Canada names new foreign minister

AP News
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Posted: May 18, 2011 2:27 PM
Canada names new foreign minister

Canada's prime minister unveiled a new cabinet on Wednesday, promoting one of his most trusted lieutenants to the job of foreign affairs minister but largely keeping his cabinet intact.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper named John Baird the new foreign affairs minister. Baird replaces Lawrence Cannon, who lost his seat in Parliament in the May 2 election.

Canada's new top diplomat has a reputation for being hyper-partisan. He often escorts Harper's wife, Laureen, to official events when Harper can't make it.

He previously served in Harper's cabinet as house leader, environment minister and treasury board president as well the minister of transport, infrastructure and communities.

Baird, 41, oversaw how Canada spent its stimulus money during the global economic downturn. He has also served as a minister in Ontario provincial politics. He has little international experience.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Defense Minister Peter MacKay are among the veterans keeping their posts. Harper said he wanted stability and continuity.

Harper has kept tight control over his cabinet during his five-year tenure, rarely letting ministers stray from script. Whether he'll change his style now that he no longer leads a minority government remains to seen.

The prime minister has said he won't surprise Canadians with a hidden right-wing agenda after his Conservatives won a coveted majority. He won 166 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, allowing him to pass legislation without the support of the opposition.

He promised to continue to make the economy his top priority. Harper counted on the economy to help hand him the majority. Canada has outperformed other major industrialized democracies through the financial crisis, recovering almost all the jobs lost during the recession while its banking sector remains intact. He said he would continue his plan to create jobs and growth and reduce the deficit.

"We are coming out of this world recession in a very strong position as compared to just about any other developed country and it is our intention to keep this Canadian advantage," Harper said.