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Medisina at Politika by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan  

“Because it’s 2015” = diversity practiced as preached

by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan

The Prime Minister’s reply, “Because it’s 2015,” to a female reporter’s question, “Why is having a gender-balanced cabinet important to you?” is elegant in its simplicity and conveys a sublime meaning. Crafted in just three words, it not only reflects his deep personal belief in the societal significance of diversity in the success of our country as a just and prosperous society, but also manifests the importance of putting into practice what one preaches. It lends integrity to national leadership, which augurs well for a real salutary change in federal governance.

Moreover, the reply shows the Prime Minister’s deep sense of history and abiding faith in diversity as a Canadian gem as well as his good sense of humour – a most desirable trait we all would like to have. While another woman journalist in an op-ed did not take the reply kindly and took a critical view of it – and this columnist respects the journalist’s right to express that opinion – I must note that the newly installed cabinet with identical number of women and men cheerfully welcomed it.

I would also note that the gender-equal and multicultural cabinet, which includes ministers with disabilities, means a “target” – not a “quota, as wrongly suggested by a handful – has been achieved in cabinet-making. In fact, it was decisively achieved, I must observe, because the Prime Minister’s leadership is palpably vision-and-value-driven and rooted in civic mindedness, community volunteer work and real life experiences with our youth, First Nations, immigrant and other vulnerable groups. It was also achieved because a diverse pool of demographics with extraordinary talents, skills, experiences, and, yes, emotional intelligence, abounds in the elected Liberal parliamentary caucus. Truly extraordinary as one readily discerns from the resumes of ministers at the new cabinet table – political veterans and neophytes alike – their love of hard work, their determination and considerable accomplishments, and their passionate commitment to the core values of liberalism.

Indeed, the cabinet appointments reflect inclusiveness and rekindle the vibrancy of the equality provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They serve as an invitation to all Canadians and levels of government for participatory engagement. This is a welcome change to national decision-making, which needs to take into account the diverse aspirations of our citizenry and the competing priorities of our regions as their voices are heard in parliament. Author Anne Kingston’s observation – “the 31-member cabinet appears to signal a recalibration of power” – is aptly insightful.

Some of the strikingly new directions the new federal government has already shown early in its mandate include: openness and transparency with the media (and, thereby, with the citizenry at –large); participatory engagement of provincial and territorial governments, the opposition parties, and other key stakeholders (and, thereby, a collaborative and non-partisan approach with First Ministers and other key stakeholders to finding solutions to vital national and global issues); and government by cabinet (and thereby authoritative, not authoritarian, governance).

Truly, “Because it’s 2015” is much more than an adverb clause reply crafted in the abstract. It is a poetic portrayal of putting into practice the Prime Minister’s abiding faith in “diversity as Canada’s greatest success story” – a deeply personal credo revealed in his book, Common Ground. This, to this columnist, is the sublime message for all Canadians – a message that touches for sure the hearts and minds of immigrants and new citizens, as I am confident it touches the consciousness of all and of future generations.

Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan, P.C., an immigrant from the Philippines, a retired lung specialist and Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine. He served as a member of parliament from 1988 to 2004 during which he served, among other assignments, as Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chretien and as senior federal minister for Manitoba.

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