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Rookie MP Karina Gould to take over troubled democratic reform file

Karina Gould is sworn in as Minister of Democratic Institutions during a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is still committed to "renewing" Canada's voting system, as he named another rookie minister to take over the troubled democratic reform file in Tuesday's cabinet shake-up.

Karina Gould, a 29-year-old MP from Burlington, Ont., and now the youngest member of cabinet, will take over as Minister of Democratic Institutions from Maryam Monsef, who becomes Minister of Status of Women after a controversial tenure that cast into doubt the Liberals' election promise to change Canada's voting system by 2019.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau evaded questions about his decision to replace Ms. Monsef and remained vague about his pledge to overhaul the voting system.

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"I continue to be committed towards renewing our electoral system. There's no question about that, and I look forward to having Karina continue on the extraordinary work that Maryam did over the past year of reaching out to Canadians, engaging with them and talking about how best to improve our democracy," Mr. Trudeau told reporters after the cabinet shuffle.

"This is something that matters deeply to Canadians, it matters deeply to us and to me, and I'm extremely happy to be able to highlight the great team that we are putting in service of Canadians in this government."

Last month, Ms. Monsef was forced to apologize to the House of Commons after disparaging the work of an all-party parliamentary committee studying electoral reform. She was widely mocked for an online government survey called mydemocracy.ca, which doesn't ask about specific voting systems and assigns personality-like traits to participants.

In his 2015 election platform, Mr. Trudeau promised to replace the first-past-the-post voting system, which allows the party that elects the most MPs to take office, even if that party doesn't win a majority of the votes.

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Ms. Gould, who until Tuesday was parliamentary secretary to International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, has a master's degree in international relations from the University of Oxford and wrote a thesis on electoral reform. She has worked as a trade and investment specialist, and also spent a year in Mexico volunteering at an orphanage.

Burlington MPP and Ontario Tourism Minister Eleanor McMahon, who has known Ms. Gould for several years, described her as thoughtful, capable and high-minded.

"She is a non-partisan person. She is someone who, as a cabinet minister, will reach across the aisle, and will have a unique ability to work closely with her colleagues on all sides of the House," Ms. McMahon said.

"She will certainly bring her own approach to this file. I think the trick is to let her get up to speed, and think about what she wants to do."

In June, Ms. Gould spoke in support of electoral reform in the House of Commons and alluded to "stepping away" from the first-past-the-post system.

"Electoral reform is the next step in this evolution toward a more inclusive system," Ms. Gould said at the time.

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When asked Tuesday about her previous comments, Ms. Gould said she looks forward to getting caught up on the file.

"I really do believe that we can get the best system for Canadians, and understand where we need to go moving forward, and I'm really looking forward to doing that work," she said.

If the Liberal government were to change the voting system, Elections Canada has said the law should be in introduced by early summer, giving Ms. Gould little time to prepare.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Laura Stone is a reporter in The Globe's Ottawa bureau. She joined The Globe in February 2016. Before that, she was an online and TV reporter for Global News in Ottawa. Laura has done stints at the Toronto Star, Postmedia News and the Vancouver Province. More

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