Society

Meritocracy Is a Lie

The system is rigged

by
• 1,333 words

Emoji by Apple
Racially diverse emojis by Apple.

Canada’s newest prime minister, ultra-handsome Justin Trudeau, son of that other politician everyone loved a lot, announced his cabinet would be 50 percent women. Today, fifteen women were indeed named as ministers. This has made a lot of people freak out, including the editor-in-chief of The Walrus, Jonathan Kay.

During a contentious panel on The National this past Sunday night, Kay said he opposed the idea of a quota, despite the fact that women make up half the population, and argued that positions in cabinet should be awarded based on merit. In response, Buzzfeed Canada senior writer Scaachi Koul pointed out that affirmative action-style policies such as the 50 percent pledge introduced by Trudeau are only needed because the existing system, “meritocratic” or otherwise, continues to fail to accommodate a wider range of diversity of representation on its own.

If we really want to get technical, it’s important to acknowledge that notions of merit have never stopped previous governments from determining the make-up of their cabinets based on a variety of criteria. As Vice Canada parliamentary reporter Justin Ling has pointed out, “regionalism, parliamentary experience, who they endorsed for leader, [and] which MP they beat” are all considered valid reasons for the job, and gender is not. In effect, quotas meant to be fair representations of a variety of different Canadian constituencies have been around for almost fifty years.

We can go a step further and look at some cabinet appointments that seemed to be made in spite of a yawning lack of merit, such as two climate change deniers (Peter Kent and Leona Aglukkaq) as environment minister, men in charge of women’s issues (Lloyd Axworthy), non-veterans withholding benefits while tasked with Veterans Affairs (Julian Fantino), and the legion of non-Aboriginal people screwing up the Department of Indian Affairs.

As Maclean’s political editor Paul Wells points out, the precise definition of the term “merit” is debatable. You can have a brilliant person, but if they’re a “pure son of a bitch,” where do they fit?

How leaders connect and get along with their appointed colleagues is, of course, very important. But if you’re constantly hiring friends or friends of friends from a small pool of people who look like you and come from similar backgrounds, then you’re choosing from an increasingly shallow and unrepresentative pool. You’ll play the same sports, perhaps never noticing how many of you are white, upper middle class, and male.

This whole debate is infuriating because the issue of meritocracy only seems to come up when the capital-e Establishment, mostly a population of well-connected white men, find themselves suddenly at the slightest risk of losing their historical stranglehold on power.

In the 2011 election, which saw a significant number of new MPs swept into office in Quebec, all sorts of young MPs were questioned about their strength of character and ability to perform their new duties. As we now know, what happened in the following four years was that women like Ruth-Ellen Brosseau, once dismissed with the nickname “Vegas Girl,” rose to the challenge. (Before moving to Ottawa, she worked three jobs and was raising a young son on her own.) Many of her millennial colleagues also became “solid MPs.” Ironically, it was Established members of the Conservative Party, including Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright, that were questioned repeatedly on the merits of their actions.

Yesterday, Kay introduced a new angle to this simmering debate, arguing that social class is the “most profound schism of Canadian society.” But here’s the thing: women and people of colour, including Canada’s Aboriginal population, are more likely to experience being part of a lower class than white men. We know this from information gathered by Statistics Canada. Having more women and people of colour involved, be it in politics, business, art, activism or journalism, means you have a higher likelihood of encountering people with experiences of either being lower class or treated as lower class. Perspective is a powerful thing, especially in the halls of power, where it appears to have been historically in very short supply.

Many of the cultural signifiers Kay references in his essay—orthodontics, golf or tennis lessons, backpacking through Europe, someone else helping pay a mortgage—are far less common among communities of colour, especially the families of recent immigrants. The money just isn’t there for these things, often because the adults are discriminated for their names, accents, foreign experience, simply their “otherness” or a combination of things.

Furthermore, the examples Kay uses of people “on the margins”—such as veterans, survivors of abusive relationships, and former residents of public housing—historically have not had any incentive for revealing or talking about their painful experiences. For decades, our society has repeated the lie that industries of politics, law, finance, and journalism were tough-but-meritocratic places where rookies were to work hard and not complain if they wanted to rise through the ranks. If you wanted to cry, you did it in the bathroom, at home or in your car. For a long time, the predominant attitude was: Focus on your job, don’t bring other stuff into the workplace, everyone goes through this, so suck it up.

It’s therefore not a coincidence that Kay hasn’t encountered many of these people in his professional career, while politicians and media almost only do so through survey data or think-tank reports. For many, going through these kinds of traumatic, difficult experiences weakens your ability to continually persevere, to believe in yourself, to believe you have a spot despite constantly feeling like you don’t. For many women and people of colour, the endless fight isn’t worth it. They quit before rising to the ranks of editor, manager, partner, designated candidate or MP. In this sense, a “meritocratic” bias simply increases the likelihood that those who rise to the top will be the same people who started out from closest to the top in the first place, as they have the least to lose and the least to overcome.

