When Justin Trudeau took office just over a year ago, he made history by appointing a cabinet made up of an equal number of men and women. And he wanted everyone to know.
While the initiative—which Trudeau claimed was “because it’s 2015”—was presented as one of altruism, it was actually all about politics.
Now, under documents obtained through Access to Information, I know that the incoming prime minister’s office even let politics take over the swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall.
Two days before the ceremony, one individual whose name and title has been redacted, emailed the team coordinating the swearing in, saying,
“Just want to confirm that we are still alternating between male and female cabinet ministers to emphasize the gender parity of the Cabinet.”
This is a stark departure from how order is typically determined—existing Privy Council members taking them in a group, then new Privy Council members, because the oath requirements are different. Ministers are typically sworn in by order of precedence depending on their portfolio—not their sex.
It looks from the emails as though the incoming PMO couldn’t even make up its mind until the last minute, prompting one Privy Council staffer to write, “I’m not convinced that it matters……… (At this pt)” (sic) to a couple of colleagues.
It wasn’t until after 9:00pm two days before the ceremony when final confirmation was given that the “current intention from senior PMO is to alternate by gender."
The implications of this were that media messaging on how people would be sworn in had to be left deliberately vague—because no one knew otherwise what to tell inquiring reporters.