Sure, let’s make that a litmus test for office

I don’t think Pablo Rodriguez (L-Honoré-Mercier) or Jean Claude D’Amours (L-Madawaska-Restigouche) have thought about the ramifications of their argument very much.  If at all.

OTTAWA — Tory cabinet minister Vic Toews accused Liberals of insulting all unilingual anglophones Tuesday after two MPs questioned his ability to implement official languages policy without being able to speak French.

The flap erupted as the Treasury Board president was being questioned at a Commons committee about his responsibility for language policy in the federal public service.

“Do you speak French?” inquired Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez. “Don’t you think someone who has responsibility such as yours should be bilingual?”

Mr. Toews — who speaks English and Spanish as well as his first language, German — was incensed.

“I should feel free to be able to speak the official language of my choice and for you to even ask that question is an insult,” he raged.

But Jean-Claude D’Amours, another Liberal MP, pursued the matter.

“It seems to me that when we talk about official languages and bilingualism in Canada, you should be a bilingual person to better be able to serve the people,” Mr. D’Amours said. “For you that’s an insult. I think it’s an insult to me that you should be so bold as to make such a comment.”

Mr. Toews then accused the Liberals of suggesting unilingual Canadians are second-class citizens.

“For some reason, I’m less of a Canadian, I’m less entitled to hold public office because I only speak one of the official languages,” he fumed.

“For you to come here and insult me in that way is quite a disgrace. I thought we had gotten beyond that kind of a situation.”

— Joan Bryden.  “Toews accuses Liberals of insulting unilingual anglophones“, Canadian Press (via the
Globe & Mail), May 5th, 2009.

By all means, let’s make an MP’s personal skills and experience a litmus test for their prospective  Cabinet responsibilities.  Hell, it ought to be applied to the opposition shadow cabinet, too.

So the Minister of National Defence should be a soldier, sailor or airman.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs should be a former soldier, sailor or airman.

The Minister of Public Safety should be a police or corrections officer.

The Minister of Transport should be a pilot, trucker or merchant seaman.

The Minister of Agriculture should be a farmer.

The Minister of Indian Affairs should be, well, an Indian.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration should be a naturalised citizen.

The Minister of Industry, Science and Technology should be a scientist.

And so on.

On the face of it, you realise it’s absolute rubbish, and those two Liberal MPs should be horsewhipped and laughed out of office.

On the other hand, a Cabinet with fewer lifelong lawyers and lots of ordinary tradesmen does have a certain populist appeal.  The odds of them coming up with jackassed ideas is (theoretically) less likely, as they haven’t spent a lifetime avoiding real work and real-life consequences.


  • The Hon. Gilles Lamontagne was the last Minister of National Defence (1980-1983) and Minister of Veterans Affairs (acting, 1980-1981) who actually spent time in uniform.  UPDATE:  As Damian points out in the comments, the Hon. Gordon O’Connor was the last MND (2006-2007) with time in uniform.
  • The post of Minister of Public Safety (and its predecessor, Solicitor General) has, overwhelmingly, been filled by lawyers.
  • The Minister of Justice has always been a lawyer.
  • The only Minister of Transport who had relevant career experience was the very first one, C.D. Howe (1936-1940).  He was a professor of civil engineering and actually constructed a commercial pier at Port Arthur, ON.
  • The Hon. John Wise was the last farmer to serve as Minister of Agriculture.  He did it twice, in the cabinets of both Joe Clark (1979-1980) and Brian Mulroney (1984-1988).
  • A “status” Indian has never been appointed Minister of Indian Affairs (nor its predecessor, Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs).
  • The Hon. Joe Volpe was the last foreign-born Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (2005-2006).
  • No scientist has ever served as Minister of Industry, Science and Technology.
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2 Responses
  1. Damian says:

    Gordon O’Connor?

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    LOL. Geez, how did I forget that. Thanks.