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Three rookies promoted to cabinet, McCallum named ambassador to China, Dion departs politics altogether in shuffle

By Rachel Aiello      

Karina Gould, François Philippe-Champagne, and Ahmed Hussen take high-profile positions in Justin Trudeau’s shifted cabinet, while John McCallum will be named ambassador to China and Stéphane Dion's future is uncertain. MaryAnn Mihychuk was shuffled out of cabinet altogether but retains her seat as an MP.

Chrystia Freeland has been shuffled from her position as minister of International Trade, to minister of Foreign Affairs, where she'll be tasked with navigating the relationship between the Canadian government and the new U.S. administration. Photograph courtesy of Adam Scotti

RIDEAU HALL—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his new cabinet in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon, which includes three new faces in a shuffle with major implications for foreign affairs-related files.

Mr. Trudeau said the changes allow Canada to put the best foot forward as the country is facing new challenges internationally, and to deliver on the Liberal government’s commitments.

“2017 is going to be an important year on delivering on our mandate to grow the middle class and help those working hard to join it. A big part of it will be working with large economies around the world, like China and the U.S.. The team with me, along with our other cabinet colleagues will lead that work delivering for Canadians,” he told reporters in a press conference in the House of Commons foyer Tuesday evening.

“We put together a very strong cabinet in 2015 to launch our work… and we are putting forward a team that is very much focused on delivering on that mandate,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Former International Trade minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) is now the minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing Stéphane Dion, 61, (Saint-Laurent, Que.) who, after more than a decade in federal politics, is stepping down and out of politics entirely, although his new role is not yet known. Ms. Freeland will be retaining the Canada-U.S. relations file, including trade relations, according to a government press release.

Mr. Dion’s seat in the House of Commons as an MP will also be vacated, adding to the roster of forthcoming federal byelections. Insiders have said Mr. Dion is an ineffective communicator because of language barriers, and that his lack of presence and people skills made him a liability.

Mr. Trudeau said Ms. Freeland is an “extremely strong” minister and thanked Mr. Dion for his work, adding that he has been a friend, and trusted confidant, and has been offered a senior position that will be “key” to the government, and for now Mr. Dion is taking time to consider his options.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Ms. Freeland has been seen as a strong performer so far in her time in cabinet, and Liberal insiders say her switch to Foreign Affairs is well-timed with the forthcoming new U.S. administration. Ms. Freeland, 48, is likely to see her profile expand in this new role. The top issue on the mandate letter for this portfolio is to improve relationships with the U.S. and Mexico.

Taking over her portfolio as International Trade minister is François-Philippe Champagne (St. Maurice-Champlain, Que.) who was previously working as parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.).

Mr. Champagne, who prior to politics was a lawyer, businessman, and an international trade specialist, is 46 years-old. He won his seat in the House in 2015 with 41.5 per cent of the vote.

International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

His priorities will include attempting to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—which U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has said he will not support—implement the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), implementing a new Canadian Trade and Export Strategy, and working towards new or increased trade partnerships, notably with China.

Speaking to media in the House foyer following Mr. Trudeau’s remarks, Mr. Champagne said he’s looking forward to getting to work and thanked Mr. Trudeau for his trust in putting him into this new, high-profile position.

Also leaving politics is John McHale Callum, 66, (Markham-Thornhill, Ont.) who is no longer the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Mr. McCallum is set to become Canada’s new ambassador to China.

Replacing him is rookie Liberal backbencher Ahmed Hussen (York South-Weston, Ont.). As Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship minister Mr. Hussen is taking charge of the federal government’s ongoing resettlement of Syrian refugees, among other issues.

Mr. Hussen was elected in 2015 with 46 per cent of the vote, and so far during the course of this parliament has been focusing on his private member’s bill, Bill C-227, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit), which he will have to drop now, as well as his post as a member of the House Justice and Human Rights Committee.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

An immigrant himself, and the first-ever Somali MP, Mr. Hussen arrived in Canada in 1993 and became a lawyer, focusing on criminal defence, immigration, and refugee law. This perspective is one he said he will be bringing to his new role.

Mr. McCallum was chair of the Cabinet Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. It is unclear if Mr. Hussen will take that on, or how other cabinet committee roles will move around.

Maryam Monsef, 31, (Peterborough-Kawartha, Ont.) has been moved out of the Democratic Institutions post, and is now the minister of Status of Women.

In this role, Ms. Monsef will assist a number of other ministers in her role, including the Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.), and take over the rolling-out of a federal gender violence strategy and action plan, while continuing to implement gender-based analysis throughout government.

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould.

Replacing Ms. Monsef as the minister of Democratic Institutions is Karina Gould (Burlington, Ont.), a 29-year-old rookie who had been working as the parliamentary secretary to Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Marie-Claude Bibeau (Compton-Stanstead, Que.).

Mr. Trudeau said Ms. Gould will build on the “extraordinary work” Ms. Monsef did on the file.

Ms. Gould is now the front-person for the government’s much beleaguered promise of electoral reform; will take on Bill C-33, which amends the Canada Elections Act to make voting more accessible and repeal Conservative changes; and will be working on the ongoing reform of the Senate. She won her riding in 2015 with 46 per cent of the vote. She is now the youngest cabinet minister.

Patty Hajdu (Thunder Bay-Superior North, Ont.) is now the minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, replacing MaryAnn Mihychuk (Kildonan-St. Paul, Man.), who was shuffled out of cabinet but will continue to sit as an MP. Insiders say that she had a reputation for being hard to work with, and in August had lost some of her portfolio responsibilities to Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.).

Employment Minister Patty Hajdu.

Ms. Hajdu, 51, now has responsibility for working with a number of other ministers on the Liberal Party’s job creation goals and work with provinces and territories to make post-secondary education more affordable for students from low-and middle-income families. She’ll also be the new steward of Bill C-4, the bill repealing Conservative union legislation, that is stalled in the Senate.

The rest of the cabinet positions remained untouched, but a parliamentary secretary shuffle is now expected to coincide with these changes.

The new cabinet is headed to Calgary from Jan. 23-24 to retreat and discuss priorities for the year ahead, before Parliament resumes on Jan. 30. The choice of location is being seen as part of the Liberal Party’s target of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Calgary Heritage riding, for which the byelection  is expected to be called in the next few weeks.

“We know just how important Calgary, Alberta, and all of Western Canada are to our country’s shared prosperity and growth. Our government will continue to strike a balance between the economy and the environment, and to responsibly get our resources to market so more hardworking Canadians can get back to work. To the citizens of this great province, I say: we recognize how important you are to the future of Canada, and we will continue to work together to bring about real and positive change for you and your families,” said Mr. Trudeau in a press release announcing the retreat. In the meantime he will be setting out on a campaign-style cross-Canada tour to get some face-time with Canadians.

This is the current roster of Trudeau’s cabinet, which includes 14 men (15, including Mr. Trudeau) and 14 women:

  • Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen
  • Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett
  • Treasury Board President Scott Brison
  • Government House Leader Bardish Chagger
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains
  • Finance Minister Bill Morneau
  • Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould
  • Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy M. Foote
  • International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne
  • Health Minister Jane Philpott
  • Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos
  • Transport Minister Marc Garneau
  • International Development and La Francophonie Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau
  • Natural Resources Minister James Gordon Carr
  • Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly
  • National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier
  • Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister National Defence Kent Hehr
  • Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna
  • National Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan
  • Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu
  • Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi
  • Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould
  • Sport and Persons with Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough
  • Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Minister Dominic LeBlanc
  • Science Minister Kirsty Duncan
  • Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef
  • Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger


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