The problem with Kay’s argument is how it ignores the fact that women and people of colour often experience a multitude of problems in addition to class. A black person, no matter how rich, famous or adept at golf, can never escape the racial profiling that comes with being black. A Chinese-Canadian woman, no matter how educated, “well-spoken,” and successful will never stop being asked where she is really from.

Ultimately, Trudeau’s new policy for his cabinet will be most profoundly felt by men who look like Andrew Coyne, John Ivison, and Jonathan Kay. And this is a great thing! But as Globe and Mail columnist Denise Balkissoon writes, it is only the first step to representing the country’s diversity. The large shift in the number of visible minorities and residents of First Nations groups who were elected as MPs is a positive, encouraging change and their significant presence in Trudeau’s cabinet is nothing less than extraordinary. But real representation of this country also includes people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community. *

It is true that you cannot measure certain kinds of diversity with the naked eye. But that doesn’t mean that Trudeau should be lambasted for trying to increase one of the kinds that you can. Frankly, we should all be mad it took this long for a prime minister to call out this problem and suggest a way to fix in the first place.

* Update: It should be noted that Kent Hehr, Carla Qualtrough, and Scott Brison were also named to Trudeau’s cabinet today. While part of the male contingent, Hehr is quadriplegic and Brison is gay. Qualtrough is visually impaired. Each of them are great examples of Canadians with a disability and who are part of the LGBT community. All three only further illustrate the diversity of Trudeau’s choices.

Karen K. Ho (@karenkho, karenho.ca) is a writer, photographer, and business reporter based in Yellowknife.


  • Katherine Carleton

    Yay! Yay! Yay!

  • canadachick

    But what if you’re hiring friends and friends of friends just because they are diverse? Is that any better? If you are discounting someone’s experience and merit on the basis that they are white males isn’t that exactly what you profess to be fighting against? You cannot cure a disease with another dose of the same damaging medicine. Many Canadians face a multitude of problems – white ones do too. Discounting and discouraging people by telling them they don’t count is not the way to tackle what you perceive as a lack of diversity. Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?

    • jojo

      So suddenly you are concerned about the selection of cabinet ministers being meritocratic? Do you realize how cabinet ministers have been chosen in the past? Basically, they have been the rich, white buddies of the white male Prime Minister. They are sometimes hired based on merit, but usually not. Today was saw an extremely talented and accomplished pool of new cabinet ministers and you are suggesting that because they are not a bunch of old bald white men, their qualifications are somehow suspect?? It’s the exact opposite. Any time you see a group of all white men in power, you need to be suspicious about how they were selected over the countless other talented people who are not white men. Remember, white men are way less than half of the population, yet have wielded a disproportionate amount of control.

      • RKMK

        “Boom”, as they say.

    • MatthewSherrard

      It isn’t, and never has been about telling white people they don’t count. Quite the contrary, it’s about pointing out that other people tend to count less, and that it’s time to fix that with action, not just lipservice.

      It’s also not about discounting the experience and merit of anyone. While it’s conceivable that a quota may result in someone of impressive resume getting ‘passed over’ for cabinet, that’s because parity is seen as a necessity to correct a problem. Cabinet isn’t about rewarding MPs or advancing their careers, it’s about what’s right for Canada.

      Being “colour-blind” or other-blind doesn’t do anything to fix the actual disparities. You just keep coasting along with the same ol’ problems while patting yourself on the back for not seeing them because you’re literally blind to the fact that certain groups of people get the short end of the stick. The solution isn’t blindness, it’s awareness (and self-awareness).

      • canadachick

        I cannot agree. You are basing selection on perceived grievance culture which in itself is damaging. Its unfair in its own right…as unfair as the previous culture of selection by what is referred to at times as rewarding political allies. I do not think either is healthy. I am only stating pitting Canadians against each other is just as wrong and its unfortunate liberals cannot seem to see that. Obviously JT is quite good at popular deceit. But things are as they are. Winners and losers simply change by the hand of the leader. What is fair to one is wrong to another. The current rhetoric supports diversity thus Justin had little choice if he wanted to get elected. People should do well to remember that in giving them these positions they will owe him a lot. We all know which club they belong to. It may not be the old white boys club but it is still an old something club just as powerful as the one just ousted…meet the new boss
        …same as the old boss.

        • jojo

          if you think Justin Trudeau’s selection of cabinet ministers (please, I encourage you to read their bios and qualifications online – they are an impressive bunch) is just same old, same old and can be compared to the cabinets of Harper, Mulroney, etc. then I truly don’t know what to say. Hiring based on talent rather than some creepy pinky swear at a prep school means it is 2015 and the dawn of an interesting and more inclusive era.

          • canadachick

            I notice you didn’t include Chretien, Martin and Trudeau Sr. You lively little libbie lover. Your commie indoctrination is showing. I bet you went to UofT or McGill….? Maybe Waterloo…maybe you’re still there. You think people are inclusive because they are liberal? What does that say about you? What a joke that is. How biased.

