PM adds fresh faces to cab­i­net

Free­land up, dion, Mccal­lum, out

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NATIONAL NEWS - Joan Bry­den

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau made cab­i­net cor­ner­stone Chrys­tia Free­land his new foreign af­fairs min­is­ter and pro­moted a trio of up-and-com­ing MPS on Tues­day as part of an in­ner-cir­cle shakeup aimed in part at pre­par­ing for a don­ald Trump pres­i­dency.

Free­land, a for­mer eco­nom­ics jour­nal­ist with ex­ten­sive con­tacts in the united states, leaves the trade port­fo­lio to re­place vet­eran lib­eral MP stephane dion, who an­nounced Tues­day that he plans to leave ac­tive politics.

“it’s ex­tremely im­por­tant to have a strong team of min­is­ters around, and Chrys­tia Free­land is an ex­tremely strong mem­ber of the team,” Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence, all five of his new ap­pointees beam­ing at his side.

“her abil­ity to deal with mul­ti­ple sit­u­a­tions around the world was well-demon­strated in her tremen­dous suc­cess in ne­go­ti­at­ing the Canada-europe trade agree­ment.”

Free­land is a Cana­dian of ukrainian des­cent who made de­cid­edly undiplo­matic re­marks about rus­sia in the wake of that coun­try’s mil­i­tary in­cur­sions into ukraine in 2014. That same year, she and 12 other Cana­di­ans were barred from en­ter­ing the coun­try as part of a se­ries of re­tal­ia­tory sanc­tions im­posed by Pres­i­dent Vlad­mir Putin.

asked about her abil­ity to li­aise with rus­sia, given her his­tory, Trudeau would only say: “she speaks flu­ent rus­sian.”

Free­land her­self said she agrees with her gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion that “it is im­por­tant to en­gage with all coun­tries around the world, in­clud­ing rus­sia,” not­ing that her back­ground and fa­mil­iar­ity with the coun­try makes her uniquely qual­i­fied for the role.

On the sub­ject of whether she’d be al­lowed to travel there, she said, “That’s a ques­tion for Moscow.”

ahmed hussen, a so­mali-born rookie MP first elected in 2015, is one of sev­eral new faces in cab­i­net that in­clude Que­bec MP Fran­cois philippe Cham­pagne, named in­ter­na­tional trade min­is­ter, and Ka­rina Gould of Burling­ton, Ont., who takes democratic institutions from Maryam Mon­sef.

Trudeau dis­missed sug­ges­tions that the change in democratic institutions sig­nals a move away from his vaunted prom­ise to do away with Canada’s so-called “first past-the-post” elec­toral sys­tem.

“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 Maryam did over the past year of reach­ing out to Cana­di­ans, en­gag­ing with them and talk­ing about how best to im­prove our democ­racy,” he said.

“This is some­thing that mat­ters deeply to Cana­di­ans, it mat­ters deeply to us, and to me.”

Patty ha­jdu, a strong per­former who shone as sta­tus of women min­is­ter, is tak­ing over the labour port­fo­lio from Maryann Mi­hy­chuk, who is be­ing dumped from cab­i­net al­to­gether.

Mon­sef — widely crit­i­cized for her han­dling of Trudeau’s prom­ise to re­form Canada’s vot­ing sys­tem — is mov­ing to re­place ha­jdu at sta­tus of Women.

hussen is tak­ing over the immigration port­fo­lio from John Mccal­lum, who is also quit­ting politics in or­der to be­come am­bas­sador to China.

The fact that there was no im­me­di­ate in­di­ca­tion of a sim­i­lar post­ing for dion made clear that the ex-foreign af­fairs min­is­ter and one-time fed­eral lib­eral leader has been left at loose ends by the changes.

“Over the last 21 years, i have de­voted my­self to my rid­ing, to my fel­low cit­i­zens, to Que­bec, to all of Canada, to the role that we must play in the world, and to the lib­eral Party of Canada,” dion said in a state­ment.

“i have en­joyed po­lit­i­cal life, es­pe­cially when i was able to make a dif­fer­ence to ben­e­fit my fel­low cit­i­zens. i emerge full of en­ergy ... re­new­able! But politics is not the only way to serve one’s coun­try. For­tu­nately!”

dion’s ten­ure at Foreign af­fairs has been a rocky one, marred by con­tro­versy over his ap­proval of a $15-bil­lion arms deal with saudi ara­bia. his prickly de­meanour was also seen as ill-suited to deal­ing with the un­pre­dictable Trump, who has demon­strated a ten­dency to eas­ily take of­fence.

Trudeau hailed dion’s ser­vice and de­vo­tion to Canada in a “wide range of ca­pac­i­ties,” say­ing he has of­fered the for­mer min­is­ter “a very im­por­tant se­nior po­si­tion that is go­ing to be key for me in the com­ing years.”

dion, he said, “is rightly tak­ing his time to con­sider” whether to ac­cept the post.

dion’s re­place­ment, mean­while, is a bona-fide cab­i­net su­per­star, cred­ited with deftly nav­i­gat­ing through some eleventh-hour ob­sta­cles that threat­ened last fall to scup­per the Canada-euro­pean union free trade agree­ment — po­ten­tially valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for deal­ing with the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Sean Kilpatrick/cana­dian Press

Chrys­tia Free­land is sworn in as Min­is­ter of Foreign Af­fairs dur­ing a cer­e­mony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tues­day.

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