New transport minister appointed

Last week’s small federal cabinet shuffle has brought Omar Alghabra to the cabinet table as Canada’s new transport minister.

The Mississauga Centre MP replaces Marc Garneau, who moved to foreign affairs. Francois-Phillipe Champagne went from foreign affairs to science and innovation.

The moves were brought about by innovation minister Navdeep Bains’ decision to resign from cabinet and not run in the next election.

On Twitter, Alghabra thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the appointment.

“Over the past five years, our government has made great strides in building a more efficient, cleaner and safer transportation system, under the leadership of Minister Garneau,” Alghabra tweeted. “I look forward to continuing that work as we develop a transportation system that is recognized worldwide as safe, efficient and environmentally responsible.”

Alghabra, 51, was born to a Syrian family in Saudi Arabia and moved to Canada at 19 to study engineering. He has a mechanical engineering degree from Ryerson University and an MBA from York University.

He served as an opposition MP from 2006-08 in Mississauga-Erindale. He then worked as a consultant and visiting professor before voters returned him to Parliament in 2015.

Alghabra was named parliamentary secretary to the foreign and trade ministers and worked on consular affairs files.

After the 2019 election, he was named parliamentary secretary for public service reform, but after the Ukrainian Airlines crash a year ago he was asked to work with victims’ families.

As a member of the standing committee for international trade, he worked on a number of reports on trade relations and tariffs.

While much of his focus will be on the airline industry, which is under pressure from COVID-19 restrictions and fewer travellers, he will be responsible for grain transportation.

His mandate letter does not include any specific directive in that regard, but does say Alghabra is to work on making zero-emissions vehicles more affordable while investing in more charging stations.

He has been directed to work with Manitoba MP Jim Carr, who also returned to cabinet last week as the Special Representative for the Prairies after stepping back during cancer treatment.

Carr’s mandate letter notes that prairie residents helped build the country’s success with natural resources, agriculture and emerging technologies.

He has been instructed to maintain open and collaborative relationships with the prairie provinces, ensure the region has a distinct regional development agency and support the agriculture minister in efforts to strengthen local, sustainable and value-added food supply chains, among other things.

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