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Canada PM shuffles top Cabinet players ahead of possible election – UPDATE

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UPDATE – OTTAWA, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named a new foreign minister on Tuesday and shuffled other top players in his Cabinet ahead of an election that insiders in his Liberal Party say is likely this year.

Trudeau’s hand was forced when Innovations Minister Navdeep Bains, 43, unexpectedly announced he was resigning from politics for family reasons. Bains, who has two school-age daughters and had been in the job since November 2015, was a senior minister in the populous province of Ontario, a Liberal stronghold.

Canadian prime ministers traditionally shuffle their team if a Cabinet member says they will not run in the next election.

Francois-Philippe Champagne, 50, will leave the foreign ministry to take over for Bains. Marc Garneau, 71, moved from transport to become Canada’s fourth foreign minister in just over four years.

Garneau’s main tasks will be establishing relations with the new U.S. administration and handling a major diplomatic dispute with China.

One of Champagne’s first jobs will be to decide whether to allow China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to supply next-generation equipment for 5G networks. Liberal sources say Ottawa will ban Huawei gear but is keeping silent so as not to anger Beijing.

Bains was first elected in 2004, lost his seat in 2011, and returned to parliament four years when Trudeau took power.

“It’s time for me to put my family first, and I couldn’t be happier about it,” Bains said in a video posted on Twitter.

Trudeau, who retained power in an October 2019 election but only has a minority of seats in the House of Commons, relies on other parties to govern.

He said last week there could well be an election this year but stressed he wanted to stay in office to focus on the coronavirus epidemic.

Backbench legislator Omar Alghabra will replace Garneau at transport and Jim Carr rejoined the Cabinet as a special representative for the Prairies, where the Liberals failed to win seats in the last election.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Jonathan Oatis)

— EARLIER

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to shuffle his cabinet on Tuesday and name new ministers of foreign affairs, transport and innovation, sources and domestic media said on Monday.

Three sources directly familiar with the matter said Trudeau would carry out a limited shuffle on Tuesday morning.

The sources, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the issue, said Trudeau was acting after long-serving Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains decided to quit politics after the next election.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Global News both said Bains would be replaced by current Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. Transport Minister Marc Garneau would take over from Champagne, they said.

Trudeau, who retained power in an October 2019 election but only has a minority of seats in the House of Commons, relies on other parties to govern.

He said last week there could well be an election this year but stressed he wanted to stay in office to focus on the coronavirus epidemic.

Canadian prime ministers traditionally shuffle their team if a member of cabinet announces he or she will not run in the next election.

The offices of Trudeau, Bains and Garneau did not respond to requests for comment. A Champagne spokesman said he had heard nothing about a shuffle.

Bains, 43, has been innovation minister since Trudeau first took power in late 2015. One of his responsibilities is deciding whether to allow China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to supply next-generation equipment for 5G networks.

Liberal sources said last year that Ottawa would ban Huawei gear from being used but was keeping silent so as not to worsen a diplomatic dispute with Beijing.

CBC and Global said Garneau would be replaced by backbench legislator Omar Alghabra. The transport minister must soon decide on whether to allow Air Canada to buy rival Transat A.T. Inc.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Michael Perry)

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