          • canadachick

            I would also like to remind you that conservatives put the first Canadian PM female in office …and they currently have a female interim leader. But I’m sure you’ll find some nasty things to say about that.

          • jojo

            Nope – you just have not managed to grasp the core of either the article or the comments on the discussion board. Anyone who wants to run for political office is allowed to do so! Political parties can pick whoever they want as their leader! The population can vote for whoever they want!

            Once the dust has settled and Canadians have elected their MPs, it is then time for the PM to choose a cabinet. Cabinet ministers are selected from among the MPs elected to 338 federal electoral districts. There are all sorts of considerations to take into account when forming a cabinet. In my view, the cabinet ministers should not need to be personal friends with the PM. To me, the strongest cabinet will have people with strong CVs and work experience in the area of their portfolio. So, for example, a medical doctor would be well qualified to be Minister of Health. Did you know that Jane Philpott is the first medical doctor in Canada’s history to be a cabinet minister? Similarly, Harjit Sajjan makes a great Minister of Defence since he has spent his career in the military. The last 3 Ministers of Defence under Harper were career politicians with zero military experience. So to me, Dr. Philpott and Sajjan are evidence of increased meritocracy. It’s qualifications over connections.

          • canadachick

            I agree with both of those picks. Hard not to.

          • jojo

            This debate has nothing to do with partisan politics. All PM’s in all parties have been unskilled at recognizing talent in women and minorities. I’m so happy things are changing and that I have a great job in a traditionally male area based on my CV. My mom worked at a bank in the early 1970s and was not allowed to be promoted. She would train junior males for positions above her and she was simply stuck in the same job and paid less than the males she trained. I am so incredibly grateful that I was born later and did not experience this (at least nowhere close to that extent).

        • MatthewSherrard

          “Perceived grievance culture”? What even?

      • jojo

        The people suddenly complaining about meritocracy also are mistaken in the sense that they seem to think that there is *one* person qualified to do any one job. Many people have the abilities to be cabinet ministers (or bus drivers, or doctors, or professors, etc). This false worry about meritocracy masks a much deeper set of biases and prejudices that is troubling to see in 2015.

        I do wonder how some of these posters see women and minorities. Do they see me in my professional capacity and second-guess my capabilities because I’m a woman? Do they think I’ve somehow stolen a white man’s job? Are we suddenly in 1950?

  • jojo

    Brian Mulroney hired his prep school buddies as cabinet ministers. Harper hired unqualified morons. And now that we have a cabinet filled with qualified people who were carefully chosen, we get a bunch of sulky little dudebros wishing it was 1970 again.

    I have a PhD and have zero sympathy for little whiny men who wish they could earn a salary like mine without putting in the work of excelling at top schools and earning qualifications. Cry it out, babies – this is what a meritocracy looks like.

    • Louie

      I have a bachelor’s degree and have zero sympathy for women with graduate degrees who still make less than I do. I’m simply better at the job I have. I agree with you. Meritocracy is grand.

      • jojo

        But you see, little guy, I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m super duper happy with my 6 figure salary. But wow, am I ever amazed by the whining, bitter little dudebros who somehow think a) they earn more than me and that they deserve it b) they try to minimize or dismiss higher education when they don’t have any c) go on discussion boards about diversity just to be angry little dudes. Have a great day – I know I will!

        • canadachick

          Some how I think you are lying. The chip on your shoulder is too big.

          • jojo

            I find it sad that you seem to think it’s impossible for someone to work hard, achieve excellence in university, and earn a good salary. I spent a lot of years in school but at least for me it was well worth the effort and investment as my field is in demand. I hope you feel you are able to progress in your career of choice as far as you choose to go. It can be really frustrating to feel like you are unappreciated or are just spinning your wheels.

    • FredMacKenzie

      So if you no sympathy for such men, don’t be surprised if they have no sympathy for you.

      It’s really your choice with whom you decide to align yourself. No one will begrudge you that. But there’s plenty of other people who realize allying themselves with certain men can be very beneficial, politically, personally, professionally, etc. White men have done lots of interesting things while exercising their “privilege” in many fields, from biology to computer science. They’ll continue to do so whether you care to have any sympathy with them or not.

      • jojo

        I’m not asking for your sympathy or any little dudebro’s sympathy. I’m not the one whining and crying all over the internet about the supposed lack of meritocracy in Trudeau’s cabinet. (Where were all the dudebro tears when previous PM’s selected their prep school buddies as cabinet ministers??)

        If you are not one of the whiners, then this does not concern you and we thank you for your support and evolved views.

