The main event in Canada in the year 2015 was one that potentially touched every citizen: the federal election held on October 19. It not only brought victory to the Liberal party – which gained a majority and governing position – but Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s 184-member Liberal caucus included at least seven Members of Parliament with Ukrainian lineage. Alberta-born Chrystia Freeland beat her rival 27,806 votes to 15,969 in her new riding of University-Rosedale. Joining her in the caucus is Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who returned to Parliament after losing in the previous election (by 26 votes).
While outgoing Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a huge supporter of the Ukrainian government and its fight against Russian-backed rebels, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) said it expects his Liberal successor to take a similar stand. In a meeting on October 13 with the UCC, Mr. Trudeau made it clear that Ukraine will remain a top foreign policy priority for a Liberal government under his leadership.
The Liberals have three Ukrainian Canadian newcomers from Ontario: Julie Dzerowicz reclaimed the long-time Liberal Toronto riding of Davenport by defeating NDP incumbent Andrew Cash. Lawyer Don Rusnak, the son of Ukrainian and Ojibway parents, won for the Liberals in the riding of Thunder Bay-Rainy River. Next door in Manitoba, two Ukrainian Canadians now sit for the Liberals in the House of Commons: Mary Ann Mihychuk is the new MP for the Winnipeg riding of Kildonan-St. Paul, and Terry (Taras) Duguid is now MP for Winnipeg South.
The UCC identified four Ukrainian Canadians who will return to Ottawa to serve in the Official Opposition: James Bezan in Manitoba, Rona Ambrose and Jim Eglinski in Alberta, and Mike Warawa in British Columbia.
Prime Minister Trudeau made good on his election campaign promise to confront “the bully that is Putin” when he met him at the G-20 summit in Turkey. “I pointed out that although Canada has shifted its approach on a broad range of multilateral and international issues, we remain committed to the fact that Russia’s interference in Ukraine must cease,” Mr. Trudeau said. Mr. Putin apparently answered the Canadian prime minister’s “you should go away from Ukraine” with a disdainful “it’s impossible, since we are not there.”
Mr. Trudeau’s tough stance on Mr. Putin received cheers from the Ukrainians. “The Ukrainian Canadian community is pleased that Prime Minister Trudeau has taken a principled position in response to the aggression of the Russian Federation which has invaded and occupied sovereign Ukrainian territory in Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk,” UCC National President Paul Grod said.
During the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau had promised “gender parity” in his Cabinet – an equal number of men and women. The Cabinet includes two female Ukrainian Canadian ministers: high-profile journalist and author Ms. Freeland was tapped to serve as international trade minister and Ms. Mihychuk, a former provincial Cabinet minister from Manitoba, is the new minister of employment, workplace development and labor.
Minister Freeland’s job will be to shepherd the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and the trade deal with the 28-member European Union. Minister Mihychuk will be responsible for negotiating the collective bargaining process with the federal public service. She has significant experience overseeing civil servants, as she served as industry, trade and mines minister during her stint in the Manitoba provincial government.
Another Ukrainian Canadian woman who will play an important role, but in the Conservative opposition, is Ms. Ambrose, who became the interim Conservative leader, when Mr. Harper resigned. Ms. Ambrose held nine Cabinet portfolios in Stephen Harper’s government.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress on October 20 congratulated Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada for the results of the 2015 Canadian federal election. “On behalf of Canada’s 1.3 million Ukrainian Canadian community, I congratulate Mr. Trudeau on his election as prime minister and all the members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons,” stated Mr. Grod. “I look forward to working with Mr. Trudeau and his government, in addressing key issues of importance to the Ukrainian Canadian community.”
For the record, among the Members of Parliament elected in the October 19 elections, more than 10 are of Ukrainian heritage. The 10 confirmed MPs of Ukrainian descent are: Julie Dzerowicz, Liberal (Davenport, Ontario); Chrystia Freeland, Liberal (University-Rosedale, Ontario); Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Liberal (Etobicoke Center, Ontario); Kyle Peterson, Liberal (Newmarket-Aurora, Ontario); Terry (Taras) Duguid, Liberal (Winnipeg South, Manitoba); Mary Ann Mihychuk, Liberal (Kildonan-St. Paul, Manitoba); James Bezan, Conservative (Selkirk-Interlake, Manitoba); Rona Ambrose, Conservative (Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alberta); Jim Eglinski, Conservative (Yellowhead, Alberta); Mark Warawa, Conservative (Langley-Aldergrove, British Columbia).