New Federal MP Michael Coteau says you must learn before you can lead

By Lincoln DePradine

Michael Coteau

Michael Coteau, an experienced provincial politician elected to federal office for the first time in September, doesn’t mind sitting on the backbench in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

The Commons, he said, is a “new forum’’, adding that he’s “just looking forward to learning’’.

“I think it’s very important for people to go in and really understand the situation and understand the system, prior to taking a position to just lead like that,’’ said the rookie MP.

Coteau was one of 159 Liberal Party of Canada members elected in federal elections on September 20. He’s MP for Don Valley East.

A former Toronto District School Board trustee, Coteau was elected to the Ontario legislative assembly in 2011on a Liberal ticket.

After a stint as a backbencher, he was drafted into cabinet. He served in the roles of minister of citizenship and immigration; tourism, culture and sports minister; minister of children and youth services; and community and social services minister.

“I’ve been able to serve six years in cabinet,’’ Coteau said last Sunday in an online interview. “These were pretty heavy files.’’

Despite his political experience, Coteau was not named as one of the ministers to serve in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government.

However, Coteau is unfazed. “I think it’s important to go in (to the Commons) and learn before you can lead,’’ said Coteau. “it’s important to understand the lay of the land, it’s important to get your feet wet, to really understand the nuances and dynamics of a new forum like that.’’

The Cabinet, of the prime minister and 38 ministers, is a “diverse team’’ of “an equal number of women and men’’, who will “continue to find real solutions to the challenges that Canadians face, and deliver on a progressive agenda, as we finish the fight against COVID-19 and build a better future for everyone,’’ according to the Liberal government.

The cabinet includes Black Toronto MPs Ahmed Hussen, who is minister of housing, diversity and inclusion; and Marci Ien, minister for women and gender equality and youth.

“This team will finish the fight against COVID‑19, deliver on $10-a-day childcare, help Canadians find a home of their own, tackle the climate crisis, and continue to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Together, we will work tirelessly to build a better future for all Canadians,” said Prime Minister Trudeau.

Coteau, who will be formally sworn in as an MP on Friday, said he’d be prepared to serve in cabinet if ever the opportunity arises.

“Make no mistake, if the prime minister asks me to serve in cabinet, I would stand ready to serve,’’ he said.

Coteau was born in England to a British mother and a father who was from Carriacou, which is part of Grenada.

He arrived in Canada at age four and maintains contact with his father who still lives in Toronto, as well as with relatives residing on Carriacou.

“I get to go back there (Carriacou) every couple of years. We still have a big presence there as a family. It’s just a wonderful place to call home and to be able to go back to and learn about the history and the family roots,’’ said Coteau.

“My father lives very close to me and I see him almost every day now. So, being able to sit down with him and listen to his stories is quite fascinating.’’