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Trudeau names new transport, foreign affairs ministers

Garneau to handle foreign policy; Omar Alghabra takes transport

omar alghabra
Mississauga MP Omar Alghabra is Canada's new federal transport minister. (Omar Alghabra video screengrab via YouTube)

Ottawa | Reuters — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named new ministers for foreign affairs and transport on Tuesday ahead of an election that insiders in his Liberal Party say is likely this year.

Trudeau’s hand was forced when Innovations Minister Navdeep Bains, 43, unexpectedly announced he was resigning from politics for family reasons. Bains, who has two school-age daughters and had been in the job since November 2015, was a senior minister from Ontario, a Liberal stronghold.

Canadian prime ministers traditionally shuffle their team if a cabinet member says they will not run in the next election.

Francois-Philippe Champagne, 50, will leave the foreign ministry to take over for Bains. Marc Garneau, 71, moved from transport to become Canada’s fourth foreign minister in just over four years.

Garneau’s main tasks will be establishing relations with the incoming Biden administration in the U.S. and handling a major diplomatic dispute with China.

One of Champagne’s first jobs will be to decide whether to allow China’s Huawei Technologies to supply next-generation equipment for 5G networks. Liberal sources say Ottawa will ban Huawei gear but is keeping silent so as not to anger Beijing.

Omar Alghabra, 51, will replace Garneau at transport and Winnipeg MP Jim Carr rejoins cabinet as a special representative for the Prairies, where the Liberals failed to win seats in the last election.

Alghabra, a backbench Liberal MP for Mississauga (2006-08, 2015-present), now takes responsibility for federal transport policy, significant to rail-dependent Prairie grain growers and to exporters moving Canadian commodities overseas.

A mechanical engineer by profession, he has previously served in several parliamentary secretary posts, including international trade diversification and consular affairs.

Carr, 69, had been minister for international trade diversification heading into the October 2019 federal election, but stepped down from cabinet at that time to undergo cancer treatment.

Trudeau said last week there could well be an election this year but stressed he wanted to stay in office to focus on the coronavirus epidemic.

— Reporting for Reuters by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa. Includes files from Glacier FarmMedia Network staff.

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