Cabinet shuffle could shift strategy on electoral reform

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
January 11, 2017 - 5:00am Updated: January 11, 2017 - 6:09pm
Maryam Monsef
Maryam Monsef
Karina Gould
Karina Gould

Most of the attention on yesterday’s federal cabinet shuffle has been on the exit of Stéphane Dion and John McCallum and the rise of Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland, to be sure, is an up and comer, well-qualified to take on her new role as Minister of Foreign Affairs after negotiating a difficult deal with the European Union last fall when she was International Trade Minister.

And the departure of Dion and McCallum, two long-serving veterans, emphasizes Justin Trudeau’s focus on youth.

But the boot given to Maryam Monsef is the move that most interests me. Sure, it’s important how we’re represented in China and what kind of deals we can negotiate with Donald Trump, but the firing of Monsef as Minister of Democratic Institutions hits closest to home.

It could, after all, determine the very system under which we elect our federal governments.

Monsef, you will recall, bungled the recent federal survey that was supposed to gather input as the Liberals wrestle with Trudeau’s promise to get rid of the first-past-the-post system. That survey immediately became something of a national joke.

So Monsef, who at 31 was supposed to be another rising star, is out on her ear and justifiably so… demoted to Minister of Status of Women.

Taking her place on the electoral reform file is Karina Gould, even younger than Monsef, at 29. She, too, is a rookie MP, one few Canadians knew anything about before Tuesday.

But maybe Gould can get things back on track on electoral reform. Maybe she can convince Trudeau that such an issue — one that will alter our democracy — can’t be left to committees and surveys, but must go to a national referendum.

The prime minister has his younger cabinet; he’s maintained the gender balance; he’s strengthened his hand with Trump. Now, maybe, he’ll see the light on how to go about electoral reform.

Mel Rothenburger blogs at and can be contacted at [email protected].

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