        • jojo

          Based on some of the comments here and flowing around the interwebz over the past few days, I noticed that there is a strange assumption from many angry little white dudebros that women and minorities seem to want sympathy and handouts. We don’t. We want to see a world led by people like us, not by a cabal of old white guys. We ourselves want to be leaders and not be blocked at every turn as has happened in the past (and continues to happen in some contexts). I have never asked for anyone’s sympathy – I have worked my butt of in every job I’ve ever had, I did well in university, racked up 3 degrees, and now I’m doing well in life. The assumption that I’m poor, whiny, unqualified and wandering around the world cap in hand asking for handouts is simply bizarre and rooted in a type of sexism I often forget still exists. It troubles me that this “heroic-white-male-providing-for-the-females-and-non-whites-of-the-world” view seems to have been passed down from the boomers to Gen X.

          In my view, the white guys who feel threatened by diversity have a choice: they can either play a positive role in addressing past problems and improving our country (as Justin Trudeau seems to be trying to do) or they can just be angry, sulky little Mr. Poopy Pants and stay at home listening to their Rush mix tapes.

        • canadachick

          Boy – you really have a chip going on there! And lets wait and see if this cabinet turns out to be any different from any other. The pot hasn’t boiled yet.

          • jojo

            Nope – I just get tired of hearing whining about meritocracy about this new cabinet. Dr. Jane Philpott is the first medical doctor in the history of Canada to hold the position of Minister of Health. So I am puzzled by why her credentials are questioned. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan comes from a long and distinguished career in the military. The last THREE Defence Ministers under Harper had ZERO military experience (Jason Kenney, Rob Nicolson, and Peter MacKay).

            I find it to be a surreal experience to defend some of the most well-qualified and carefully selected cabinet ministers in our country’s history against accusations that there is suddenly a lack of meritocracy because cabinet ministers are not overwhelmingly old white men.

            Let’s see how they do. They may not all turn out to be spectacular, but their hires were generally far more meritocratic than in the past.

    • canadachick

      I have to disagree. If they are anything like Wynne’s people… this entire argument will be moot.

  • Louie

    LOL. The only way this cabinet got picked is because the Prime Minister was the son of another prime minister. Yes, a white man gets to decide. And that’s the most delicious part. You can say all you want about how it’s great that the cabinet is made up the way it is but the reality is it’s still a privileged, white, son of an aristocrat that decides who gets power.

    Keep plugging your false victory because you need the narrative. The less naive of us know the truth.

    • jojo

      Gotta love all the little dudebros who want to go on discussion boards about diversity to be bitter. No one is saying nepotism and privilege are dead. I repeat – no one is saying nepotism and privilege are dead. This is not what the article is about. Here at the adult table, we are saying that small steps were taken yesterday to acknowledge that all talented people qualified to be cabinet ministers are not old white men. Got a problem with acknowledging that? Just cry it out and move on.

      • Louie

        I have no problem with that. I am simply pointing out that this “victory” should feel hollow because the only reason it happened was that a privileged white male decided it so. Trudeau is our George W. Bush and I am on board and happy.

        • jojo

          Absolute nonsense. That’s like saying women gaining the right to vote or racial desegregation were hollow victories because men in power ultimately made the decision. Maybe those are “hollow victories” for you pal, but these actions changed a whole lot of lives forever. Change is incremental and happens in steps. Canada took a big step yesterday.

          • Louie

            They aren’t hollow victories for me. It’s just worth pointing out that the decisions still get to be made by white me.

          • dalecraig

            It’s changing Louie, (for the better) and that is the point. Can’t you at least agree that even though the PM is white, he is trying to make our government more diverse and representative of the population?

          • Lucia Lola

            Agreed. Like our new PM said, it’s 2015.

          • canadachick

            Termites chew up the foundations of a house. How is that change for you?

        • canadachick

          Good comparison Bush=Trudeau…that one didn’t quite dawn on me.

      • canadachick

        Small lies appeal to the small minded.

        • jojo

          Writes like a fortune cookie, brains like a wonton.

    • canadachick

      Salvation a’la mode…and a cup of tea…well said. But let them believe the lie and enjoy it till the reality of what they cannot understand sinks in.

      • jojo

        Your comments on this discussion board have been incoherent. So you don’t like a more inclusive, meritocratic society? You prefer a society in which powerful men hire each other for elite jobs not based on qualifications but based on prep school friendships? Would you prefer we go back to the 1950s when intelligent and talented women and minorities were not able to get jobs they were qualified for simply because of their gender and skin colour? What is it exactly that you are advocating? I truly can’t understand what point you are trying to make. Are you just simply an advocate for mediocre old white bald guys?

