Jane Philpott, a member of the Community Mennonite Church in Stouffville, Ont., and the chief of family medicine at Markham-Stouffville Hospital, was named today to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal cabinet as his new health minister.
Philpott, 54, has been a medical doctor for the past 31 years. She recently defeated Conservative MP Paul Calandra in the federal election, ending his seven-year career as a partisan lieutenant in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.
Philpott told Canadian Mennonite in a Nov. 10, 2014, interview about the intersection of her faith and politics, that she “can accomplish the most good by influencing public policy through political leadership.” She said that the Anabaptist core beliefs that would influence her political work would be the values of generosity, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and looking out for the interest of others—qualities she claims “are woven into the fabric of my character and will always influence my thought processes, decisions and actions.” Her faith community helps her, she said by “being a place of refuge and restoration.”
The Oct. 31, 2015, edition of the Globe and Mail projected that Philpott would be Trudeau’s choice for the spot. The newspaper reported that as a young doctor, she moved to Niger under what was then the Sudan Interior Mission, motivated by the deeply unfair access to health care and stayed a decade. “But it was also the site of devastating tragedy," the paper noted: her eldest daughter died of meningococcemia, and her second child was evacuated to Canada. Yet she returned to Niger even when there was famine there.
The newspaper calls her a rare MP, “who quotes Rudolf Virchow, the noted German physician who had a less successful career, to explain why she sees economics and environment as key to human health, and chose to run for office: ‘Politics is nothing but medicine writ large.’”
Doug Pritchard, of Toronto, a close personal friend, describes her as a “woman of deep Christian faith and a dedicated family physician in her community." Her husband, Pep Philpott, is a newscaster for CBC. They are parents of four children.