If you believe history repeats itself, you shouldn’t be surprised that the first federal cabinet minister to represent Burlington has been assigned to reforming the electoral system.
Karina Gould, 29, was named Minister of Democratic Institutions, Jan. 10, just two days after greeting constituents during a New Year’s Levee at the Burlington Art Gallery.
She becomes the youngest woman ever to serve in the cabinet.
The appointment by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau increases the rookie MP’s workload, notably in finding an alternative to the first-past-the post system of voting. The Prime Minister has indicated he favors more proportional representation in the House of Commons.
Gould said she will be busy reviewing the work done last year by the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, before making a decision, but has no immediate plans to hire extra staff.
“The city will be served just as well as before,” she said. “I have an excellent office staff in Burlington. I don’t see this affecting my constituents at all. In fact, I think it is really positive for the city.”
Gould’s salary soars from $170,400, basic compensation for an MP, to $251,900, when a cabinet minister’s remuneration of $81,500 is added on.
Ironically Mary Ellen Smith, the first female to serve in a cabinet in the British Empire, played a major role in the effort to give women the right to vote in British Columbia. B.C., alone, put the question to a referendum in the provincial election of 1916 and males endorsed it overwhelmingly.
Smith later ran for a seat in the legislature and was appointed to the cabinet of Premier John Oliver in 1921.
Serving as a Minister without Portfolio, Smith lasted just eight months. She resigned, claiming that having no portfolio was akin to being a lame duck.
Although Gould is the first federal cabinet minister Burlington has ever had, she is not its youngest MP ever.
That distinction goes to the late Sandy Best, who was elected MP for the riding of Halton 60 years ago at the age of just 25. He was the son of Charles Best, the American-born, turned-Canadian, scientist, who co-discovered insulin with Dr. Frederick Banting.
Tory Prime Minister John Diefenbaker took over the reins of the country in 1957, ending 22 years of Liberal rule.
Pierre-Luc Dusseault became the youngest MP in history when he was elected for the NDP in the Quebec riding of Sherbrooke in 2011 at the age of just 19.