        • canadachick

          I never said any of that at all. You are incoherent yourself. You obviously have comprehension trouble. What is your degree in – gender studies? In the 50s there was a different mindset throughout the populace. Society did not encourage females to run for political office or other office – it has taken a long time for women to get where they are today – and many many role models and leaders to open doors…. Like yes- the first female PM – (Conservative by the way) Kim Campbell…some advanced quickly – in academia though mostly. Still, most women did not use what education they had as they were busy raising families. And a lot of women still prefer to put their families before their careers which is why I believe you don’t see equal representation in politics or the board room…. There were and still are exceptions of course. (And you assume I prefer old white bald guys). Of course I would not prefer that. They are and have been socially conditioned to believe that they were and are the main breadwinners. Change does not occur in the blink of an eye. Actually, I prefer the best possible people in government and academia. (Funny its JT’s little wifey who stays home with the kids isn’t it?) Unfortunately the best people can never be agreed upon by all. And often its who you know, or who you are related to….male or female (thinking of Belinda Stronach now). Also conservative, but wait… switched to liberal – then realized that daddy’s business was her best bet after all. Sigh…But it should never be by gender quota. Smart people come in all shapes and sizes!! And that is the only fair way to put it. I prefer women should get to do what they want to do, even sweet Sophie – as long as they are qualified to do it, but not at the expense of a more qualified person just because they are female or minority – because then they are no better than the so called “white men” you so despise. That is my only argument and its unfortunate you can’t seem to understand that logic.

          • jojo

            Nothing I have written is incoherent. There are two assumptions in your argument that you have failed to address in a logical way: 1) that the current cabinet was not selected based on merit. (did you even read the author’s argument about the inherent flaws in the concept of merit? This discussion board is about an article titled ‘Meritocracy is a Lie’. The author makes many good points.) 2) that any previous cabinet ministers were selected based on merit.

            ‘Merit’ is a slippery concept that is easily manipulated. There are many, many people among those elected as Members of Parliament who are qualified to be cabinet ministers. At some point, the selection becomes rather arbitrary among a pool of qualified people. So should we select cabinet ministers based on childhood friendships as many former PMs have done, or should we select them based on the unique perspectives they can contribute? This is the core of the philosophical argument in which you have decided to engage so passionately. You can choose either side, and that’s fine – that is your right. But you will get nowhere by leaning on the extremely flawed concept of ‘merit’. Again, please read the article that this discussion board is about before uncritically trotting out ‘merit’ anymore. It really makes it look like you haven’t read the article or understood the point the author is trying to make. If you have a problem with the author’s critique of ‘merit’, please make the effort to construct an argument in favour of merit using evidence and reason.

          • jojo

            It is Sophie Trudeau’s right to stay home with her kids or work outside the home, or do whatever she damn pleases without ridicule. This freedom is what all men and women should have. I believe everyone should be able to follow the career path and personal journey of their choice.

            I am really grateful that I have been able to pursue and excel at a career that has been traditionally male. I would not have had this opportunity decades ago. But it’s not for everyone. Personally, I don’t want to stay home and raise kids but I value and cherish my friends that do this. I have no judgement at all for people’s life choices. My judgement is reserved for those who judge others and try to tear them down, e.g. those who are suddenly whining about ‘meritocracy’ after a shitstorm of cabinet ministers hired on the basis of which prep school they attended.

          • canadachick

            I agree. I have been too. I never got “picked” for anything because I was a girl. Now, my career is a “traditionally female” one … however, after years of education and personal sacrifice I was able to advance up many ladders. I am not only a woman but I am from a very impoverished background. I overcame a lot of factors that could have kept me behind and could have been used as “excuses”. I don’t judge people because I have been there and made all the mistakes most people do. I am sure all the cabinet ministers are very qualified. And am hoping they will be excellent. I do believe you cannot go back and say oh well the “previous cabinets were not based on merit” That was then and “this is 2015” to quote someone last week. We don’t pick ministers or anything else because of their sexual orientation, religion, colour, creed, etc… lets just pick them because they can do what they say they can do, and perhaps because they might have some experience in the area they have been chosen to represent. Which would make them the best person for the job. Would that not be the fairest way of doing things? I just got upset with you because of your anger at white males, that really bugs me, as if they have been responsible for a societal norm which put them in the drivers seat, and quite possibly they didn’t make the system….this is very discriminatory to them. I have a son so I hate the way a lot of women do this as if to make them pay for the sins of their fathers… that is a little like throwing the baby out with the bathwater! I just believe we can’t get anywhere if we punish people because maybe the past was a little unfair to certain people. It was a different time and different place and that was then but this is now. Also I warn people to not read too much into all of this. It could very well be fancy window dressing. The fact that the PM himself is a “white male” from the core of the Laurentian group of elite politicians in this country ( a club poor Harper could never ascend to if he had tried)..and very “connected” .look who daddy is……with a traditional stay-at-home wife – (good for her- her choice – albeit very traditional…most conservatives who do this are called names in the press)… but even the Globe is currently ecstatic about the Bay street millionaire finance minister while Stephane Dion is happy he gets a role in the new club….which all speaks volumes to me, and should to all of us. Sometimes who is at the helm makes no difference. Integrity is what I want. Sex has nothing to do with that. I just can’t respect a man like Trudeau. He used daddy’s name and connections and his good looks and money – with very little education, very little experience and very little to really offer us…. to get his prize. Most likely many in his cabinet are more qualified to be PM than he is. But the fact of the matter is – the old boys club got him where he is.

