09/18/2013 04:46 EDT | Updated 11/18/2013 05:12 EST

Andrew Leslie, Former Army Commander, Trudeau's Newest Star Recruit


OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau has begun showcasing a new Liberal team, with some surprise stars emerging.

Retired general Andrew Leslie, former commander of Canadian army, is the latest recruit.

He has agreed to co-chair an advisory council on international affairs for the Liberal leader and is not ruling out running for the party in the 2015 election.

Leslie's appointment comes a day after Trudeau named Chrystia Freeland — a former journalist, internationally acclaimed author and the party's candidate in the coming Toronto Centre byelection — as co-chair of an advisory council on the economy.

More big names — primarily people previously not associated with the Liberal party — are expected to be added to the team, in various capacities, over the coming weeks.

Behind the scenes, Trudeau's operatives have been putting huge emphasis on candidate recruitment, in a bid to infuse the party with fresh blood and demonstrate the new leader's ability to reach outside the traditional Liberal base.

They are also hoping to compensate for Trudeau's lack of experience by surrounding him with a team that boasts expertise in areas in which he may be perceived to be weak, such as the economy and foreign affairs.

"We will continue to draw in extraordinary people onto the Liberal team," Trudeau said Wednesday after announcing Leslie's appointment.

After 35 years in uniform, Leslie said his decision to join the Liberals came abruptly a few weeks ago, when news first leaked out about the Quebec government's proposed charter of values, which would ban public servants from wearing any conspicuous religious symbols.

"The only national leader who stood up and articulated my views in a clear and convincing fashion was Justin, who said that the proposed draft charter is not what Canadians want or need," Leslie said.

"It's divisive and discriminatory. At that moment, I knew I was a member of his team."

Although Leslie himself has been scrupulously non-partisan until now, Liberalism runs in his family. Both his grandfathers served as defence ministers in Liberal governments.

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