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jane taber

Justin Trudeau and his new incoming cabinet ministers will be arriving on foot at the gates of Rideau Hall and then walking together up the long driveway to the front doors of the historic mansion for their swearing-in ceremony Wednesday morning.

A little different than the usual parade of ministerial limos and vans – but, for this, the prime-minister-designate is borrowing a page from one of his predecessors, Jean Chrétien, who in 1993 made his ministers take cabs to Rideau Hall and then leave by bus.

The means of arrival of Mr. Chrétien's cabinet was almost as important as the cabinet members themselves. It was all about messaging and sending the right signals to Canadians as Mr. Chrétien tried to show his new government was humble, in contrast to the perception of excess and bloat of the Brian Mulroney years.

So much of this is smoke and mirrors, however. What Canadians didn't see, for example, was that the bus dropped the new cabinet team off behind the Library of Parliament where they all got into their shiny ministerial cars. It was business as usual – Tory or Liberal, it didn't matter.

Just like Mr. Chrétien, Mr. Trudeau's cabinet swearing-in day will be full of imagery and subtle and not-so-subtle signals in an effort to change the narrative from an unfriendly and uncaring Conservative government to a Liberal one that is with the people. It starts with that walk up the driveway to Rideau Hall that signals right away that the Trudeau government is different than Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. It will look fresh and different. He will look collegial and frugal.

Mr. Trudeau's cabinet is to be smaller – between 25 and 30 ministers compared to Mr. Harper's 39-member team – and more diverse. Half of it will be women.

Rideau Hall's gates will open at 9 a.m. to the public – and Mr. Trudeau and his team have been allotted 15 minutes – from 9:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. – to make that walk.

Two big screens will be erected on the grounds so that everyone can watch the ceremony inside Rideau Hall. The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m.

Once the formalities are over – at 12:20 p.m. – Mr. Trudeau, surrounded by his cabinet, will make a speech in front of the doors of Rideau Hall. Expect that after he answers questions from the media that he will mingle with the crowd and do a walkabout.

Other leaders have opened the cabinet swearing-in ceremony to the public. In fact, Joe Clark was the first to televise the swearing-in at Rideau Hall in 1979. Before that it was done in private.

Last May, new NDP Alberta Premier Rachel Notley invited the public to the grounds of the legislature to watch her cabinet being sworn in. Thousands showed up.

There are some Liberals who believe Mr. Trudeau can extend his honeymoon period by showing how unlike Mr. Harper he is. As one long-time Liberal organizer noted, Mr. Harper "erected walls all over the place, including the media."

Mr. Trudeau did not. During the campaign, the Liberal leader often talked about keeping politics positive and running a high-road campaign – and it's expected he will try to bring that into his brand of governing.

Canadians seemed to respond to the positive message, giving Mr. Trudeau a healthy majority and reducing the reigning Conservatives to opposition.

There is even some expectation that as Mr. Trudeau fashions himself as the anti-Harper, he will on Wednesday immediately rebrand the government as the "Government of Canadians" or just go back to the standard "Government of Canada."

This is in contrast to the Conservative government, which was very much about Mr. Harper – and often referred to as the "Harper Government."

For the Conservatives, the election campaign was focused mainly on Mr. Harper. In fact, there were many stories in the media that he was muzzling some of his ministers, including his finance minister, Joe Oliver.

Mr. Trudeau, meanwhile, spent a lot of time answering media questions, as did his candidates.

As for Mr. Chrétien, he didn't stop with the taxicabs and bus. He also refused to use the armoured Cadillac limo that former prime minister Brian Mulroney had been driven around in. Instead, he chose a Chevrolet, garnering headlines that his was a "Chevrolet government" rather than a "Cadillac" one.

"It was important to strike the tone of not only being different than Mulroney but also reflective of Chrétien," said a veteran Liberal.

Later, Mr. Chrétien upgraded to a Buick, noted the Liberal.