          • jojo

            I have no anger at all towards white men! You misread my anger at whiny white guys who feel entitled to things in life. My husband (a white male) shares this frustration that *some* guys (we call them dudebros) seem to think they are owed something in this world and are not willing to work hard. They have chips on their shoulders and insult women and minorities who work their butts off and as a result, do better than them. I earn a very good salary at this point in my career and have had a few dudebros act resentful, as if they deserve to have my career without the qualifications. When someone like Dr. Jane Philpott because a cabinet minister, the whine and talk about merit. Their complaints actually have nothing to do with merit or they would have been screaming bloody murder over many previous cabinets (from both parties). To me, their complaints are about feeling threatened.

            If your son works hard and earns qualifications, he will surely be employable to a boss. I hire white males all the time who are qualified. I also hire a lot of females and minorities. Sometimes my team has more white men than any other group. Sometimes it has more females. It changes based on qualifications and I’m proud to say, my employees have always just looked like Canadians: white, Asian, gay, male, female – whatever. Whoever is good for the job and don’t have a sense of entitlement. I have definitely not hired a few rich and well-connected youngsters who feel like I owe them a job.

            I think you bring up a good point that class issues and connections are still important. I find this to be a problem but a separate issue. I personally am bothered by it because I worked my way up from a working class family, none of whom have attended university. For this reason, I deeply believe in good public education. We should be able to have good public schools so it’s not just private school kids who can get into universities and then get all the good jobs. Justin Trudeau is absolutely uniquely privileged, although there are also many leaders that came “from nothing”, so to speak, so I am optimistic. Examples: Stephen Harper, Obama, Clinton, Jean Chretien, Mulroney, Kim Campbell, etc. One problem is that when women and minorities enter politics, they are criticized way more harshly and have their qualifications questions constantly. This can be demoralizing….so it’s a vicious cycle.

          • jojo

            I disagree with you about Trudeau…the name is actually controversial in Canada. Not everyone liked his father by any stretch. While there was some name recognition, he had to show who he was to voters and craft his own vision. As for using good looks and money – that’s politics! You use what you have to charm people into voting for you. Beyond his looks, he has proposed a very different vision of Canada than Harper. it was that vision that attracted votes, not his looks.

            It was never inevitable that Trudeau would become PM and he started out in 3rd place. He also has Harper to thank – according to members of Harper’s own team, he had become too rigid and dictatorial and made some serious miscalculations in how he handled many things.

  • Nina Halliday-Thompson

    I did not read to whole article… Sure in an ideal world meritocracy is great but are fair country Canada is so far behind equal-opportunity for women. It is so refreshing to witness and see a whole bunch of new faces that worked really hard to get the vote.

    Kudos to PM Justine JP Trudeau for having the guts. All those old-white boys support Justin. For me, it would have been cool if Tom Mulcair had the opportunity to be in opposition but instead we got a lot of angry Conservatives – Mr. Stephen Harper stepping down from the leadership of this party, what is he gonna do, run around with his head cut off promoting what, probably the TPP (Transpacific Partnership) 14 countries involved right now.

    This TPP Agreement is more like a Treaty not really a Free-Trade Agreement).

    Mr. Stephen Harper and his cronies will be assisting The Tea Party (Third Party that supports the Republicans). Remember when Mr. Harper got into office, we likened him to an Evangelical Prime Minister.

    Now, Canadians need to ask: WHO BENEFITS FROM THIS TPP AGREEMENT,?

    Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, interviewed the WikiLeaks fella about this TPP. You can find it on youtube.com.

    It seems that the individuals and multi-national corporations, such as the Donald Trump (right now building a monolithic structure in downtown Vancouver already building one in downtown Toronto) type benefit the most. Under our existing Trade Agreement – G3 – Mexico, USofA and Canada most of our commodities, except our fresh Water, are available to those countries. Canada is obliged to give 6 month notice in the event Canada decided to stop the flow of our oil for example. There was a lot of resentment when Senior Trudeua created a separate Energy Policy for Canada. The resentment really came from the Multi-National Companies. The Americans view Canada as the 51 State.

  • Lucia Lola

    It’s about time my country’s cabinet in parliament reflects what I see around me.

  • Oberyn Martell

    Great article. And wow — one Walrus article actually written by a WOC. I wonder if The Walrus has reached its quota for the year. Perhaps they’ve even surpassed it.

    • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

      wow

      ?

      Mona Awad in January/February; Naheed Mustafa in March—articles in the magazine. This is a blog post. So, yes, “actually” at least two (though it could be more)—way to efface them.

      It’s easier to dispense snark and pretend to be surprised if you’re not paying attention.

