OTTAWA — Now that he has secured a majority Liberal government, Justin Trudeau will likely turn to star members of his caucus — including former military leader Andrew Leslie and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair — to fill out his front bench.
Leslie, a former Canadian Forces lieutenant-general, will be among 184 Liberal MPs heading to the House of Commons after Monday's stunning election victory.
Trudeau's success was the result of having built a strong team around him, Leslie told supporters during a victory speech in east-end Ottawa.
"To our leader, Justin Trudeau, sir, thank you," Leslie said. "I just want to point out that the victory is in no small measure his."
Leslie said he hasn't discussed a possible cabinet position with Trudeau, although he didn't rule it out.
"First and foremost, my absolute focus is on the citizens of Orleans," Leslie said.
"Tomorrow will bring tomorrow's events. Mr. Trudeau will make that decision ... Mr. Trudeau is way too smart to talk about it and I'm smart enough not to ask."
Other high-profile Liberal newbies elected on Monday include former Assembly of First Nations regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, Ottawa social justice lawyer Catherine McKenna and Quebec lawyer Melanie Joly.
Trudeau will also be joined by stars such as former Ugandan Asian refugee Arif Virani, Winnipeg's Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Lt. Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan, who could all be in the running for prized cabinet posts.
The Liberal leader has promised to ensure his front bench is 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men.
Experienced Liberal veterans, including Ralph Goodale and Scott Brison, are also expected to play a key role in the new government.
Leslie, who began his partnership with the Liberals by providing military advice to Trudeau, is expected to play a critical role in the party's promise to scrap a plan to buy F-35 stealth fighters to replace the aging CF-18 fleet.
"The F-35 is a bad deal for Canada," Leslie said. "It costs a great deal of money and it is unproven technology with unknown sustainability costs."
Leslie says a new Liberal majority government will instead focus its efforts on supporting the Navy, which he has described as being in a state of "crisis."
"The plan is to essentially cap the expenditure levels on a new fighter program and use the savings and direct it all towards the Navy," Leslie said.
"Very, very tough calls to make — but it can be done."
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