A Cheer for the Change in Ottawa

It’s been over a month since the federal election. Time is going too quickly and the challenges facing the country are moving faster still. We stayed up almost all night on the 19th to watch the last of the results and were relieved beyond measure. The red tide had moved out of the Maritimes, across Quebec and Ontario, into Manitoba, touching even Calgary and Edmonton, and then into British Columbia. I was sorry to see good NDP incumbents defeated in Toronto and elsewhere, but delighted that, at least on Vancouver Island, the anti-Harper vote manifested itself as an orange surge.

The results were amazing. The Canadian people rallied and sent Stephen Harper packing. And we elected a majority government to boot! What was the final tally? 184 seats for the Liberals, 99 for the Tories, 44 for the NDP, 10 for the Bloc Québécois and 1 for the Greens. It is a definitive majority which now puts pressure on the Liberals to live up to their campaign promises.

The vote was up significantly. More young voters, more First Nations people, more Muslims, voted than ever before. The “Big Shift” suburbs in the GTA and suburban Vancouver changed from blue to red. Even with the defects of a “first past the post” electoral system, the electorate had made its choice. The voters knew that those “Canadian values” we all treasure needed a change of government. Never have I been more proud of our country.

That was a month ago. And the new era has begun. I was thrilled with Prime Minister Trudeau’s choice of Cabinet. Half women, diverse, incredibly accomplished, many very young, a breath of fresh air tempered by older politicians with significant experience. Who better to lead our nation? Our Minister of Justice was a First Nations advocate and a seasoned crown prosecutor. Our Minister of Defence was a Sikh Lieutenant-Colonel in the Reserves and an officer with the Vancouver Police Force, uniquely knowledgeable about intelligence in gang-busting on the Lower Mainland and in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Our Finance Minister is a high-profile business person with unusual policy experience, much admired on Bay Street and among those who know him. Our Minister of Science was part of a team which won a Nobel prize. Our Minister of Health is actually a doctor with extensive clinical and administrative experience in family practice. Our new Minister of Democratic Institutions is a young Afghan immigrant already active in municipal politics. Our Minister of Families is an expert in poverty from Laval University. Our Heritage Minister a media personality. And the list goes on.

The sight of Prime Minister Trudeau and his new cabinet walking to Rideau Hall for their swearing in on November 4th was totally memorable. The blue sky, sunshine and golden autumn leaves seemed symbolic of a new spirit in the country, a spirit of openness, camaraderie and affirmation which charmed even the cynics. For all the solemn oaths, the giggling throat-singers and the jiggers who led the procession from the Grand Hall stole the show. And the press conference outside concluding the event modelled the new openness that the Liberal government promises with the press and the people.

In the few short weeks since that glorious beginning, the new government has more than lived up to its promises. The long-form census is back, the country’s scientists are free to discuss their work, cabinet ministers have mandate letters from the Prime Minister setting out their agendas for all the world to see and are speaking for the government within their areas of responsibility. The Prime Minster has shown himself well able to represent Canada on the world’s stage, and has met with the premiers in a joint effort to restore Canada’s credibility at the Climate Change Summit in Paris next week. Even extending the timeframe for bringing the 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees to Canada has met with general approval, a sign that the new government listens to its constituents and acts on the advice of those with expertise.

Almost everyone I know is delighted with the change in Ottawa. A new generation of politicians has assumed leadership. They have energy, enthusiasm, expertise and idealism. They have what it takes to bring change and make things happen. More power to them. May the honeymoon last as long as possible.

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