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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper marks the 100th anniversaries of the Royal 22nd Regiment and Valcartier Garrison in Quebec, Oct. 14. 2014 (Photo from the website of the Canadian Prime Minister).

Cabinet Reshuffle Kicks Off a Challenging Year for Canada’s Harper

Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shook up his Cabinet, rearranging key members of his foreign policy team ahead of federal elections scheduled for Oct. 19. The move was triggered by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s decision to quit politics, possibly with the aim of collecting a larger pension than he might have if he had waited until 2016. Baird is one of several ministers to depart in recent months, forcing Harper to recalibrate his strategy in what is shaping up to be a difficult election year.

Baird’s replacement is Rob Nicholson, who until last week had served as defense minister and is regarded as a loyal company man in Harper’s Conservative Party.* As Tom Mulcair, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), put it: “Mr. Baird was able to stand up to [Harper],” whereas Nicholson has “never, ever wavered in any way, shape or form from strict Conservative party dogma.” The opposition Bloc Quebecois has also condemned the selection of Nicholson, who does not speak French, to represent the famously bilingual nation on the world stage. ...

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