OTTAWA (Reuters) - Liberal leader Justin Trudeau named a young, ethnically diverse and gender-equal Cabinet on Wednesday as he was sworn into office as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, marking the end of nearly a decade of Conservative rule.
Trudeau, 43, kicked off his majority government with some controversy with his decision to name an equal number of men and women to a slimmed-down Cabinet, the first time gender parity has been achieved in Canada’s team of ministers.
The Cabinet, 30 ministers plus Trudeau, included rookie politician and corporate executive Bill Morneau as finance minister and former Liberal leader Stephane Dion as foreign minister, a split between the old and the new reflected throughout the team.
“It’s an incredible pleasure for me to be before you here today to present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada,” Trudeau told reporters after he was sworn in with his team, which includes immigrants, aboriginals, religious minorities, a quadriplegic and 15 women.
Trudeau, the first son of a prime minister to take office in Canada and the second-youngest in the country’s history, has grabbed international attention for his good looks and retail approach to politics.
Asked why he felt gender equality in the Cabinet was important, Trudeau said simply: “Because it is 2015.”
Trudeau will have Parliament meet from Dec. 3 to Dec. 11 and intends to push through, in time for the New Year, a tax cut for the middle class and a tax hike on top earners, senior minister Dominic LeBlanc said.
Refugee Minister John McCallum said it remained the government’s firm intention to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year-end.
The ceremony officially ended nearly decade of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper.
Cheering crowds, estimated at 4,000, lined the approach to the Governor General’s residence where the swearing-in ceremony took place as Trudeau threw open the venue to the public. He had promised sunny ways during the campaign and the weather cooperated for the event.
He was accompanied by his wife and their three young children as well as his mother, Margaret Trudeau, who gave birth to Trudeau and his two brothers while his father Pierre Trudeau was prime minister.
The appointments of Morneau and Dion to two top portfolios was seen reassuring corporate Canada and international partners, given Dion’s deep experience and Morneau’s business background.
Morneau, 53, is a former corporate executive who also headed a major public policy think tank. He was elected to Parliament for the first time in the Oct. 19 election that brought Trudeau’s Liberals to power.
The Cabinet also included Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, a Sikh immigrant from India, military veteran and former police officer.
But with much of the Cabinet new to politics, some said Trudeau risks opening the government up to rookie mistakes that could detract from his agenda.
“It seems as though the balance is tipped towards youth as opposed grizzled veterans, but to have a few there I think is important and helpful,” said Gerald Baier, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia.
With additional reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa and Alastair Sharp and Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by W Simon and Alan Crosby