      • jojo

        Someone should run the numbers and determine what % of articles published in the magazine vs online are written by minorities (and women, for that matter). I’m willing to hazard a guess that about 1% of print pages in The Walrus are written by minorities.

      • Oberyn Martell

        My God, Paul. Are you seriously saying that because the Walrus published one person of colour in March — SIX ISSUES AGO — or worse, one in January(!) somehow means that the Walrus is bastion of diversity?

        How many whites do you think were published in that time? Since you’re paying such close attention, perhaps you can tell me?

        I thought the Walrus’ quota was one writer of colour per year. It appears to be three.

        For crying out loud, even their “diversity” article was even assigned to a rich white male to write (their editor). It’s an absolute and total disgrace.

  • Audrey Cormier

    Removing discriminatory barriers would be preferable to imposing random quotas.

    Quotas aren’t always random, mind you, like when they’re established to redress longstanding, systemic hiring/promotion bottlenecks caused by discriminatory practices. I’m not sure how often those sort of situations arise, however.

  • Dai_head_jai

    Discrimination is discrimination, whichever way it flows (“Two wrongs don’t make a right” and all that)
    I think Trudeau missed an opportunity to just ignore the easy publicity of saying “I’m appointing women to half of my Cabinet”, and instead simply appoint them without referring to their gender.
    The narrative would’ve become “I appointed them because they are the most capable candidates for the post (and they happened to be women)” instead of “I appointed them because I promised 50% of my cabinet will be women.”

    If I were one of these women, I would want to know that I had been picked for the role because of my intelligence, ability, and character – not because I had two X chromosomes.

    • Lucia Lola

      Well. Looks like we can all go home now. Someone who says if they were someone else with no first hand knowledge of what it is to be that someone else has weighed in on this. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

      • Dai_head_jai

        You seem to have trouble reading.
        I said “If I were one of these cabinet ministers,” which is a huge difference from presuming that I know what they think/feel.

        Given that we’re all just weighing in on this with our own opinions, it seems quite narrow-minded of you to discount other opinions you disagree with. Not very tolerant or civil.

        • jojo

          I think the main point that everyone is trying to make is that a) when have you weighed in with such concern about meritocracy every time a PM hires a prep school buddy? b) when have you ever said “If I was a white male cabinet minister who was just hired by his prep school buddy, I would be concerned that people would think I’m unqualified for the job.” or “If I was the white male Minister of Defense who had never served in the military, I would be concerned people would think I got my job because I was buddies with the PM since I’m clearly not qualified for my job.”

          Now that we have some cabinet ministers that are qualified AND diverse, people like you are suddenly piping up some false concern about ‘meritocracy’. Give me a flippin break. This isn’t about your concerns about meritocracy or you would have been going totally apeshit over the past few cabinets.

          • canadachick

            Yes well Bev Oda thought she had merit and so did the PM obviously …but I disagree.

          • jojo

            I’m happy to end this discussion in agreement with you! :) :) Bev Oda was not a good pick. Not all cabinet ministers are. Harper had a unique knack for picking duds (esp senators!). Time will tell how these cabinet ministers do. On paper they are extremely well-qualified (far more than Oda).

            By the way, Harper is unique in the sense that he did not attend a prep school – he attended an evangelical Christian high school. So obviously, he did not hire prep school buddies like previous PMs (of all parties). To me, this is not a partisan issue. All former PMs were unskilled at recognizing talent in minorities and women and preferred to hire good old boys. It’s nice to see this change and to see the accomplishments of women and minorities recognized in a growing number of realms (business, sport, politics, arts, academic, etc). It’s been a slow process but we are making progress.

        • Lucia Lola

          Discounting opinions would be very intolerant if the opinion proved true. Recognizing an opinion derived from “if I were” stand point is simply seeing it at such. As for civility, I’d say we are both being very civil.

          • Dai_head_jai

            Fair enough. We’ll have to agree to disagree, but hey, sometimes that’s what people do!
            We may not necessarily agree, but I think we both simply want what’s best for the country. I can respect that!

        • Lucia Lola

          Oh, I take back the civil part. Your assumption I have trouble at anything makes you incredible and odd. I have no problem declaring you and I have very different viewpoints on the topic. In fact, I very much encourage you to make more assumptions as it only shores up my stance.

          Have a great weekend.

          • Dai_head_jai

            I must apologize for being a tad testy on that reply.

        • canadachick

          That is a liberal mainstay …if you don’t agree with me – your opinion is crap. Its called intolerance actually, but they never see it that way. Dare you go against the speech police!!

    • jojo

      Well, you are not and never will be a cabinet minister. Have you checked out their CVs? All of them are incredibly talented individuals who have had spectacular lives and careers before entering national level politics. I’m just guessing, but I don’t think any of them has any insecurity about their talents and qualifications.

      • Dai_head_jai

        Never?
        Careful now.. You don’t know anything about me.
        Awfully presumptuous, no?

