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Trudeau's cabinet has diversity, but conservative white men will keep the purse strings

Paul Martin with Bill Morneau

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The announcement of the most diverse and gender-equal cabinet in Canadian history is both wildly overdue and inspiring in and of itself. The fact that counterinsurgency warfare pioneer Andrew Leslie and the racist, civil-liberties-trampling Bill Blair were shut out is equally inspiring.

Seeing that society can be reflected in government is a good thing. It is especially good if it can raise expectations and lead people to demand that government reflect society in other, more significant ways...

...which leads to me to the fact that the two most important positions, Treasury Board and Finance  --  the folks that control what can get funded, when and with how much  --  are a former Tory and a Bay Street boys clubber, respectively.

Scott Brison and Bill Morneau are decidedly status quo choices, continuing the tradition that saw Obama bring in Timothy Geithner and Jean Chretien appoint Paul Martin as finance minister. We all remember how well those appointments went, right?

Finance Minister Bill Morneau went to the University of Western Ontario and the London School of Economics. He is the multi-millionaire founder of a company that provides "human resources services" and manages pension funds for companies and government agencies. (According to SEC filings, his net worth is north of $26 million; his annual salary before he left to run for the Liberals was $1 million.)

From 2010 to 2014, Morneau served as Chair of the C.D. Howe Institute, a nonpartisan, economically conservative think tank that credits itself with having an impact promoting continental "free trade," lower corporate tax rates, and reducing inflation. As Finance Minister, we can expect him to wield nearly as much power as the Prime Minister  --  perhaps more.

Scott Brison ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in 2003. After that party subsequently merged with the Canadian Alliance, Brison crossed the floor to join the Liberals. He is what is called a Blue Grit.

There's a lot of talk about what kind of message this diverse cabinet sends to Canadians about new eras and new ways of doing things.

There's another message that is unspoken, but can also be heard quite clearly: talented young MPs, women and people of colour can be the face of a new Canadian government, but conservative white men will hold onto the purse strings, thank you very much.

Dru Oja Jay is director of Friends of Public Services and Smart Change. He is a co-founder of the Media Co-op, and co-author of Paved with Good Intentions: Canada’s development NGOs from idealism to imperialism.

 

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Image: wikimedia commons

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