Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday a mini cabinet shuffle — notably replacing his foreign minister — ahead of possible snap elections in the coming months.
Former astronaut Marc Garneau sheds his Transport ministry responsibilities to take over as foreign minister from Francois-Philippe Champagne, who was reassigned to the post of industry minister.
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The swearing-in ceremony lasted mere minutes and was held on Zoom due to strict Covid-19 restrictions on in-person gatherings.
Outgoing Industry Minister Navdeep Bains’s decision not to run in the next election, citing family reasons, precipitated the moves.
“It’s time for me to focus on the most important job of my life: being a dad,” Bains, in office since Trudeau’s Liberals swept to power in 2015, explained on Twitter.
Parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, Omar Alghabra, meanwhile, takes over at Transport, where he will need to make urgent decisions on a Canadians airlines bailout and when to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again in Canadian airspace following two deadly overseas crashes.
Garneau brings to the foreign affairs portfolio extensive knowledge of the United States — Canada’s neighbor and top trading partner — as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to move into the White House.
He also offers strong international diplomacy experience from stickhandling Canada’s response to Iran’s accidental downing of a jetliner.
Trudeau, who lost his majority in parliament in the 2019 election, has repeatedly told Canadians in recent months that a fresh ballot could be just around the corner.
He has insisted that managing the pandemic was his government’s top priority, but according to local media, Liberal MPs have been told to prepare to fight an election in the spring.
Trudeau’s last cabinet shuffle was in August 2020, following finance minister Bill Morneau’s surprise resignation in the wake of ethics violations related to his ties to a charity that was tasked with doling out pandemic aid on behalf of the government.
The contract was cancelled after it was revealed that Morneau’s daughter worked for the WE Charity.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who’s been tipped to eventually succeed Trudeau as prime minister, was handed the Finance job.