        Mind you, I’m not saying they’re not accomplished. Just that I would want to know I’m being picked because I am the best (and not for anything else).

        • jojo

          Yes, I’m willing to go on the record saying you will never, ever in this lifetime become a cabinet minister. I’m also willing to wager that you do not have a career in local or national politics and you are not an MP.

          Dude, if I was a cabinet minister since the beginning of the political system in Canada, I would be asking myself: “Gee, did I get this cabinet position because I’m a white, male, prep school / university buddy of the Prime Minister or did I get this job simply because I am supremely talented?”

          If you don’t believe that cabinet ministers in the past were selected based on connections in the old boy’s club, you probably rode a unicorn to work.

          • Dai_head_jai

            Thanks for confirming you’re someone who makes assumptions about people you’ve never met.
            Also, if only MPs or those working in politics are qualified to comment, you’ve also revealed a nasty elitist bent.

            And for making blanket assumptions about ALL cabinet ministers since the beginning of our history. Notably, some cabinet ministers have been women and minorities in the past, easily disproving your point.

            It betrays an ideological bent and ignorance that makes conversation impossible and meaningless.

          • jojo

            *See earlier comment about angry little dudebros who are better off sulking at home listening to their Rush mix tapes.

          • Dai_head_jai

            Your assumptions are failing you again.
            1) I’m not angry
            2) I’m not a “dudebro” (I don’t think it’s possible for me to be either)
            3) Two of my favourite world leaders are women

          • canadachick

            Don’t worry – she is beyond any type of actual education. Her liberal indoctrination is quite strong. Almost to the point of a red guard. The personal attacks come next. And there is nothing wrong with listening to Rush tapes. The problem is that she has never listened to them – which means a one-sided brain… she cannot make a valid choice when one knows nothing about the other point of view. And to a liberal – if you don’t agree with them you have no argument – brain – or rights….We all know that by now.

          • jojo

            Again, zero substance. Just rants. Once again, have you read the article and do you have any concrete comments about it, or do you just have general, unspecific anger? I admire your passion but wish you had concrete, specific, internally consistent views rather than just general pro-conservative comments. What did you think about the author’s arguments about how merit is a flawed category? I learned a lot from the article and found it to be well-written and thought-provoking.

          • canadachick

            Just don’t agree. Merit is everything. The rest is just a trend….as in okay we like gays this week, and aboriginals next week, and people of color tomorrow and girly girls on the 1st of February. If you can’t go by merit why even bother to get educated and push for your dreams?

          • jojo

            Merit means qualifications over personal connections. If this was, say, 1950 it wouldn’t matter how smart or hardworking I was…I would not be able to attend graduate school and would not have the career I have today. The point is, if you live in a meritocratic society, and if you get educated and push for your dreams, you should be able to have a decent career. I have been fortunate to experience meritocracy both in my schooling and in my career (not without some problems I won’t go into now). What would be unmeritocratic is if I was passed over for graduate fellowships and jobs because I wasn’t “one of the boys” or because the boss was afraid I would just “get pregnant”.

            The problem the author of the article points out is that there is an assumption that “merit” is like a science and that it is easy to rank people. In any job, there can be multiple people who are qualified but since white men have been traditionally in charge, they have tended to overlook (whether consciously or subconsciously) women and minorities with the same qualifications as other white men. This bias has even been institutionalized in hiring and promotion practices in the past. I posted elsewhere on this thread about my mom, who worked at a bank in the early 1970s and would train men for positions higher that hers. In that case, the bank probably thought they were hiring based on merit, but they simply wouldn’t consider women for management positions. That’s not actually merit.

            On a side note, if you are considering any higher education, training certificates or anything, I say go for it! There are no guarantees, but more training and qualifications can boost your confidence, really improve your CV, and open up new career options.

          • canadachick

            News flash – men don’t think that way.

    • canadachick

      I totally agree. I am very sure many of them are very qualified. Some more than qualified. But once again….. They were appointed. Why did he not let them vote among themselves – as the conservatives did – Rona Ambrose got elected by her peers as interim leader, now mind you – she does have experience +++ and has held several portfolios – but still. Appointed by the traditional male heir to the throne….and then the media falls all over themselves about how “innovative it was”….God …. I hear you.

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  • https://asledgeandcrowbar.wordpress.com rips into labels

    I guess Jonathan Kay is the reason I’m so often disappointed with The Walrus magazine. Sometimes I yawn my way through it and when that happens, I start back at the beginning and examine what I see. And it’s invariably an unbroken string of articles written by, for and about white men. I suppose that’s Kay’s definition of journalistic merit. But, I’ve renewed my subscription for another term because sometimes there’s balance! Sometimes there are good articles by women. Or about women. Not nearly enough mind you.

  • Gray in Vancouver

    Kay’s piece manages to ignore what we can see before our eyes – that “merit” is, at best the lowest notch in the bar – the minimum requirement. Above that other factors take over, none of which have anything to do with “merit”.

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