She is one of Canada's newest cabinet ministers, but MP Carla Qualtrough says serving Delta will always be her main job.
"Delta is my number one priority," she said over the phone from Ottawa yesterday morning,
one day after being sworn in as minister of sport and persons with disabilities.
Qualtrough said she met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week and was told she was being considered for a cabinet posting but it
wasn't until the night before the swearing in ceremony that she got the news she would become minister for two departments that encompass two of her passions.
Qualtrough, who is legally blind and has worked as a human rights lawyer, is also a former Paralympic swimmer and life-long sports enthusiast. Throughout her career she has worked with various human rights organizations, including the B.C. and Canadian human rights commissions, and chaired the Minister's Council on Employment and Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities.
Qualtrough beat Conservative cabinet minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay by more than 9,000 votes in the Oct. 19 federal election, making her the first Liberal to represent South Delta in Ottawa since 1968.
"It was certainly exciting," she said of her cabinet posting. "It's a dream. I still have to pinch myself."
Wednesday morning, Qualtrough joined Trudeau and 29 other about-to-be cabinet ministers for the walk up to Rideau Hall.
"It was magical," she said of the experience. "It really felt like the country coming alive."
Following the swearing in ceremony, the new government got down to work with its first cabinet meeting.
"There's definite pros [for the community]," Qualtrough said of her new posting.
"Delta has a voice at the cabinet table."
She said she will be able to bring Delta issues and concerns to the forefront during discussions around potential policies, programs and legislation. Being a cabinet minister, however, does come with additional responsibilities that will take her away from the riding, Qualtrough said, adding she is in the process of assembling "a strong team that will take care of people when I'm not there" and setting up offices in both Delta and Ottawa.
She's also figuring out the logistics of being minister of two different departments, she said, with two different teams and a myriad of priorities.
Qualtrough said she hadn't yet received a briefing from staff on the issues and priorities for each department, but she already has some ideas of what she'd like to see happen while in office.
"I would like to see sport used not only as an end... but also as a means," she said, adding that sport could be used when making other policy decisions, such as creating programs for high risk youth.
And the Liberal Party has also committed to establishing a National Disabilities Act aimed at eliminating systemic barriers and ensuring equal opportunities for Canadians living with disabilities.