Trudeau Cabinet Shuffle: Fresh Faces Ahmed Hussen, François-Philippe Champagne, Karina Gould Promoted

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed three fresh faces to his cabinet, as two veteran Liberals transition out of his inner circle.

On Tuesday, Trudeau unveiled replacements for Stephane Dion at foreign affairs and John McCallum at immigration. Both longtime MPs are over 60 years old, and served in previous Liberal governments. McCallum is headed for a diplomatic post in China, while Dion says he is leaving politics but has reportedly been offered an ambassadorship to the European Union and Germany.

MaryAnn Mihychuk was also dropped as labour minister and is now headed for the backbench.

Those exits — and some rejigging of other roles — have opened the door for new blood.

Enter: Ahmed Hussen, François-Philippe Champagne, and Karina Gould.

ahmed hussen
Ahmed Hussen has been named Canada’s new immigration minister. (Photo: Liberal Party)

Hussen, 40, the first Somali-Canadian elected to Parliament is now minister for immigration, refugees, and citizenship. It’s a file with which the Toronto MP has unique and profound experience.

In 1993, Hussen came to Canada alone as a 16-year-old refugee from Mogadishu. He lived in public housing and, after graduating from university, set out to improve his community of Regent Park.

A Toronto Star profile written shortly after his election in 2015 details how Hussen helped create the Regent Park Community Council, “which took a leadership role in advocating for residents during the $500-million revitalization project.” He also cut his political teeth in the office of Ontario’s then-opposition leader, Dalton McGuinty.

Hussen later became a lawyer and his biography states he practised in the areas of immigration and refugee law and human rights. Hussen also served as president of the Canadian Somali Congress.

A CBC profile in 2015 painted a picture of a man who carries the weight of great expectations, particularly from Somali-Canadians inspired by his story.

While conceding there was a lot of pride and pressure, Hussen said his focus was not “limited” to his community.

"I mean, everyone has a heritage, but we have a shared citizenship, right?" he said.

With Dion’s appointment, international trade minister Chrystia Freeland was promoted to foreign affairs. It’s hoped her familiarity with the United States as a former business journalist in New York City and experience negotiating the Canada-EU trade deal will prove useful after the inauguration of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, who has pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Champagne now replaces Freeland at trade.

Champagne, 46, impressed many last year as parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, often rising in question period. His signature gesture while speaking — a kind of chop that emphasizes his point — has led to some good-natured ribbing from opposition MPs.

But Champagne has, it seems, impressed people for some time now.

francoisphilippe champagne
Liberal MP Francois-Philippe Champagne rises in the House of Commons on April 22, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

Before he was elected in the Quebec riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain, Champagne had a hugely successful international business and law career. He served as vice-president and senior counsel for engineering firm ABB Group in Zurich, and also held senior roles for AMEC, a global energy company, in the U.K.

Champagne has also worked for Quebec wastewater firm Bionest.

In 2009, Champagne was named a “young global leader” by the World Economic Forum.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail at the time, Champagne said he intended to return to Canada and run for public office like another “little guy from Shawinigan,” Jean Chrétien.

“I know it sounds a bit old-fashioned but I still believe in service to the country and giving back, and that's what I intend to do one day,” he told The Globe.

When asked if he wanted to be prime minister one day, Champagne said: “Listen, one has to try and if Canadians believe in what I can do, I will certainly give it a shot.”

karina gould
Liberal MP Karina Gould speaks in the House of Commons on Feb. 16, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Gould replaces Maryam Monsef at democratic institutions, in charge of stickhandling the Liberals’ lofty promise to reform Canada’s electoral system in time for the next federal election. Monsef, whose performance with the file was widely panned, will become the new Status of Women minister.

At 29, Gould is among the youngest cabinet ministers in history. Former Progressive Conservative minister Jean Charest was just 28 when he was first named to cabinet.

Gould, a rookie MP from Burlington, Ont., previously served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development.

Before making the jump to politics, the Oxford-educated Gould worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican Trade Commission and was a consultant at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

Her biography states she also spent a year volunteering for an orphanage in Mexico.

Gould likely faces electoral reform grilling

During the last campaign, years-old tweets from her — in which she said it was time to “landlock Alberta’s tar sands” and reject the Northern Gateway pipeline project — caused a minor stir.

While Gould can expect a grilling from opposition MPs on electoral reform once Parliament resumes, she spent at least one question period getting peppered with questions.

Last February, Gould stepped up to defend International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau after she conceded that Canadian foreign aid could end up providing food and health services to Islamic State fighters.

Gould was described as “unfazed,” saying that humanitarian assistance is provided to partners in a neutral, impartial fashion to aid civilians in the middle of conflict.

"This is the same policy that our government, that the previous government and governments before it, in Canada has had," she said at the time.

With a file from Althia Raj

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