Trudeau’s gender parity, diversity requirements stop at cabinet door

by Marieke Walsh

The most senior and powerful political staff in Justin Trudeau’s government don’t reflect the diversity of Canada, or meet the same representation requirements that the Prime Minister set for his cabinet.

Since the Liberals formed government in 2015, Mr. Trudeau has made diversity a cornerstone of his political brand. When he unveiled his first cabinet, he declared it one that “looks like Canada.” More than four years into government, the senior staff working for those ministers are still predominantly white and male.

A Globe and Mail analysis shows that of the 37 chiefs of staff, 14 of them are women compared with 23 men, and only four of them are racial minorities.

That compares with 18 out of 37 cabinet ministers who are women and seven who are racial minorities.

Most of the research around diversity in politics focuses on elected representatives rather than their staff, but University of Calgary PhD student Meagan Cloutier collected data on the people working in MPs’ offices, which show that while there are overall more women, they tend to hold the less prestigious positions.

Ms. Cloutier said the limited diversity among the Liberal government’s chiefs of staff is reflective of a trend researchers have dubbed “the higher, the fewer.” The more prestigious and prominent a position is, the fewer women and people of colour are the ones given those roles, she said.

In response to the data, the Prime Minister’s Office said its aim is to identify “high-quality candidates who will help to achieve gender parity and truly reflect Canada’s diversity.”


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