OTTAWA, Ont. – Prime Minister Paul Martin shuffled the federal cabinet in late July, replacing Tony Valeri with Jean Lapierre as Transport Minister.
But the newly named minister immediately came under fire when it was revealed he was a founding member of the separatist Bloc Quebecois party. And to make matters even more interesting, Martin also made Lapierre his Quebec lieutenant and third in line to run the country after himself and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan.
The opposition immediately jumped on the opportunity to slam Martin for naming a former separatist third in line to run the country.
Be that as it may, the shuffle yielded a promotion for former minister Valeri, when Martin named him House Leader.
“The recent election made it clear that Canadians expect us to do better as a government,” Martin said after cabinet was sworn in.
“We heard the message and we carry it with us. This cabinet was created to hit the ground running – to provide dependable, spirited administration, to deliver real progress on the issues that matter most to Canadians.”
As for Lapierre, he represents the riding of Outremont in Quebec and has been in politics since the mid-1970s. He sat in the House of Commons from 1979 to 1990 and served as parliamentary secretary to a number of ministers.
Lapierre sat in the House as an independent following the failure of the Meech Lake accord, eventually helping to found the BQ, but then left politics. He returned to politics when Martin gained control of the Liberal party.
When Valeri was appointed Transport Minister earlier this year, many trucking industry reps voiced their approval, saying Valeri was willing to listen to transportation issues. Upon his recent re-election, trucking representatives expressed relief at the prospect of Valeri returning to his post.
But Martin had other plans.
It remains to be seen whether Lapierre will win over the respect of the trucking industry as quickly as his predecessor.
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