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Canada's PM to shuffle Cabinet, set to drop foreign minister

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 07:05

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will shuffle his Cabinet this week and is set to move Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, who ran into political trouble last year, a person with knowledge of the matter said on Monday.

[OTTAWA] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will shuffle his Cabinet this week and is set to move Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, who ran into political trouble last year, a person with knowledge of the matter said on Monday.

"Dion is out," said the person, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The Canadian Press, which initially broke the story, said the move was scheduled for Tuesday and would involve at least six people.

The shuffle would be the first time Mr Trudeau has made major changes since his Liberals took power in Nov 2015, allowing him to recast his Cabinet ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration as US President.

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Relations with the United States will be crucial over the next four years and Mr Trudeau may have decided he needs a better communicator than Mr Dion, a French-speaker and former professor who sometimes stumbles when speaking English.

Mr Trump's vow during the campaign to either tear up or renegotiate Nafta could have calamitous consequences for Canada, which sends 75 per cent of its exports to the United States.

One leading candidate to replace Mr Dion would be Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, an author and former reporter who worked for several years in the United States and has good connections in Washington.

Such an appointment would be complicated as Mr Trudeau wants to improve ties with Russia, which banned Ms Freeland - who is of Ukrainian descent - in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ms Freeland, who is sometimes pictured in Ukrainian national dress, has been harshly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Trudeau and Mr Dion's offices declined to comment. Ms Freeland's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Dion, 61, a former Liberal leader who held ministerial posts in previous governments from 1996 to 2006, was widely criticised last June for not defending a reporter when China's foreign minister berated her at a news conference.

He also came under fire for the government's handling of a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

REUTERS

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