New Canadian transport minister appointed

OTTAWA — John Baird, who as Canadian transport minister was overseeing important initiatives like electronic on-board recorders and a new international bridge to the U.S., has been moved to the post of government House Leader in a cabinet shakeup.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Chuck Strahl, who was handling the Indian Affairs portfolio for the past three years, will take Baird’s place at Transport Canada.

Before that, Strahl was Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Strahl, who represents Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, owned a road construction and logging contracting firm prior to entering politics.

It remains to be seen how the change affects trucking-related projects currently simmering on Transport Canada’s stove, including plans to build a new bridge between Windsor, Ont. and Detroit.

Under Baird’s direction, Transport Canada offered Michigan a $500 million loan to cover the state’s share of the binational bridge crossing. (The state Senate will vote on whether to continue with the public bridge project in the next few weeks).

Baird was known as an aggressive, influential member of Harper’s cabinet.

However, transport issues could get more national attention with Baird as House Leader, where he’ll be in charge of the government’s day-to-day business and play an important role in negotiating all types of legislation.

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