TORONTO: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday and made the first Canadian to soar into space his foreign minister.
Trudeau made the move ahead of a possible election this spring.
Former astronaut Marc Garneau moves from the role as transport minister while François-Philippe Champagne, who became foreign minister in November 2019, moves to the minister of innovation, science, and industry. Omar Alghabra becomes a transport minister.
“Be it on earth or in space, Marc has always represented Canada well,” Trudeau said.
Navdeep Bains, who was minister of innovation, science and industry, has decided not to run in the next election. Trudeau has said important Cabinet positions should be held by ministers who intend to be around for the long haul and who can sell the government’s agenda during the next election campaign.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party won reelection in 2019 but does not have a majority of seats in Parliament and must rely on at least one opposition party to remain in power. Analysts say potential disputes over the next federal budget could prompt a general election in the spring.
The 71-year-old Garneau will also head the Cabinet Committee on Canada-United States Relations. An electrical engineer and former Royal Canadian Navy officer, he became the first Canadian in space when he flew aboard the U.S. space shuttle in 1984.
Garneau lived in the U.S. for nine years and two of his children were born there.
“No bilateral relation is more important than that of Canada with the United States and it will continue to be that way. We are inextricably linked whether it be trade, security or other matters," Garneau said.
"We are looking forward to working with the new administration under President Joe Biden."
He had been transport minister since 2015.
Trudeau, meanwhile, announced that nonessential travel across the U.S.-Canada land border will remain banned until at least Feb. 21. Canada and the U.S. agreed to the ban in March and have renewed it monthly ever since.
Trudeau also said Canada has an agreement with Pfizer to buy an additional 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. Agreements with Moderna and Pfizer alone mean Canada will now have 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines arriving this year, Trudeau said.
“We are on track to have every Canadian who wants a vaccine receive one by September,” Trudeau said.