion on areas from “diversity and inclusion” to Canada’s position in the world; from openness and transparency in government to environment and climate change.

“Government by cabinet is back,” said Trudeau. We’ll find out in due course that’s oxymoronic and decisions are talked to death in committee.

While there was an equal gender split in ministerial numbers, the most important of these committees — agenda and results — will be dominated by seven men, compared to four women.

Stephen Harper used this committee — then known as Priorities and Planning — as his cabinet, turning to it for policy and political advice.

As former Harper advisor Bruce Carson notes, some minister are more equal than others — and those who sit around this table (Ralph Goodale, Bill Morneau, Navdeep Bains, Dominic LeBlanc, Jean-Yves Duclos, Harjit Singh Sajjan, Judy Wilson-Raybould, Judy Foote, Chrystia Freeland and Mélanie Joly)  — will likely act as the new prime minister’s inner circle.

Yet gender equality is a reality in numerical terms and it is already clear that pound for pound this cabinet is more accomplished than its immediate Conservative predecessor.

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There are some fascinating personal stories among the group of 30 people who are unknown to most of us but are now running our country. As they were called up to take the oaths of office and allegiance, I remembered hearing the personal stories of then-candidates Harjit Singh Sajjan, Bill Morneau, Jim Carr, Kent Hehr and Bardish Chagger as I spent time with them during the election:

Sajjan helped reduce the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar province using techniques he learned combating gang violence as a Vancouver Police Department officer; Hehr struggled to get his life back on track after being left paralyzed by a drive-by shooting; Carr was an oboist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

This is a body of men and women of some considerable achievement in their pre-political life, which is obviously no guarantee of success in the continuation of war by other means that is parliamentary life.

But it augurs well that politics can still attract people of substance.

They will need all the experience and skills they possess when they wake up Thursday and quickly discover that they’re not in Kansas anymore.

National Post

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