Cabinet shuffle: meet the new ministers around PM Trudeau's table

By The Canadian Press
January 10, 2017 - 12:00pm

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought three not-so-familiar faces into his federal cabinet Tuesday and placed them in key roles. Here's a closer look:

Francois-Philippe Champagne — International Trade

The Liberal MP representing the Quebec riding of Saint-Maurice-Champlain had made no secret of his desire to be in cabinet one day.

"It's for Mr. Trudeau to decide, but I know the people on his economic team," Champagne said soon after his election victory in 2015.

That did not happen right away, but Champagne built up a profile as the parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

He has now been granted a much bigger role, taking over international trade from Chrystia Freeland — a key economic portfolio at a time when the Canadian government is grappling with how to handle the protectionist promises of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

That being said, Freeland, who is moving to replace Stephane Dion as foreign affairs minister, will remain the lead on the trading relationship between Canada and the U.S.

Champagne was upbeat Tuesday about the remainder of the file, saying there are a lot of trade issues and relationships around the world in need of some development.

"It's a big planet," he said.

Still, he will likely view this role as a step on the way to another one.

Champagne, who has a background as a lawyer, businessman and international trade specialist and had the support of former prime minister Jean Chretien during his election campaign, is said by those who know him to regularly discuss his dream of one day becoming prime minister.

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Ahmed Hussen — Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Ahmed Hussen came to Canada as a refugee from Mogadishu, Somalia, when he was a teenager.

A lawyer and community activist, Hussen became the first Somali-Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons in 2015 when he won the Toronto riding of York South-Weston.

Now immigration minister, Hussen said that everyone in politics brings their own background and experience to the role they play.

"I'm no different in that sense," he said.

"I'll bring my experience as an immigrant to Canada but also as an immigration lawyer, someone who worked many, many years before running for office as a community activist, a community organizer and a community advocate."

Hussen served as national president of the Canadian Somali Congress, where he worked on integration of that community, once also appearing before the U.S. Homeland Security Committee to discuss how isolation can lead to radicalization.

"A minority of them become alienated and fall victim to a narrative that turns them against Canada and the United States, the very countries that have sustained them and also gave refuge to their parents as they fled the brutal civil war in Somalia," he said.

On Tuesday, Hussen said he is proud of the record Canada has on being a place of asylum. "We've been the better for it."

Hussen takes over the immigration file from John McCallum, who is being appointed Canada's ambassador to China.

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Karina Gould — Democratic Institutions

The Liberal MP for Burlington gets a promotion after serving as parliamentary secretary to International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

She worked as a trade and investment specialist with the Mexican Trade Commission before entering politics, but also has a background in international development.

She spent a year volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico, for example, and also organized a fundraising campaign for the victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti when she was an undergraduate student at McGill University.

She also worked as a consultant with the migration and development program at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., before heading to do a graduate degree in international relations at the University of Oxford.

She takes over the portfolio from Maryam Monsef, who has been widely criticized for how she handled the Liberal promise to change the way Canadians cast their ballots in time for the next federal election.

Gould did not get into any specifics about where she plans to take the troubled file, but said she was looking forward to reviewing where things are and seeing where the government could take things from there.

"I really do believe that we can get the best system for Canadians," she said.

Monsef is moving to Status of Women to replace Patty Hajdu, who is taking over as labour minister.

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Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

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