Patty Hajdu takes over federal labour portfolio

Ahmed Hussen new immigration minister as part of cabinet shuffle
By Joan Bryden
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 01/11/2017
Patty Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development and labour. Shutterstock

OTTAWA (CP) — Justin Trudeau is making Chrystia Freeland his new foreign affairs minister and promoting Toronto MP Ahmed Hussen to Immigration as part of a cabinet 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, whose next assignment has not been made clear.

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.

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.

Immigration Minister John McCallum is also quitting politics and has been named ambassador to China.

Freeland is 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.

Trump, whose inauguration takes place Jan. 20, has vowed to adopt an unapologetically protectionist, America-first policy on trade, including re-opening or even tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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.

Rumours have swirled for months that Dion was to be named ambassador to France but he has denied any interest in the plum post. Tuesday's announcement paid special tribute to Dion but would only say Trudeau looks forward to his ``wisdom and his tireless service'' in ``the next chapter of Mr. Dion's contributions to our country.''

Trudeau also paid tribute to McCallum, calling his work in the immigration portfolio on behalf of Syrian refugees ``an inspiration to Canadians and an example to the world.''

News of the shuffle leaked out Monday, just as the Prime Minister's Office confirmed that Trudeau's two top aides, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, have been meeting with some of Trump's senior advisers, building bridges to the incoming administration.

In his first cabinet of 30 ministers, Trudeau famously appointed an equal number of men and women ``because it's 2015.'' That parity was upset last fall when Hunter Tootoo resigned from cabinet and the Liberal caucus in order to seek treatment for alcohol addiction following what he later admitted was an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

With the addition of Gould, Hussen and Champagne, Tuesday's shuffle restores that gender balance.

This week's shuffle may well be a prelude to another reset expected midway through Trudeau's first mandate. Insiders expect a major realignment this summer, with a cabinet shuffle followed by a throne speech to kick off the second half of the mandate.

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